Lifestyle choices reduce plaques and tangles

A study, published Aug. 16, 2016 in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, found that certain lifestyle factors reduce the amount of amyloid plaque and fibrillary tangles in the brain. These plaques and tangles are always present in the Alzheimer’s affected brain. The group at UCLA found that the brains of subjects who followed a Mediterranean diet and exercised regularly had fewer plaques and tangles than those who did not.

One of the first things that I learned about Alzheimer’s disease was that it is growing at an epidemic rate. Almost 10 years ago I learned from the Alzheimer’s Association that nearly 5 million people in the U.S. had Alzheimer’s. At that time a new case was diagnosed every seventy seven seconds. The statistics go on. Now some good news! Amidst all of these dire forecasts, a recent study published in Nature Communications (April, 2016) reports declining dementia rates in England. These trends are being seen in other countries as well. And the researchers cannot attribute this downward trend to medical advances.

Can Coconut Oil Cure Alzheimer's Disease?

Almost every day I see a new article or blog post, or an email proclaiming the varied and often remarkable benefits of coconut oil. Quite often I see a headline like Discover How Coconut Oil Can Rescue The Brain From Alzheimer’s or an advertisement selling a Coconut Oil Cure for Alzheimer’s. Those are real headlines — I didn’t make them up. I always approach claims like this with healthy skepticism; I have seen too many “miracle cures” turn to snake oil. But coconut oil seems to be getting more traction than most such proclamations. Might there be something to this one? We are learning more and more about the health benefits of certain foods. According to recent research coconut oil can improve brain health; but can coconut oil cure Alzheimer’s disease?

I’m not the only one impressed by the tenacity of these claims. The Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute at the University of South Florida is also interested. Scientists there are investigating the effect coconut oil has on the brain, and if it may indeed provide some clues to curing dementia. The study was inspired in large part by the work of Dr. Mary Newport.

The question, “Can Coconut Oil Cure Alzheimer’s Disease?” first occurred to Dr. Newport when her husband, Steve, showed marked improvement after she began to include coconut oil in his diet. Steve had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 51, and began presenting with some of the textbook symptoms; short term memory problems; a slow, unsteady gait;  trouble with numbers, though he was an accountant. At one time or another he took all the usual drugs prescribed for his condition, but the progression continued.

Mary noticed that his symptoms would be less severe on some days and began to wonder if diet might have something to do with that.

Can coconut oil cure Alzheimer's - There is evidence for lower incidence of dementia in cultures that include coconut products in their diet.

There is evidence for lower incidence of dementia in cultures that include coconut products extensively in their diet. India and the Philippines are examples.

But coconut oil seems an unlikely place to look for a cure. It is a fat, after all, and aren’t fats bad for our health? Well, yes. And no. Depends on the fat. And coconut oil has an especially bad reputation. In the middle of the last century, studies reported that coconut oil clogged the arteries of animal subjects. The conclusion was that fat in the diet leads to heart disease. The studies, however, did not use coconut oil; rather, they used hydrogenated coconut oil, which is a very different thing. The hydrogenation process changes the structure of the fat molecule, leaving behind something that bears little resemblance to the original. It is this hydrogenation process that creates the notorious trans-fats. And it is these trans-fats that have turned out to be the artery-cloggers. Any oil that is hydrogenated becomes bad eats.

From these bogus studies and misinterpreted findings concerning dietary fat have come our preoccupation with low-fat diets.  Real coconut oil (and many other oils) are actually good for you. In fact, fat is a necessary component of a healthy diet. People in the Philippines depend on coconuts, and most include some form of coconut in their diet every day. Many use only coconut oil in their cooking. Yet the Philippines has one of the lowest rates of cardiovascular disease anywhere.

Unfortunately, many processed foods still contain hydrogenated oils (also known as shortening or margarine on the ingredients label). These unhealthy fats increase the shelf life of food products, so the food industry is very averse to getting them out of our food,  even though we have known of their dangers for decades.

But, Can Coconut Oil Cure Alzheimer’s Disease?

Back to Mary. As she watched Steve’s condition steadily decline she researched the state of medical research as it relates to dementia. She found reference to a new drug that was showing some promise in improving the memory of people who have Alzheimer’s disease. In her study¹ she writes:

I learned that the promising “ingredient” in Ketasyn is simply MCT oil, and that a dose of 20 grams (about 20 ml or 4 teaspoons) was used to produce these results. The MCT oil that these researchers used was obtained from Stepan Company and consists of primarily 6 and 8 carbon chains, however they state that MCT of any combination of medium chains (6 to 12 carbon chains are medium chain) would also be effective. Just once in this application, the author mentions that MCT oil is derived from coconut or palm oil (this is incorrect, the author should have stated palm kernel oil.)

Shortly after Mary was told that Steve’s condition was now likely severe – no longer just moderate. That’s when she started adding coconut oil to his diet. The next morning she stirred the oil into his oatmeal. Just 4 1/2 hours later he was taking a scheduled screening. The result of the screening was that he showed a marked improvement in memory functioning over the previous test!

