Hello, everyone! Welcome to this month’s blog. This topic about Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia came to mind a few months ago when I was driving home from the clinic and noticed that there were multiple new “Memory Care” and “Assisted Living” centers being built. Now, I can understand the increased need for some of these centers in the future with the Baby Boomer population being 54-72 years of age right now. They want these centers built so they are ready for the demand in the future. However, there is one big problem. Why are there so many “Memory Care” centers popping-up all over?? Just because we age, does that mean we should eventually get some form of dementia? The answer is an emphatic “NO!!!!!” Getting older should not be associated with a dementia label. Yes, it is more common as you age, but it is not normal. Everyone knows someone that has had some form of dementia. It is definitely a common issue today, but it is certainly not “normal.” Before I get to the reason why it is becoming so common, let’s clear up a few things on dementia.
Is Alzheimer’s Disease the same thing as dementia?
Dementia is a big umbrella term describing a group of symptoms that affect mental tasks such as memory, reasoning, sense of judgement, etc. Dementia is not a disease, it’s simply a term describing a group of symptoms. There are many diseases that can cause the symptoms of dementia. The conditions are as follows:
- Alzheimer’s Disease (approximately 60-80% of dementia)
- Vascular Dementia
- Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB)
- Mixed Dementia
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Frontotemporal Dementia
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
- Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus
- Huntington’s Disease
- Wernicke-Korskoff Syndrome
As you can see, Alzheimer’s Disease is the vast majority of diseases that fall under the dementia category. Alzheimer’s Disease is not a curable disease, but is there anything we can do about the risk factors? Or, is it all determined by your genetics??
Can you control any risk factors for Alzheimer’s Disease?
If you ask your parents how many cases of Alzheimer’s Disease, or other conditions that fall under the dementia umbrella, they remember 20-30 years ago, they won’t likely remember many. If you asked them how many people they know with it today, they will all likely know someone that is affected by this terrible disease. Same thing goes for how many Memory Care and Assisted Living centers there were 20-30 years ago versus today.
Dr. Dale Bredesen, MD, is the foremost expert on this topic and has recently released a groundbreaking book titled “The End of Alzheimer’s.” In this book, he talks about how Alzheimer’s disease should be extremely rare, but is now the #6 killer in the USA. The reason why he says that is because it is tremendously influences by diet and lifestyle, which we can control.
At The Buck Institute, Dr. Bredeson is taking patients with diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease and bringing them through a protocol specifically aimed optimizing diet and lifestyle through eating a specific diet, improving daily habits (oral hygiene, sleep, exercise), and taking certain supplements that are personalized for the individual patient based on history, lab testing, etc. This is a brief synopsis of what he is doing because it is a very detailed and personalized approach.
The first study done at The Buck Institute involved 10 diagnosed Alzheimer’s patients. Within 3-6 months of care doing the protocol, 9 out of the 10 patients improved their memory and cognitive function. There were also 6 patients that either had to discontinue working or were struggling with their jobs. All were able to return to work with improved performance. Dr. Bredesen stated that this paper suggests that memory loss may be reversed and improvement can be sustained with this therapeutic program.
The only down side to the program is how complex it is. It is extremely detailed and he needs an entire team to be able to pull it off with such consistency. However, this shows you how powerful the body is with healing if you just remove the things that harm the body, replace them with nutrients/food that help heal the body and activate the brain the right way.
So, what is the difference between then and now?
The biggest difference is our diet and lifestyle. The Standard American Diet or “SAD”, is absolutely horrendous to the brain, gut and entire body. Most things today are in a box or a bag, which means they are likely processed (outside of frozen fruits, veggies, etc). Our diet is loaded with inflammatory proteins (gluten, casein and many others), sugar, artificial sweeteners, dyes, etc. All of these add up to one toxic stew. If we consume these products time after time, inflammation is bound to happen. This inflammation is happening not only in the gut and blood, but it is also likely happening in the brain.
