Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a progressive brain-wasting disease. There is an irreversible destruction/loss of brain cells (neurons) that result in the impairment of memory, reasoning, and intellectual abilities. As the brain cells die, the brain itself shrinks, which then progresses to the point of an inability to perform normal activities of daily living, and eventually dying.
The National Institute on Aging estimates there are between 2.4 million and 4.5 million Americans suffering from AD. Approximately one third of all American seniors die of some form of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. These deaths have risen 68% from 2000 to 2010.
The brain, in this progressive neurologic disease, is found to have increasing amounts of plaques and tangles that develop amongst the brain cells, causing them to die. This, along with a deficiency of vital brain chemicals, disrupts the transmission of electrical charges within the cells, resulting in a loss of neurons. These brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters are responsible for transmission of brain messages and include such chemicals as acetylcholine, serotonin and norepinephrine.
The causes of Alzheimer’s Disease are multifactorial. These can be categorized into 4 factors: Physical health, nutrition, lifestyle, and environmental factors.
Certain health conditions seem to precipitate AD. They include chronic infections, chronic inflammation from multiple sources, repeated blows to the head or whiplashes, excessive body fat, atrial fibrillations, high blood pressure, poorly controlled diabetes, chronic stress, chronic clinical depression, strokes or mini-strokes and high homocysteine levels.
Nutritional factors include poor intake of Essential Fatty Acids, Vitamin deficiencies (especially B vitamins, and the antioxidant vitamins: Vitamins A, C and E), inadequate amounts of quality protein, and excessive carbohydrates.
Lifestyle is always a factor in any disease, and AD is no different. Inadequate exercise, an unlearning mind, physical inactivity, lack of sunlight, and insufficient sleep are all cited as being risk factors for Alzheimer’s.
Environmental factors such as excess exposure to aluminum, nitrates/nitrites/nitrosamines (found in processed foods and fertilizers), and other chemicals found in foods or in the air can be contributing factors.
So, what can we do to minimize our risks of getting Alzheimer’s Disease? Handle as many of the 4 factors as we can!
Use herbs, acupuncture, diet and lifestyle to eliminate the health challenges that can predispose you to AD. These include eliminating chronic infections or inflammatory conditions, losing excess weight, controlling cardiovascular and blood sugar conditions, getting appropriate treatment for head traumas and whiplashes (such as chiropractic or acupuncture treatments), and handling stress and emotional imbalances.
Eat a diet high in good fats such as fish, raw nuts and seeds, quality pastured meats, butter, coconut oil (has extraordinary effects on brain health), etc. Take quality vitamins and minerals that are made from foods, not chemicals, such as Standard ProcessÒ brand supplements. Eat ample amounts of protein, especially raw proteins, and cut the carbohydrates.
Get ample exercise, especially in fresh air, such as you find in doing yard work or gardening, riding a bike (or exercise bike), and do crossword puzzles. Research shows that just reading isn’t enough. The brain must be engaged, which means you have to think. Quality sleep is another important factor. The fact is, there is much we can do between lifestyle, the foods we eat and the healthcare we receive that can have a profound effect on preventing this debilitating disease!
© 2013 Holly A. Carling, O.M.D., L.Ac., Ph.D.