Strategies to prevent Alzheimer’s and keep your brain healthy

Alzheimer’s disease

By Franz Gliederer, MD, MPH, and the pH health care professionals

A patient once approached me hoping to find a new treatment for her mother who had Alzheimer’s disease. Her mom had increasing difficulty remembering what she just did or said, and communication and daily living were becoming much more difficult. It was sad to see a previously vibrant person become a shadow of themselves. Later, I watched a video from a doctor who specialized in new treatments for these type of patients. A 65-year-old woman was shown sitting next to her daughter, barely recognizing her, not knowing her name. After an injection treatment, the woman was able to say the daughter’s name, much to the happiness of the daughter who was willing to spend thousands of dollars to see that before her mother relapsed in a few days. This is just one example, which should motivate us to be proactive and do what we can to prevent this disease.

Who is affected by Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s currently affects 1 out of 9 people by age 65. At age 85, 1 in 3 have the disease.

Typically, early signs develop at age 60 and double every five years after age 65, according to the CDC. The disease currently affects at least 5 million people and is expected to increase to 14 million by 2050. According to the University of California Irvine Alzheimer’s Research Center, a new case in is currently diagnosed every 68 seconds in the U.S. By 2050, it’s expected to shorten to every 33 seconds.  It is currently listed as the 6th leading cause of death.

What are some of the causes of Alzheimer’s disease?

  •          Genetics. Although there are genetic predispositions, this still does not explain a large percentage of Alzheimer’s cases.
  •          Lifestyle. There is evidence that environment and lifestyle may be significant factors, according to the National Institute on Aging.  
  •          Inflammation. Alzheimer’s disease is accompanied by increasing deposits of certain inflammatory types of proteins (amyloid), which damage your brain cells and break down connections between nerve cells. Inflammation can be caused by environmental factors or infectious organisms. Dietary choices can also influence inflammation and affect small arteries that supply the brain.
  •          Stress. Elevated blood cortisol (a hormone that is released during very stressful situations) causes significant elevation of amyloid proteins, which forms plaque in the brain (which is associated with Alzheimer’s).
  •          Sleep trouble. Chronic sleep deprivation may be linked to build-up of amyloid and the development of Alzheimer’s, as well. Also, breathing disorders during sleep can accelerate mental decline and contribute to Alzheimer’s.
  •          Infections. Bacterial infections with Spirochetes or Chlamydia trachomatis may raise the risk of Alzheimer’s four- to ten-fold, according to research.

What are signs of Alzheimer’s?

  •          Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  •          Challenges in planning and solving problems
  •          Difficulty completing a familiar task at home, work or during leisure
  •          Confusion with time and place
  •          Trouble understanding visual images and spacial relationships
  •          New problems with words in speaking and writing
  •          Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  •          Decreased or poor judgment
  •          Withdrawal from work and social activities
  •          Changes in mood and personality

Here is a printable checklist of early symptoms from the Alzheimer’s Association.

What can be done to prevent Alzheimer’s and mental decline?

The overall idea is to do things that help the brain and to avoid things that harm it.  A healthy brain, much like a healthy heart, depends on optimal function of arteries, especially small ones. So whatever can be done to improve circulation and delivery of oxygen, plus the right nutrients to the brain, will help.

What helps your brain?

  •          Be mentally active. Learn something new every day. Immerse in mentally stimulating pursuits (no, it may not be video games, but rather creative tasks that make you think).
  •          Engage socially. This helps your ability to adapt, to be stimulated for new ideas, solve complex tasks, motivate and being motivated.
  •          Eat brain-healthy foods. Nuts, dark leafy greens, fish, avocados, berries, olive oil, curry, coffee and chocolate. Read this.
  •          Exercise: Moderate exercise with spurts of high-intensity on a regular basis at least four to five times a week is best.
  •          Sleep: Regular sleep patterns and overall adequate and restful sleep helps your brain to recharge. It also positively influences hormones.
  •          Nutritional supplements: Omega3s, SAM-e, green tea, ginkgo biloba, vitamin B complex, ashwagandha and curcumin.
  •          Eliminate deficiencies: Deficiencies in a thyroid hormone or vitamin B12 can definitely impact the health of neurons. Detecting and correcting other nutritional deficiencies may be helpful.

What hurts your brain?

  •          Eating junk food and diets high in saturated fats, simple carbohydrates, trans fat, artificial sweeteners like aspartame, added sugar, syrups and any grains but 100 percent whole grains.
  •          Toxins: Excess alcohol, recreational drugs, mercury, lead, fluoride, PCBs, toluene and certain pesticides (DDT, chlorpyrifos).
  •          Sedentary lifestyle, both physically and mentally. A sedentary lifestyle impairs the self-repair process of the brain.
  •          Excess stress or handling complex tasks beyond comfort and distress level. Also, too much external stimuli like leaving a TV on while you are sleeping can hurt.
  •          Chronic sleep deprivation. Sleep apnea causes lack of oxygen to the brain. If you have sleep apnea, a CPAP device is helpful.
  •          Traumatic injury: Head trauma after falls, blows to the head while boxing or playing soccer.

Test, don’t guess.

Nutrition testing can help you be proactive to ensure your brain is getting the nutrition it needs, and if you have any symptoms of mental decline, talk to your doctor so you can detect any issues as early as possible.

Enjoy Your Healthy Life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.

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