Alzheimer’s Disease is on the rise in the United States. One in ten Americans over the age of 65 now suffers from this form of dementia. While it’s most common in older adults, early onset Alzheimer’s disease can affect people in their 50s—or even 40s.
Until very recently, experts thought Alzheimer’s couldn’t be reversed. But, research published since 2014 has questioned that belief. Now we’re finding that with integrative therapies, we may be able to change the course of Alzheimer’s disease.
In Alzheimer’s Disease, nerve cells in the brain die and tissue shrivels up causing the brain to shrink. In addition, plaques form between the nerve cells and “tangles” of proteins appear within the nerve cells, making it more difficult for nerves to function well.
All of these changes cause the brain to stop working as it should. People with Alzheimer’s disease suffer from memory loss, inability to form new memories, and/or trouble with thinking, calculating, and planning. The symptoms can vary slightly from person to person.
While we can’t pinpoint one cause for Alzheimer’s, we do know some factors that add to risk:
Blood sugar dysregulation, poor circulation leading to decreased oxygen delivary to tissue, inflammation, environmental factors all adding up to the mitochondrial degenerative inflammatory change.
- Genetics A family history of Alzheimer’s Disease is a factor in 5 to 10 percent of all cases. People who carry certain genes, such as APOE, have higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
- Homocysteine levels High blood levels of homocysteine are linked to cognitive decline, brain atrophy, brain tangles, and dementia. Elevated homocysteine is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s that we can modify with selected dietary and dietary supplement interventions, such as active forms of B vitamins.
- Lifestyle Another factor we have control over is our lifestyle. Smoking, lack of exercise, poor sleep quality, and excess weight all are linked to increased risk of Alzheimer’s. Additionally, high or low blood pressure, high cholesterol, and increased inflammation and blood sugar levels or diabetes are linked to increased risk.
- Stress Both physical stress and emotional stress, as well as stress from certain foods and from toxins in our food, water and air, are known to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. One reason is because stresses increase oxidative damage/stress inside cells, leading to the development of plaques and tangles involved in Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Treatment Options
- Integrative treatment may help prevent or even reverse Alzheimer’s Disease. The main goals of treatment
- are to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, detoxify, and address various biochemical imbalances in the body. These are a few of the ways your integrative health practitioner may help you treat or reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s:
- Diet Your diet should be designed to reduce inflammation and to balance your blood sugar. Focus on organic foods to avoid pesticide exposure. Cut out processed foods, gluten, and any foods you’re sensitive to or that could be increasing inflammation in your body. Eat more fruits, vegetables, cold- water fish, and other healthy fats. Your practitioner may recommend a ketogenic diet, which can help with Alzheimer’s disease. A ketogenic diet focuses on healthy fats and cuts out starches and grains.
- Sleep Good sleep is key to giving your brain and body time to do tissue repair. While you sleep, the brain completes a “clean out” through the glymphatic system (waste removal system in the brain). Sleep also keeps your immune system humming to protect you from infections and your blood sugar balanced to prevent diabetes. If you don’t sleep well, however, it is important to avoid sleep medications, as those have been linked to dementia. Instead, try natural ways to improve sleep. For instance, set a consistent bed time, avoid screen use before bed, and try guided sleep meditation with CDs or guided meditation Apps.
- Exercise It’s hard to overstate the importance of exercise, both aerobic (walking, cycling, etc.) and resistance (Yoga, weights, etc.). Exercise boosts cardiovascular health, balances blood sugar, and improves brain health.
- • Manage your stress Chronic stress can contribute to Alzheimer’s Disease in a number of ways. Try meditation, tai chi, yoga, journaling, gardening, listening to music, or any other activity that lets you put your worries behind you.
- • Reduce toxins Smoking, heavy drinking, and exposure to toxic metals, pesticides, and other pollutants may cause inflammation in the brain. That, in turn, can lead to dementia risk. Take care of what you put into and around your body. Use home air filters, water filters, and non-toxic home products wherever possible.
- • Supplements The supplements your integrative health practitioner recommends will be based on your specific needs. A good multivitamin is a smart starting point. Fish oils can also help curb inflammation and support brain health. Other common brain-boosting supplements include curcumin, resveratrol, coenzyme Q10, green tea extract, alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), and glutathione.
Conclusion With Alzheimer’s disease becoming more and more common, it’s important to be aware of the signs. The sooner you or your loved one can talk to an integrative health practitioner about the problems you’re experiencing, the better your chances are for reducing risk and improving outcomes.