And he continued to improve. Many of the abilities he had lost returned. Even his memory was better. In Dr Newport’s own words:

At the time of this writing it has been 60 days since he started taking coconut oil (May 21, 2008.) He walks into the kitchen every morning alert and happy, talkative, making jokes. His gait is still a little weird. His tremor is no longer very noticeable. He is able to concentrate on things that he wants to do around the house and in the yard and stay on task, whereas before coconut oil he was easily distractible and rarely accomplished anything unless I supervised him directly…

She knew she was on to something. And Steve continued to improve. As it turns out, coconut oil is brain food. The brain’s primary source of food is glucose (sugar). If sugar is not available, it can use ketones as fuel. Now, Alzheimer’s disease can make it difficult for certain areas of the brain to process glucose. Coconut oil makes ketones available to our brains. So it stands to reason that coconut oil can feed the brain when disease makes its preferred food difficult to obtain.

 

- - - Can Coconut Oil Prevent Alzheimer's? - - -

 

Unfortunately, after seeing such remarkable improvement, Steve’s condition worsened in 2013, partly due to depression following the death of his father. Alzheimer’s disease eventually beat his efforts, and the efforts of his wife, Mary. Steve died on January 2, 2015,  but his life with coconut oil was almost assuredly better than it would have been without. In his case coconut oil did not cure the disease, but Steve was approaching the later stages of Alzheimer’s when he began to use the oil. How much more could it help if introduced into the diet earlier in the progression of the disease? Or before the disease has taken hold?

Steve and Mary’s story has most certainly given us a new avenue to research, and it could very well be the thing that eventually leads us to a cure. For once and for all. It may be that the answer to the question, “can coconut oil cure Alzheimer’s?” will turn out to be an emphatic “YES!”

So here’s your challenge. Try it. And please let us know what you discover. Get a tub of 100% Organic Coconut Oil. (Be sure it’s not hydrogenated. Organic coconut oil is very available now- I get mine at Costco.) Use it in your cooking. Put it in your oatmeal. Use it in Smoothies. Rub it on your face (I do — it’s a great natural skin conditioner, especially with a little Frankincense oil). If you are caring for someone with dementia especially, make sure they get it every day. Dr. Mary Newport recommends that you begin with about 2 tablespoons per day. (Download Dr. Mary Newport’s Coconut Oil Dietary Guidelines) The only reported side effect of coconut oil is indigestion in some cases. Very minor when compared to the possible effects of any drug on the market. And a very minor inconvenience if your loved one gets anything near the benefits that Steve Newport experienced. Indigestion can result with a new type of food, and the inconvenience may likely go away with continued use. Weigh that against the possible benefits.

“Can coconut oil cure Alzheimer’s?” is a big question, and many more questions arise when considering it, like:

  1. good fats vs. bad fats (the important thing to remember here is that organic, non-hydrogenated, unprocessed coconut oil is one of the good fats, and all hydrogenated oils, margarines, and “shortenings” are bad fats)
  2. coconut oil and other health issues (there is evidence that coconut oil in the diet can lower risk of cardiovascular disease and help to avoid obesity), and other diseases like arthritis and diabetes that coconut oil might help. Hopefully we will be looking at some of these in the future. In the meantime, try it. And let us know what you discover.

 

A couple of more lifestyle issues to consider; possibilities I want to explore in depth in the near future…

Statins are one of the most prescribed drugs in all of human history. Statins are designed to lower serum cholesterol (cholesterol in the blood). Aside from netting huge profits for the pharmaceutical industry, statins are so often prescribed because of the belief that serum cholesterol increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. As we saw earlier, the belief that there is a connection between cardiovascular disease and serum cholesterol levels is based on old, poorly designed studies. I have seen some evidence that a slightly elevated cholesterol level after a certain age might even protect against heart attack.

And there is a growing concern that statins may be in part to blame for the meteoric rise we are witnessing in rates of Alzheimer’s disease² ³. The brain is, after all, made essentially of cholesterol; though it weighs only 3 pounds, the brain contains about 25% of all cholesterol in the body. It makes sense that cholesterol would be necessary for its functioning, and science is beginning to prove that out.

And one that at first seems contradictory America’s low-fat diet fetish might in part be responsible for our obesity epidemic.


We are not recommending that you stop taking statins or any other medication prescribed by your medical professional. We are suggesting that you be an enlightened consumer; research the potential problems, side effects, and dangers of any drug that you are taking. And talk to your doctor from an informed perspective. See our legal disclaimer here.

More Research for “Can Coconut Oil Cure Alzheimer’s Disease?”

