4 Ways to Prevent and Fight Alzheimer’s Disease
In a few months I’ll be hitting 60 – yes, 60 years old. Some of my old friends and schoolmates have already turned 60. Am I terrified of turning 60? Well, no! A little apprehensive maybe, but certainly not terrified.
I’m apprehensive because with age, seniors like me face the increasing risk of age related chronic illnesses like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, the last of which is probably the most frightening to me; frightening because with the other chronic conditions you lose your health but not your mind.
With Alzheimer’s you slowly lose your mental faculties, and what you and I treasure most – our memories: those that are so dear to our hearts, the laughter and tears of yesteryears will slowly vanish.
So as I write this article on the 4 ways to prevent and fight Alzheimer’s disease, it’s not just to inform you, dear readers; it’s also a reminder to myself to do all I can to prevent this dreaded condition from taking a foothold.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. In fact, It is the most common form of dementia.
Now before anyone tells you that dementia is a common part of aging, I need to emphasize that this is a myth. Sure, you do get those senior moments once in a while but if it gets too often and more over time, then you need to go to the doctor to get a diagnosis.
Although in most cases, Alzheimer’s normally strikes those above the age of 65, folks who are younger can also get afflicted with it. So it’s necessary to look out for these 10 early onset symptoms that are listed out by the Alzheimer’s Association:
- Memory Loss – we’re not talking about the occasional senior moments but loss of memory that negatively impacts daily life like asking for the same information over and over again.
- Finding Planning or Solving Problems Challenging – we’re not talking about complex issues but day to day stuff like keeping track of monthly bills or inability to follow a familiar recipe.
- Difficulty in Performing Familiar Tasks at Work, Home or Leisure – things like not being able to operate a cell phone or use the computer.
- Confused over Times and Dates – getting confused once in a while is normal but if it gets to the point of not being able to keep track of days in a week or not being able to know where you are or how you got there are certain signs of Alzheimer’s.
- Difficulty with Visual Images – such as reading, recognizing colors and judging distances are sure signs of Alzheimer’s.
- Problems with Words – difficulty is following a conversation, repeating yourself over and over again and having constant issues in finding the correct words are also tell-tale signs of early onset symptoms.
- Misplacing Things – folks with Alzheimer’s frequently misplace things and cannot recall where they are. They also have issues tracing their steps to find them.
- Decreased or Poor Judgement – these judgement may be related to money, personal finances or physical appearance.
- Withdrawing from Social Activities – these can be the inability to complete a hobby or withdrawing from meeting up with friends because of the difficulties that folks with Alzheimer’s disease have.
- Personality Changes and Mood Swings – Alzheimer’s sufferers may become withdrawn, anti-social, anxious, depressed or easily upset when they are out of their comfort zone.
You can download this list of symptoms and checklist from the Alzheimer’s Association.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there is currently no cure for this terrible condition, only treatments aimed at improving the cognitive and behavioral symptoms of the disease.
The Link between Alzheimer’s Disease and Insulin Resistance
Alzheimer’s is also known as Type 3 diabetes and the reason for this is because it has been ascertained that this chronic condition is a result of insulin resistance in the brain.
Researchers at the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University, Rhode Island identified that insulin resistance can occur in the brain. What this means is that impaired insulin signaling in the brain causes Alzheimer’s and this includes a deficiency in brain insulin.
The research team, led by Dr. Suzanne de la Monte, concluded that, “these studies provide strong evidence in support of the hypothesis that AD (Alzheimer’s Disease) represents a form of diabetes mellitus that selectively afflicts the brain.”
They further concluded, “Referring to AD (Alzheimer’s Disease) as T3DM (Type 3 Diabetes Mellitus) is justified, because the fundamental molecular and biochemical abnormalities overlap with T1DM (Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus) and T2DM (Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus) rather than mimic the effects of either one.”
Now in case you’re wondering how the brain becomes insulin resistant when it’s actually the pancreas that produces insulin, it’s interesting to note that the brain also produces insulin.
When the pancreas secretes too much insulin in response to overloads of sugar in the blood, this leads to insulin resistance because the cells in the body cannot absorb the excess blood glucose.
So low insulin levels are associated with good health in the body, the reverse is true for the brain because a dip in the insulin levels in the brain causes brain cells to degenerate. Folks with low insulin levels and insulin receptors in the brain often have Alzheimer’s disease.
Reuters reported a Swedish study which found that impaired insulin signaling appears to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Elena Uronema led a team of researchers from the Upscale University in the study which analyzed the data of 2,269 men who underwent blood glucose tolerance testing at age 50. After a follow-up at an average of 32 years, 394 men developed dementia or mental impairments, including 102 with confirmed Alzheimer’s disease and 57 with confirmed vascular dementia.
