By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Medicine
April 23, 2012
The second of three articles on Alzheimer's
- Assessing your risk for Alzheimer's
- The risk factors you can change and the one you can't
- Why you should take a pass on the BBQ
We don't have a definitive cause or a cure for Alzheimer's yet, which makes it a particularly frightening disease. Especially considering that 1 in 8 older Americans has it. And that number is expected to skyrocket as baby boomers age.
That means most of us probably know someone with it. We've seen it firsthand. And it's not pretty.
So, what can you do to improve your chances of avoiding Alzheimer's in your Golden Years?
Fortunately, some important pieces of the puzzle have come together in recent years, and months even. So there are more clues than ever on how to protect yourself against this ravaging disease.
As is true with most diseases, it seems that Alzheimer's does not have a singular cause, but rather a complicated matrix of conditions that can combine to kickstart the disease process.
This three-article series is designed to give you the latest update on emerging Alzheimer's research, and arm you with steps you can take to protect yourself.
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1) Know Your Herpes Status: As I discussed in the first article of this series, The Surprising Cold Sore Complication, a groundbreaking discovery about the signature beta-amyloid plaque being a protective agent was confusing. That is, until researchers discovered what the plaque is protecting you from: the HSV1 or herpes virus, or a "cold sore" outbreak, in your brain.
Keep in mind, this doesn't make the plaque good. It still has a degenerative effect on the brain. But understanding what causes the plaque gives us a much better chance of stopping it from forming in the first place.
You can take a simple blood test to find out your herpes status. And if you do have HSV1, begin taking 1500mg of lysine every day. Lysine is an amino acid that has been shown to prevent cold sore outbreaks, and can presumably also keep the virus in check in all parts of your body, including your brain.
Keep in mind, that the presence of HSV1 in your system doesn't mean getting Alzheimer's is inevitable, just like it doesn't mean you will break out with a cold sore. It just means you'll want to do everything you can to keep the virus in check.
2) Your Genetic Make-Up: Another factor in this matrix of Alzheimer's risk is genetic. Everyone gets a form of the APOE gene. This gene determines how cholesterol will travel through your bloodstream. If you have APOE-e4, you have a higher risk of getting Alzheimer's than someone with APOE-e2 or APOE-e3.
Now, there is nothing you can do about your genes! And having the gene is not a guarantee you'll get the disease. But, it is a risk factor. So, if you do have the ADOE-e4 gene, it's even more important for you to pay attention to the other risk factors you can control.
You can get tested to see if you have this gene, although for some people that just creates more anxiety. If you have a strong family history of Alzheimer's, you probably already know your answer. My recommendation when you have a family history of any disease is to be even more diligent in your prevention efforts. History doesn't always repeat itself.
3) The Diabetes Factor: A recent study in Japan showed that people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's. Researchers aren't exactly sure why this is.
One possibility is sugar may be feeding the brain plaque formed in Alzheimer's. Another is that high blood sugar damages cells and leads to increased oxidative stress and makes you more susceptible to the Alzheimer's disease process.
While researchers try to explain the connection between the two diseases, you should do your best to avoid both. And you can do that through your diet and exercise routine. Follow a gluten-free Mediterranean diet and move your body for 30 minutes a day. Plus, get your glucose levels checked regularly.
4) Manage Your Inflammation Levels: Inflammation and oxidative stress are two other factors that seem to play a role in creating the conditions for Alzheimer's to develop. You can get your inflammation levels checked by asking your doctor to perform a CRP (C-Reactive Protein) test. This will let you know what your systemic level of inflammation is. Then you can start creating a plan to get it – and keep it – at optimal levels.
While conventional doctors suggest taking NSAID's (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) such as ibuprofen, these drugs can be rough on your system over the long haul.
Curcumin and turmeric are two natural anti-inflammatories already used by arthritis sufferers to manage inflammation, and are a better bet for regular use. Start at one dose of 500 mg, twice a day. You can go up to as much as 1000 mg, two to three times a day if necessary for inflammation. But go up gradually, to be sure you land on a dose that works for you. The Mediterranean diet I recommend above is also an anti-inflammatory diet. It may help you tackle two risk factors at once.
Also, there is a different kind of AGE that can increase your Alzheimer's risk, in addition to your biological age…
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A favorite summer pastime – cooking on the BBQ – can increase the inflammatory properties of your food.
Research has shown frying or grilling foods at high temperatures produces compounds that can increase inflammation in the body. They call these compounds, advanced glycation end products, or AGEs for short. And these compounds are showing up more and more in people with chronic diseases associated with inflammation. Including diabetes and heart disease. Which makes it a risk factor you need to know about.
If you can't imagine an entire summer without a BBQ or two, make sure you marinate your meat in lemon or vinegar before cooking. This reduces the AGEs when the meat is cooked.
Again, these risk factors – and my recommendations – are emerging from the most current research on Alzheimer's.
As the baby boomer generation swells into old age and is more determined than any generation before it to remain healthy and active, research on Alzheimer's is destined to gather steam.
If you notice, each one of these recommendations will help you avoid other conditions and diseases as well. Like diabetes and heart disease. So following them certainly can't hurt.
In the final issue of this series we'll address three more risk factors – stress, your immune system, and mercury – and discuss what you can do about them.
Additional Articles of Interest
The Surprising Cold Sore Complication
Preventing Alzheimer's Disease
Alzheimer's Disease Supplements
Ohara T, et. al., Glucose tolerance status and risk of dementia in the community: The Hisayama Study, Neurology 2011; 77: 1126–1134.
Butterfield DA, Drake J, Pocernich C, Castegna A. Evidence of oxidative damage in Alzheimer's disease brain: central role for amyloid beta-peptide. Trends Mol Med 2001. 7: 548–554.