  1. Dr. Mary Newport (2008); What If There Was a Cure for Alzheimer’s Disease and No One Knew?
  2. Dr. Stephanie Seneff (2012); The Clue to Why Low Fat Diet and Statins may Cause Alzheimer’s.
  3. West R, Beeri MS, Schmeidler J, Hannigan CM, Angelo G, Grossman HT, Rosendorff C, Silverman JM (2008). Better memory functioning associated with higher total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels in very elderly subjects without the apolipoprotein e4 allele. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2008 Sep;16(9):781-5. doi: 10.1097/JGP.0b013e3181812790.
  4. U.S. study looks into the benefits of coconut oil on patients with Alzheimer’s
  5. Bentham Science Publishers. (2016, February 10). Lipid-based diets effectively combat Alzheimer’s disease in mouse model: Researchers have devised several lipid-based diets aimed at slowing down progression and relieving symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 28, 2016

 

Alzheimer’s disease is the only leading cause of death for which there is no cure. There is a growing body of evidence, on the other hand, that we can do certain things to protect against Alzheimer’s.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are well over 5 million people in the United States with Alzheimer’s disease, and it is the sixth leading cause of death in this country. Dementia including Alzheimer’s disease is a global problem affecting every people and every culture and country. Dementia is the second leading cause of death in Australia. According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, the worldwide cost of dementia in 2015 was US$ 818

Protect Against Alzheimer's | graph showing the projected rise in Alzheimer's disease through the year 2020

The number of people in the U.S. over the age of 65 with Alzheimer’s disease in the past, and a projection into the year 2050.       Credit: www.ouhsc.edu/

billion. That’s $818,000,000,000.00 – it is so much more staggering to see it written out in that way.

These are just a few of the numbers available from the various organizations and government health institutions that concern themselves with the range of diseases which cause dementia. We could fill a lengthy article with relevant statistics and still only scratch the surface. And these numbers continue to grow at an exponential rate. It is predicted that by the year 2050 there could be as many as 13.8 million people in the U.S. and more than 100 million worldwide! Dementia from all causes is expected to rise proportionately. Unless we find a cure.

So far there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, and there is none on the immediate horizon. The same is true for other diseases which cause dementia.

Dementia is not the only condition that has seen a meteoric rise in modern times. Cancers, autoimmune diseases, heart disease, and infectious diseases are all becoming more common. There is a broad range of reasons for this increase, but I am convinced one big one is the way we live. Face it. Things are different than they were even a few decades ago. Modern conveniences do more of our work, leaving us more down time, time to sit and watch TV or “surf” the internet. More time to be inactive. We eat more of our meals out,  often at “restaurants” that aren’t known for discriminately sourcing food. Bad fats, few fruits and vegetables, an overabundance of poorly grown and processed meat are the bill of fare, the most we can expect. Even if we prepare most of our own meals, food is grown differently now. Chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides boost crop yield, but at what cost. Food additives in prepared and even “fresh” foods increase shelf life, but probably have a reverse effect on the consumer.

While it can be risky to assign a causal relationship to a pair of events merely because the two occur together in time, I do believe there is a growing amount of evidence to support the link between lifestyle and disease. In 2014, Alzheimer’s Disease International published a report entitled Dementia and Risk Reduction: AN ANALYSIS OF PROTECTIVE AND MODIFIABLE FACTORS. The paper is a synopsis of evidence-based clinical findings which explores known and likely risk factors for dementia. We are unable to do anything about some of these factors, like age, gender, and genetics, but others we can change. It is these modifiable risk factors on which we should concentrate.

What you can do to protect against Alzheimer’s

Some risks are considered developmental and early-life factors. These include things like low birth weight, early education and nutrition, as well as socioeconomic and environmental conditions during the formative years. These conditions are not modifiable for anyone approaching the age at which the possibility of dementia becomes a concern, but they are things about which medical science and society as a whole should be very cognizant.

Tobacco use is perhaps the number one risk that can and should be modified. If you smoke, QUIT! That one act will likely improve your health and quality of life more than any other. Globally, smoking is the number one preventable cause of death. Smoking is associated with many cancers, heart disease and stroke, and diabetes. And there is a fairly high correlation between smoking and many types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Other possible modifiable factors that put us at risk for dementia:

  • Diet
  • Obesity
  • Midlife Hypertension
  • Diabetes – (better glycemic control could reduce the incidence of cognitive decline and dementia)

    Protect against Alzheimer's | diet can play a significant role in the incidence of dementia

    The food choices we make can either protect against Alzheimer’s disease or increase our chances of dementia.

There are things we can do to decrease our risk of dementia. These protective practices are sometimes called positive risk factors, and can be as simple as sleeping in the right position. A recent study suggests that sleeping on your side is more effective at clearing waste from the brain than is sleeping on your back or stomach. Wastes found to be cleared in this way include the proteins thought to cause Alzheimer’s disease. Other positive risk factors include:

  • Physical activity
  • Cognitive stimulation
  • Socialization
  • Diet – (a good diet will help protect against Alzheimer’s, a bad diet can increase its likelihood)

Attention to these lists may be our best chance to protect against Alzheimer’s disease. As with most prevention, the sooner you get started the better. If you smoke, quit now! Start now to modify your diet. Get active. Brisk walking is one of the best exercises, and it doesn’t require a lot of equipment, trainers or club membership. (Always consult your doctor before starting an exercise regime.) One of the conclusions of the Alzheimer’s Disease International report:

An important component of the dementia prevention message is that ‘it is never too late’ to change habits and lifestyles. The NCD prevention strategy focuses upon middle-aged persons, and the prevention of ‘premature mortality’. However, evidence presented in our report suggests that control of diabetes, smoking cessation, and, possibly, increases in physical and cognitive activity, have the potential to reduce the risk of dementia even in late-life.