The researchers found that a low insulin response to intravenous glucose at the start of the study was associated with a 30% increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Overall dementia and cognitive risks were associated with high fasting serum insulin, insulin resistance, impaired insulin secretion, and glucose intolerance.
The same team of researchers also found that chronic conditions like Type 2 diabetes, obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease which result from insulin resistance, are likely responsible for the staggering increases in morbidity and mortality rates from AD (Alzheimer’s Disease) across all age groups, 50-years and older.
This was confirmed when The Los Angeles Times reported a Japanese study which found Type 2 diabetics are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and also have an increased risk to other forms of dementia.
The study analyzed the link between glucose tolerance and the development of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease. 1,071 dementia free participants from the Japanese city of Hisayama with an average age of 60 were assessed throughout 15 years after they took the initial glucose tolerance test. At the end of the study, 232 developed dementia.
The researchers concluded that diabetes is a significant risk factor for all-cause dementia, AD (Alzheimer’s Disease), and probably VaD (Vascular Dementia).
Another study found that the modern Western diet which is characterized by a high sugar intake and highly processed and refined carbohydrates led to insulin resistance which in turn increased the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. It has been hypothesized, in fact, that AD (Alzheimer’s Disease), may be promoted by insulin resistance, decreased endothelial production of nitric oxide, free radical excess, inflammatory metabolites, homocysteine, and estrogen deficiency.
So now that we see the link between insulin resistance and Alzheimer’s disease, what are the ways that we can prevent this chronic condition from making a foothold?
Physical activity has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity so it’s beneficial for everyone especially those with chronic conditions caused by insulin resistance like Type 2 diabetes, obesity, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and Alzheimer’s.
In this study by the Maastricht University in The Netherlands, a single bout of exercise was shown to increase insulin sensitivity for 16 hours after the physical activity has stopped.
In a mega study analysis which comprised 260 publications, it was found that while moderate intensity exercise may be capable of promoting weight loss and thus improving insulin resistance, studies have demonstrated that the impact of vigorous intensity exercise training may be more effective in mitigating insulin resistance.
Another case for using physical activity or exercise to increase insulin sensitivity is argued for in this study where it was found that the beneficial effects of physical exercise dissipate within 48 to 72 hours after the last exercise session. Therefore makes sense to engage in regular physical activity since the study also showed that insulin sensitivity can increase up to 75% even if there is no weight loss.
Increase Omega 3 Intake
Omega 3 isn’t called brain food without valid reason: it improves learning and memory and fight against mental conditions such as depression, schizophrenia and dementia including Alzheimer’s disease.
According to Fernando Gómez-Pinilla, a UCLA professor of neurosurgery and physiological science, synapses in the brain connect neurons and provide critical functions. He says, “Much learning and memory occurs at the synapses, Omega-3 fatty acids support synaptic plasticity and seem to positively affect the expression of several molecules related to learning and memory that are found on synapses”
What he says is backed up by other research studies such as these:
Researchers at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago did a study on residents over 65 years of age. They were tracked and assessed 3 times over 6 years. Results showed that the rate of mental decline was 10% slower among those who consumed 1 fish meal per week and 13% slower for those who consumed 2 or more fish meals per week.
In another study at the Karolinska University Hospital Huddinge in Stockholm, 204 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease were divided into 2 groups: the 1st group was given omega 3 supplementation while the other group was given placebos. Assessments were done on the 6th and 12th month. Results showed a halt in the mental decline in group where the seniors who were given omega 3 supplements.
In yet another study, the weekly consumption of fish showed that omega 3 has neuro-protective properties: it slowed the age related grey matter loss in the brain.
Another 24 week study in Taiwan showed that omega 3 significantly improved the cognitive abilities of Alzheimer’s patients. 46 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease were randomized into 2 groups where the first group was given fish oil while the second group was given olive oil. The group that was given fish oil scored much higher on the Clinician’s Interview-Based Impression of Change Scale (CIBIC-plus) than those in the olive oil group.
Eliminate Sugar from Your Diet
We’ve always known that the Western diet which is high in refined carbohydrates and sugar contributes to chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s but The Telegraph confirmed in a report in February this year that a new study suggests that a diet high in sugar increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s a known fact that Type 2 diabetics have a twofold increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease where plague and tangles are formed in the brain by a toxic and abnormal protein called ADDL.
