Dr. Taz MD, Solutions for Living Healthy Naturally: Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease

Today, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and about one third of adults over the age of 85 have it1. Chances are that Alzheimer’s disease has impacted your life or the life of someone close to you. Unfortunately, the incidence of this disease is expected to rise with the increase in life expectancy and the aging of the baby-boomer. In fact, the annual number of new cases of Alzheimer’s and other dementias is projected to double by 20502. We have been studying this disease for over one hundred years and we still do not know what causes it. We do know is how it affects the brain and what puts someone at higher risk for this disease. We can use this information to take care of our brains and prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease causes the brain to shrink by degrading the neural connections and the neurons themselves. This degradation eventually compromises functions such as swallowing and breathing; resulting in death. The exact cause of the tissue death is unknown; but two distinct features of the disease are plaques and tangles. Plaques are clumps of beta-amyloidprotein that collect on brain cells and are suspected to play a role in cell death. Tangles occur in the brain when the threads of the protein tau twist into abnormal tangles in the brain; causing internal support and transport systems to fail to carry nutrients throughout the organ3.

Research has shown us that the risk of Alzheimer’s increases with conditions that damage the heart and blood vessels; i.e. high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and high cholesterol. Autopsy studies show that as many as 80 percent of Alzheimer’s patients also had cardiovascular disease. There is also evidence that exercise can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s4. Even more exciting is the data supporting the theory that the Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s5. When I look at all this research, I see one thing: Inflammation. If we want to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, heart disease or even cancer; we have to keep inflammation in our bodies to a minimum.

Exercise and eating a diet high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (like the Mediterranean diet) both fight inflammation. It is important to supplement your diet with omega 3 and increase healthy fats to 20 percent of your total intake. Make sure you are getting at least 15 mg of vitamin E in your diet. Sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, almonds, spinach and broccoli are all good sources of

vitamin E. Additionally, individuals who continue to challenge themselves intellectually and engage socially are at significantly lower risk of Alzheimer’s than those who do not1.

Researchers and doctors are on the road to solving the puzzle that is Alzheimer’s but they are not there yet. In the meantime, we can protect ourselves with common-sense healthy lifestyle choices. Exercising regularly, not smoking, and eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables with plenty of nuts, fish and little red meat can go a long way to helping your brain (and the rest of you.)