Protect Against Alzheimer's disease - there are simple things we can do to be successful.No, these modifications are not cures, but they may prove eventually to be part of a cure. Furthermore, it is estimated that a five year delay in onset of dementia will decrease incidence by 50%. If healthier lifestyle can bring about such a decrease we are well on our way to eradicating this most devastating of modern diseases.

Read more about things you can do to protect against Alzheimer’s:

 


More research for “Protect Against Alzheimer’s”

C. Reitz, MD, PhD, T. den Heijer, MD, PhD, C. van Duijn, PhD, A. Hofman, MD, PhD and M.M.B. Breteler, MD, PhD (2007). Relation between smoking and risk of dementia and Alzheimer disease: The Rotterdam Study. Neurology 2007;69:998-1005.  Abstract

Eric B. Larson, MD, MPH; Li Wang, MS; James D. Bowen, MD, et. al. (2006). Exercise Is Associated with Reduced Risk for Incident Dementia among Persons 65 Years of Age and Older. Annals of Internal Medicine; 17 January 2006 | Volume 144 Issue 2 | Pages 73-81.   Article

Hedok Lee, Lulu Xie, Mei Yu, et.al.(2015). The Effect of Body Posture on Brain Glymphatic Transport; The Journal of Neuroscience, 5 August 2015, 35(31): 11034-11044; doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1625-15.2015.  Abstract

Joe Verghese, M.D., Richard B. Lipton, M.D., Mindy J. Katz, M.P.H., et.al. (2003). Leisure Activities and the Risk of Dementia in the Elderly. N Engl J Med 2003;348:2508-16.   Article

Jun Wang, Lap Ho,, Zhong Zhao, Ilana Seror, Nelson Humala, Dara L. Dickstein,et.al. (2006). Moderate consumption of Cabernet Sauvignon attenuates Aß neuropathology in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. The FASEB Journal. 2006;20:2313-2320.  Article

Vincenzo Solfrizzi, Francesco Panza, et. al.(2011). Diet and Alzheimer’s disease risk factors or prevention: the current evidence. Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics. Volume 11, Issue 5, 2011.  Abstract

In many ways the the medical strategy involving Alzheimer’s disease is moving from cure to prevention. As I see it, prevention is always a better option. I would prefer never to get  a disease like Alzheimer’s, or cancer, or arthritis, than to get the disease even knowing it could be cured. So far we know of no sure way to prevent Alzheimer’s; on the other hand, I see new evidence almost daily that lifestyle choices including diet can affect our resistance to the disease.  Evidence like that presented in this Bread Head documentary film. Some is likely close to quackery, but much of it is gaining support in the scientific community.

What is the Bread Head Documentary

Max Lugavere, the young man narrating the short video at the top of this page, has a compelling reason to investigate how we might prevent Alzheimer’s disease. His mother started showing signs of dementia at age 59. Another impetus for Max is the blood test that indicate he has an increased risk for dementia. Max is, among other things, a film maker, and since we do what we know, he is planning a documentary to chronicle the work that is being done in the quest to eliminate the threat of dementia.

The video posted above is a Crowdfunding teaser. Max is raising money for his film on the KickStarter website, a place that enables large numbers of people to contribute in amounts as little as $5.00 to projects of their choice. The funding campaign is entering its third week, as of this writing, with three weeks to go. It has already raised two thirds of its goal. I’m not asking you to contribute, that is up to you. But spread the word. This is an admirable cause, one that aligns closely with our own.

What are you doing to prevent Alzheimer’s disease?

 

⇓Share on Social Media below.⇓

Can we prevent Alzheimer's disease

Is Alzheimer’s a disease of choice?

Certainly none of us would consciously and deliberately choose Alzheimer’s disease, but by the same token, none of us would choose heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or a host of other diseases that are life threatening or otherwise impede our quality of life. And yet, many of us make those choices every day! It is not that we actively embrace disease; indeed, many of us never truly consider the risks of our lifestyle choices. But we often adopt habits that increase our chances of developing cancer or heart disease, certain respiratory diseases, and who knows what else? The question then becomes, can we prevent Alzheimer’s disease by changing some bad habits?

How Can We Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease?