Now, researchers from the University of Bath and the King’s College London has found that high levels of dietary sugar damages an enzyme – macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) – that plays a critical role in regulating insulin.
They found that in the early stages of Alzheimer’s the enzyme MIF is damaged by a process known as glycation. As the disease progresses, the glycation of MIF increases which inhibits and reduces the activity of the enzyme.
Professor Jean van den Elsen, from the University of Bath’s department of biology and biochemistry says. “We’ve shown that this enzyme is already modified by glucose in the brains of individuals at the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. We are now investigating if we can detect similar changes in blood.”
“Normally MIF would be part of the immune response to the build-up of abnormal proteins in the brain, and we think that because sugar damage reduces some MIF functions and completely inhibits others that this could be a tipping point that allows Alzheimer’s to develop.”
Another researcher from the University of Bath, Dr. Omar Kassaar agrees, “Excess sugar is well known to be bad for us when it comes to diabetes and obesity, but this potential link with Alzheimer’s disease is yet another reason that we should be controlling our sugar intake in our diets.”
Using Ketones to fight Alzheimer’s Disease
Despite decades of research and efforts to develop a drug that cures Alzheimer’s, presently the only medically viable solutions to sufferers of this dreaded condition are medications that slow down but do not stop the progression of this devastating disease.
The very low carb ketogenic diet has been used successfully by many Type 2 diabetic sufferers to increase insulin sensitivity, control blood glucose response and getting off diabetic medications because this way of eating forces the body to switch its fuel source from glucose (carbohydrates) to ketones (fats).
For the last decade, there has been some research to show that ketones hold promise for folks stricken with Alzheimer’s.
In this 2004 study, 20 individuals with Alzheimer’s or Mild Cognitive Impairment (MGI) were given placebos or medium chain triglycerides, a type of saturated fat found in coconut and palm oils. Those who were given the MCT showed increased ketone levels after 90 minutes which corresponded with much better memory improvement.
In a larger and longer 90-day study, 152 Alzheimer’s patients were randomized into 2 groups. Those treated with a ketogenic formula showed improved cognitive abilities compared with the placebo group in just 45 days.
However, in both groups so far, only those without the ApoE4 Alzheimer’s risk factor gene benefitted from the ketones treatment. This was confirmed by a PLOS animal study which showed that only mice without the ApoE4 gene responded positively to the ketogenic diet.
These early studies were partly successful in proving that ketones were beneficial for Alzheimer’s sufferers because medium chain triglycerides and/or ketones supplements were used. Researchers want to find out if dietary interventions could achieve the same results.
This prompted a study in 2012 in Cincinnati where a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet was used to assess if similar results could be achieved since such a diet would induce ketosis without the use of medium chain triglycerides and/or ketones supplements. 32 seniors with Mild Cognitive Impairment were randomized into 2 groups. The first group followed the low carb ketogenic diet while the other group followed a high carb diet. At the end of the 6-week study, those on the low carb ketogenic diet showed an improvement in memory compared to the others who were on a high carb diet.
A more recent case study provides compelling evidence that ketones do help, even in cases where Alzheimer’s has progressed to an advanced stage.
Steven Newport was 63 when he was diagnosed with advanced Alzheimer’s disease. His wife, Dr. Mary Newport, a neonatologist, started giving him coconut oil and MCT (medium chain triglycerides) oil because both are known to increase ketone levels. Within just 2.5 months after this coconut and MCT oil regiment, Steven increased his cognitive function score on the Mini Mental State Exam from an extremely low of 12 to 20 (the maximum score is 30). After 2 years on this treatment, both his cognitive ability and daily living function improved and further CT scans showed no further degeneration and atrophy of his brain.
His amazing story was reported in a CBN news video.
Will the Measures Definitely Work?
I don’t know, and I don’t think any doctor or researcher can guarantee that they will DEFINITELY prevent you from getting Alzheimer’s.
But I’m not taking my chances and neither should you, especially if you’re a senior like me.
I’m doing all I can to keep this dreaded disease at bay: power walking 6 days a week, working out with bodyweight resistance every alternate day, taking a daily fish oil supplement, eating fatty fish about twice a week, drink full fat coconut milk several times a week and follow a low carb high fat diet.
You don’t have to follow what I do; just incorporate these 4 methods as best as you can into your daily routine.
For those who want to start on a low carb ketogenic diet but don’t have the faintest idea how to do so, please read my post on how to start on a low carb diet correctly.
If you need hand holding and personal coaching on how to start and maintain a low carb diet, please send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org or just complete the contact form below.