The neurons in the brain need a few things to function properly.
The neurons in the brain need oxygen, glucose, normal amounts of inflammation (we need some inflammation because it’s the initial phase of the healing process), hormones and activation/stimulation. With all of these needs of the neuron, let’s look at what processes or conditions can increase your chances of developing something like Alzheimer’s Disease:
- Anemia (not enough healthy red blood cells)-This is how we get the proper amount of oxygen to tissues and organs, including our brain
- Diabetes-This is when blood sugar is too high because the body is unable to process glucose the right way. There is a Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes. In the published medical literature, Alzheimer’s Disease is referred to as “Type 3 Diabetes.”
- Hyperhomocysteinemia-High homocysteine levels in the blood
- Vitamin D Deficiency
- Chronic Infections (certain infections pose as more of a risk factor than others)
- Hormone imbalances (sex hormones, thyroid hormones, etc)
- Sedentary Lifestyle
- And many, many more
If we eat well, exercise and make sure we control our risk factors as much as possible (through supplementation, diet/lifestyle modifications, etc), could we make a difference in one way or another??
Are there tests I can run to see if I have any of the risk factors?
The best thing you can do to evaluate your risk factors for Alzheimer’s Disease is to get a complete and thorough work-up, which includes a detailed functional neurological examination (very specific neurological examination that can test the function of the nervous system) and comprehensive blood testing done that evaluates the following markers (and many more):
- Hemoglobin A1C
- Insulin (Fasting) or C-Peptide
- C-Reactive Protein
- CBC (Complete Blood Count)
- CMP (Comprehensive Metabolic Panel)
- Iron Panel
- Complete Thyroid Panel
- Full Hormone Panel
- Vitamin D
- Food Sensitivity Panel
- Heavy Metal Panel
- Stool Test that looks into microbes in the gut (bacteria, yeast, parasites, viruses, etc)
- Many more
These tests will help evaluate risk factors such as blood sugar regulation issues, inflammation, anemia, iron deficiency, thyroid dysfunction (crucial for brain function), less than optimal sex hormone levels and vitamin D status.
I always thought there was a genetic component to Alzheimer’s Disease, is that true?
There is definitely some genetic factors associated with Alzheimer’s Disease. The genetic marker to test for Alzheimer’s Disease is called the “ApoE” gene. Everyone has two copies of the ApoE gene, but the combination is what matters most. There are three ApoE genes: E2, E3 and E4. The possible combinations are: E2/E2, E2/E3, E2/E4, E3/E3, E3/E4 or E4/E4. The table below (from the Alzheimer’s Foundation) summarizes the risk for developing Alzheimer’s Disease:
As you can see, the E2/E4, E3/E4 and E4/E4 are the combinations that increase the risk. E4/E4 poses the highest risk.
There are a few laboratories that will test the ApoE genes, but not every facility has the capability to offer the testing. Most providers could order the test, but it would likely have to be sent off to a specialized lab, which means it takes longer to get your results.
If you haven’t had a detailed/complete work-up, we HIGHLY recommend it. The biggest reason we encourage a comprehensive work-up is because many people don’t have symptoms until the brain has been under attack for a prolonged period of time. The sooner you get tested, the greater the chance you can lessen some of your risk factors and optimize your health. Even if you have the genetic testing done and find out you have an increased chance of developing Alzheimer’s Disease, there is still a lot you can do to maximize your functioning. We want to stay away from the risk factors that are indicated on the blood tests in every situation.
At Restorative Health Solutions, we strive to get to the root cause of the symptoms/condition and help patients reach their optimal health. If you or someone you know is having changes in memory, brain fog, has a family history of Alzheimer’s Disease, or is interested in getting a thorough and complete work-up, we’d be happy to help. To schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation with one of the doctors, please call 952-479-7801, or CLICK HERE to fill out our contact form.
We look forward to hearing from you!
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