Lifestyle choices can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease

We have known for some time that diet and certain other lifestyle choices can greatly influence our susceptibility to certain diseases. Tobacco use is perhaps the best known and most sinister health risks. Cigarette smoking accounts for nearly a half a million deaths each year in the United States alone. According to the Center for Disease Control smoking is complicit not only in the rise of lung cancer but also coronary and heart disease including stroke, respiratory disease, and cancers other than lung cancer.
A recent study (Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Sept 2014) found that changes in lifestyle can potentially prevent 4 out of 5 heart attacks. It is no surprise that giving up tobacco is the most beneficial change; other recommendations of the research team include:

  • Exercise
  • A diet including a lot of vegetables, fruit, fish, nuts legumes, and low-fat dairy products
  • Limit alcohol consumption
Tai Chi is a perfect exercise for Alzheimer's disease

One study reports that tai chi chuan practice increases brain volume.

I mention this study to emphasize the fact that the choices we make every day can greatly influence our health, but also because we know that things that improve our heart health also protect us from most types of dementia.
But is Alzheimer’s a product of our lifestyle. And can we prevent Alzheimer’s disease? The simple answer is we don’t know—not for sure. On the other hand, we are noticing more and more a strong correlation between certain environmental factors and dementia. For example, a study in the British Medical Journal (September 2014) found that the use of benzodiazepines, a drug prescribed for anxiety and sleep problems can significantly increase a person’s chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Benzodiazepines are among the most frequently prescribed drugs in industrialized countries.

Researchers have long noticed correlations between diet, exercise, and certain other “habits”, and the risk of cognitive disorder including dementia. The banner at the top of this article helps to illustrate my point. First, I wish to thank Alzheimer’s Disease International for making this illustration available. The purpose of the graphic is to observe World Alzheimer’s Month, which is September each year. The purpose of the graphic is to bring attention to the fact that we very well may be able to increase our resistance to Alzheimer’s disease by changing just a few things. Notice the similarities between the suggestions implied by the banner and the suggestions for decreasing the risk of heart attack.
These are not recommendations that Alzheimer’s Disease International made up out of thin air. Research supporting their contention goes back quite a few years. In fact, and not to toot my own horn, I wrote an article early in 2010 that made these same suggestions, plus a few, so the information has been available for some time. Now, even Dr. Oz is on board. I have seen several recent articles that quote him touting lifestyle changes to minimize the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
ADI didn’t specifically recommend quitting smoking on its banner; if you smoke it’s the first thing to do if you are contemplating a lifestyle change for health.

Can we prevent Alzheimer's disease by controling environmental factors and lifestyle?Even The Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, whose mission it is “to rapidly accelerate the discovery of drugs to prevent, treat and cure Alzheimer’s disease”, has a page devoted to lifestyle changes; non-pharmacological considerations that may impact how we treat the threat of Alzheimer’s. The ADDF references the Finnish Geriatric Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER), one of several investigations underway in Europe that are looking for correlations between lifestyle and cognitive health. According to lead author Miia Kivipelto , “multidomain lifestyle intervention that included nutritional guidance, physical activity, cognitive training and social activities, and monitoring and management of all metabolic and vascular risk factors, including hypertension, dyslipidemia, obesity, and impaired glucose tolerance,” FINGER is slated to wrap up at the end of 2014 but already is already garnering positive results. In other words, maybe lifestyle choices may help us prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Environmental factors and Alzheimer’s disease

If poor lifestyle choices can negatively influence our resistance to Alzheimer’s disease, what impact are environmental factors, over which we have very little control, having on us? A healthy diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, fish high in omega-3 oils, nuts, (more below) is one of the recommendations on most “prevent Alzheimer’s” lists. But if our food is contaminated by chemical herbicides and pesticides, is it potentially doing more harm than good? If fish consumption is lessening our chances of dementia, but the fish is contaminated with mercury and other byproducts of civilization, should we be eating that fish? If food quality is corrupted by unnatural genetic modifications can we assume that it will provide the same protection as will its natural counterpart?

environmental-factors-alzheimers-disease

One key to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease is to limit our exposure to agricultural chemicals and other environmental pollutants.

Researchers reporting in JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association) in January 2014 found a strong association between DDT and Alzheimer’s disease. DDT was banned in the United States in the early 1970’s, but its use before that was widespread, and it is still legal in some countries. Most of the people who today have Alzheimer’s were young in the years that DDT was used legally—and it was used extensively. Other environmental contaminants that have been implicated in Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative disorders include lead, aluminum, air pollution, PCB’s,  and herbicides and insecticides including DDT. (Environmental Threats to Healthy Aging)

In some ways, environmental hazards are less egregious than in the recent past. Thanks to regulations our air and water contain less of certain contaminates than they did just fifty years ago.  But deregulation of certain industries may change that positive trend. A new onslaught of pollutants will likely bring more risk for disease including dementia.

It is possible that the “right” lifestyle could eliminate the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, but we should be realistic in our hopes and expectations. More likely a positive change in lifestyle would delay Alzheimer’s disease, and probably dementia from almost all causes. But even delaying onset by five years across the board could in time cut the incidence of dementia in half. (Dementia Risk Reduction) This decrease would have an enormous impact on the cost of the disease to society, to say nothing of the benefit to quality of life this would provide to the people who do eventually develop dementia five years later than they might have otherwise.

Recommendations for decreasing your risk of Alzheimer’s disease

The lifestyle changes thought to improve our resistance to Alzheimer’s disease (positive risk factors) include:

  • Diet
    • Fresh fruits and vegetables – there is, and always will be, disagreement, but I think that organically grown produce is preferable to those grown with chemical fertilizers and in the presence of chemical pesticides and herbicides. I am reading more frequently that organic fruit and vegetables contain more nutrients, and the chemical residue of “conventional” farming can’t be good for health.
    • Certain wild (not farm raised) cold water fish like salmon, mackerel, herring and anchovies; as well as other foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, including flaxseed, chia seed, nuts, basil, and others.
    • There are a number of other dietary substances that are worth considering, which we will be writing more about soon, including turmeric, coconut oil, Vitamin D, and diatomaceous earth.
  • ExerciseCan we prevent Alzheimer's disease with THC, the active coumpound in mariuana?
  • Keep an active mind
  • Monitor medication carefully – there is growing evidence of a causal connection between certain prescription, even no-prescription, drugs and dementia.
  • Moderate alcohol use – this is one that provokes a lot of discussion, but it won’t go away. But moderate means moderate. No more than the equivalent of two glasses of wine per day. Some advocates say that the form of the alcohol doesn’t matter; others say that red wine is the only drink that has any real benefit.
  • There are a couple of other possible treatments are coming to the fore that will certainly garner criticism. THC, the active ingredient found in marijuana, may be able to stop or even reverse the progression of Alzheimer’s disease; and psilocybin, the compound that gives “magic mushrooms” their psychedelic properties, may be able to grow new brain cells. More on these in upcoming posts.

There are a number of factors that could increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (negative risk factors) over which we have, at least, some control including:

  • General health considerations that can be monitored and modified through pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical means
    • Cardiovascular disease including hypertension
    • Diabetes
  • Smoking and tobacco use – if you smoke, stop. This is probably the number one recommendation regarding almost any health-related lifestyle change.

All of the suggestions above relate directly to improved health. Even if dementia is not a concern, adopting some or all of these will improve your general quality of life. Our original question was, can we prevent Alzheimer’s disease by changing some bad habits? Maybe not, but it is looking more like we can at least delay it; and who knows, maybe someday it is this avenue that will lead us to a cure.

Please let us know what you are doing in an effort to stop dementia. Or have you or someone you know with dementia benefited from a lifestyle change, or something added to the diet, like coconut oil?

ways to prevent Alzheimer's Disease

Can we prevent Alzheimer’s disease?

Just as there is no cure, no magic bullet exists to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. On the other hand, there is compelling evidence that we can do certain things to delay the onset of the disease and even slow its progression. If we follow enough of this advice, perhaps we can avoid it altogether.
It is becoming evident that lifestyle plays a big role in many diseases. What we eat, where we live, what we do with our leisure time: all of these are now known to play a very significant role in how likely we are to get cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other of our most feared diseases. The same is true of for preventing Alzheimer’s. Our genetics may be a big factor in whether or not we will eventually be affected by it, but our lifestyle and other environmental factors, factors we can control, are also potential contributors. There is less evidence in the professional literature that these steps will prevent dementia, but environment and lifestyle are probably to some degree causal factors in almost all forms of dementia.

Read more about what we might do to prevent Alzheimer’s.

Eat Healthy

Eat local and healthy to help prevent Alzheimer'sObviously, right? More and more, diet is understood to be the most important element in everything health related. To optimize good health and minimize bad health we look first to our diet. And a diet that will most likely keep Alzheimer’s away is, essentially, the same as the one that will keep your heart healthy, your cholesterol level down, cancer at bay, and your glucose levels in balance.

General dietary recommendations to improve anyone’s health:

  • Water – Any healthy diet should begin with pure and clean water. Tap water often (usually?) contains undesirable elements and bottled water is unregulated and usually bottled in plastic. Filtering your own water is probably a better option. Water filters are available in a broad price range – and range of effectiveness. A cheap water filter is probably not much better than no water filter. Buy the best one you feel you can afford, and if you have a favorite, please let us know.
  • Whole Foods – Processed foods, like white sugar and flour, are responsible for many health problems. Eat whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables whenever possible. There is a raging debate about organic vs. “conventionally grown food. In our view, organic is best, since these foods will not contain pesticides and other chemicals often found in food, and are more nutritious.
  • Minimally Processed Foods – In general, the more processing a food undergoes, the more that is added to it or taken out of it, the less healthy it will be. Look particularly for sugars (sugar, sucrose, glucose, fructose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup), hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oils, and ingredients you’re not sure how to pronounce. Also minimize or eliminate junk food including fast foods. Even the “healthy” food at fast food restaurants is not all that healthy. It is nearly impossible to eliminate all processing, all junk, but the less of this stuff we eat, the healthier we will all be.
  • Vitamins and Supplements – Dietary supplements are unnecessary if you maintain a good diet. Of course, but that is one big “IF.” A good diet, a proper diet, is almost impossible given the food supply chain with which we have to contend. If you choose to supplement your diet, look for natural ingredients, and steer clear of inexpensive products. Bargain supplements is one of those instances in which cheaper is more expensive.
  • Avoid Practices and Substances that Rob Nutrients
    • Stress – physical, emotional, mental
    • Rich and fatty foods
    • Refined foods
    • Intoxicants, including caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco
    • Chemical additives

    And remember what your mother told you; don’t hurry and chew your food well. Don’t overeat or eat late at night.

  • Eat Locally –Whenever possible, eat foods that were grown or produced in your geographical region. Better yet, grow your own! There are real health as well as economic benefits to doing this.
  • Avoid Aluminum –Although there is no proven connection, it has long been suspected that aluminum might contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Avoid GMOs and Genetically Modified Foods –There is not much evidence available one way or another on the health effects of “frankenfood”, but historically, every time a certain food is modified from its original, natural state, it seems eventually to be found to contribute to cancer, diabetes, or other diseases. This recommendation is still somewhat subjective, but there is a fast-growing group of scientists, health and food experts, and people concerned about their health that are advising caution in the use of these foods. As we see it, it’s one of those, “until we know more, why take a chance?” situations, or let’s see proof (absolute) that the modified foods are safe, not accept and eat them until we have proof that they are not!

 

In addition, there are several specific dietary recommendations for Alzheimer’s prevention:

  • Antioxidants — Get as much of this as you can by eating fresh, whole vegetables and fruits, and from quality juices. Antioxidant supplements should behow to prevent Alzheimer's disease from natural sources.
  • Cold Water Fish and Fish Oil — Recommended are cod, salmon and flounder. Larger fish at the top of the food chain, like shark, swordfish, and even tuna tend to have higher levels of mercury, so eat those very sparingly.
  • Folate — A water soluble B Vitamin, folate occurs naturally in micro-algae, sprouts, lettuce and leafy vegetables, asparagus, whole wheat, legumes and nuts, melons, strawberries, as well as in other fruits and vegetables. Folic acid, the synthetic form of folate, is used to fortify breads and cereals.
  • Green Tea and Black Tea — Both are high in antioxidants and contain a compound, EGCG, shown to decrease production of the protein responsible for forming the plaques seen in the brain of people with Alzheimer’s. Studies used doses far higher than what you would get in a cup of brewed tea. EGCG is also thought to prevent some forms of cancer, so unless you really don’t like tea you should keep plenty of these varieties around.
  • Mediterranean Diet — The typical diet from most areas around the Mediterranean sea contain an abundance of the ingredients and foods listed above. And a little red wine. A review of a dozen studies that investigated the effects of the Mediterranean diet found health benefits including a 13% reduction in Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Turmeric — A growing body of evidence links turmeric, one of the main spices in curry, to a lower incidence of dementia. There are also laboratory studies that show curcumin, an ingredient in turmeric, blocks the formation of the Amyloid plaques that are so closely associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Incidentally, fresh turmeric is becoming increasingly available in many grocery stores. Furthermore, it adds a nice flavor to many foods. It could be just the thing for taste buds that are not as sensitive as they once were. Read more about the health benefits of turmeric.
  • Apple Juice — Recent evidence has found that apple juice improves cognition and can delay the onset of, and may even work to preventAlzheimer’s disease.
Coconut oil might help prevent alzheimer's

Coconut Oil has received a lot of recent attention for its health benefits, including brain health.

  • Coconut Oil — Here’s another food that is beginning to get a lot of attention for its health benefits in general, and its effect on the brain specifically. Be a little skeptical about what is being said about this oil that was, until recently, thought to be very unhealthy. Now it is considered by some to be the healthiest oil we can use and the only oil we should cook with. There are some people who claim that a spoonful of coconut oil a day has turned around the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, that people with advanced Alzheimer’s seem to be getting better! You can find testimonials, even some in video form, on the internet. Again, be wary, but a spoonful of the stuff each day isn’t going to hurt. Please contact me if you have any information about this, first hand or otherwise, as I am just beginning my research.

Exercise Your Body

Another no-brainer! Diet and Exercise. The mantra of the fit generation. Diet and exercise may be our strongest defense against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. And it does not matter when you start. That is, whenever you start exercising and eating right you will begin preventing Alzheimer’s, or at least you’ll begin decreasing your chances of getting it. So start today.

exercise to prevent Alzheimer's DiseaseA report from The Mayo Clinic that summarizes several recent studies concludes that exercise might be our best bet to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Don’t forget to protect your body while getting it into shape. Head trauma can eventually lead to a form of dementia. Broken bones and bruises are no fun either. Wear a helmet while cycling, rollerblading, skiing, or doing any other activity that could risk head injuries.

SHOP EXERCISE AND FITNESS

Exercise Your Brain

The Einstein Aging Study, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, concluded that participation in leisure activities led to a lower incidence of all types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s. For this study, leisure activities were reading, writing for pleasure, playing board or card games, playing musical instruments, and participating in group discussions. Subjects who participated in social activities one day each week had a 7% reduction in dementia risk. The risk was further reduced with increased social activity, to 63% for people who participated 11 times per week! The exclamation point is mine. You don’t often see exclamation points in scholarly writings, but I think this finding certainly rates one!!

The Einstein Study is part of a growing body of evidence that a brain workout will improve brain functioning in the same way that a physical workout will improve muscle and cardiovascular functioning. Memory loss, one of the best known and most feared signs of aging, can be reversed or at least slowed by playing a musical instrument, working crossword and Sudoku puzzles, playing chess, and otherwise using and “stretching” our brain.

The connection between mental calisthenics and reduced dementia is not proven, but there is a good amount of indirect and inferential evidence that this is indeed the case. For example, higher levels of education and more mentally demanding occupations correspond to lower levels of dementia.

Even if you did not go to college, or your occupation was not so demanding intellectually, don’t despair; it’s not the level of education or the occupation per se that is responsible for the brain health. You could have dropped out of high school and worked 45 years digging ditches, and spent all your free time at museums and reading and otherwise exercising your curiosity. Education is education. Brain stimulation is what we are after no matter what the guise. If this is you, you might be better off: Digging ditches is physical exercise, and that counts for a lot, too(see above).

And if you have not done those things that keep your brain sharp, start now. An industry is growing up around baby boomers fear of aging and the impending Alzheimer’s epidemic. Inspired by findings like those above, several companies, including Nintendo, are marketing devices designed to exercise our gray matter. But you do not need to spend a lot of money for gadgets or software. A book of puzzles, an interesting discussion, a thought provoking book, and interesting discussion about a thought provoking book; these things, too, benefit your brain.

SHOP ACTIVITY BOOKS

Socialize Often

Socializing is a Key to Preventing Alzheimer's DiseaseAnd speaking of discussion, spending time with friends, staying socially connected, will help to improve your memory and keep the brain elastic and healthy. The connection between social interaction and lowered rates of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia has not yet been made conclusively. Certainty is a difficult thing in cases such as this, but that there is benefit in spending time with friends is irrefutable.

There is a common thread that runs through the suggestions and prescriptions above. All, or almost all, revert to lifestyles and practices that were more prevalent at some time in our past; they propound a simpler, more natural lifestyle. We are all exposed to increasing amounts of environmental contaminants and pollutants. Furthermore, our televisions and computers have taken the place of the after-dinner discussions, the quilting bees, the barn raisings…. In short, the activities that served to further our neighborhoods and society, those activities that also served as our entertainment, made us a much more social being. Many, if not most of those are gone. It is the price we pay for living in an industrial society; we pay, unfortunately, with our health.

The fact that the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease is increasing dramatically, as is the incidence of most other health problems, reinforces our position that a return to a simpler, more natural lifestyle is a very good thing. We cannot know, but I would bet there is a direct correlation between environmental stress and Alzheimer’s disease. A return to a simpler lifestyle is not an easy thing to do, but it is certainly a worthwhile thing to attempt.


In The News

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]longitudinal study reported in Neurology, in 2007 and known as The Rotterdam Study, followed almost 7000 people 55 years of age or older over a seven year period. The study shows a significant relationship between current smoking and Alzheimer’s disease and dementia when compared to “never smokers”.

There was also no association between past smoking and dementia, Alzheimer’s, or Vascular dementia (VaD). One more excellent reason to quit now!

Another longitudinal study conducted by a group in Seattle, Washington, watched a group of people over the age of 65 for a period of more than 9 years. They concluded that people who exercised three or more times a week reduced their risk of developing dementia more than those who exercised fewer than three times a week. Also according to this study, “Exercise seemed to be associated with the greatest risk reduction in participants who had poor physical functioning at baseline.” So it’s never too late to start. As long as you start now!

Some more good news! There seems to be a growing amount of evidence that something in red wine might delay or even prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Jun Wang, et. al., reporting in The FASEB Journal (the journal of The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology) found that Cabernet Sauvignon both improve memory and cognitive performance in subjects with AD-type amyloid beta-protein (Aß) neuropathology (the plaques part of plaques and tangles). The same study also found that the wine also reduced plaques in the brains of the subjects.

Before we get too excited, the subjects in this particular study were mice. On the other hand, there is a significant amount of evidence in the scientific and anecdotal literature to support the conclusion that wine, particularly red wine, is, in fact, good in ways other than Alzheimer’s prevention. And studies involving mice often relate well to humans.

The authors of this experiment do not advocate excessive consumption of wine, nor do we. Over-consumption and alcoholism can cause dementia and a host of other health problems, as well. Recommended quantities always are in the range of one wine glass size glass per day for women, and two for men (sorry ladies), Another of the conclusions: other forms of alcoholic beverages do not seem to have the same healthy properties, so no substitutions, please.