ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE (AD) may be in your future, but you can head it off! A person must be proactive rather than reactive to prevent this devastating disease. After its onset, it is too late to reverse this most common form of dementia. It is an incurable, degenerative, and terminal disease which was first described by the German psychiatrist and neuro-pathologist, Alois Alzheimer in 1906 and was subsequently named after him. Generally, it is diagnosed in people over 65 years of age, although the less-prevalent “early-onset” of Alzheimer's does occur before this age. In 2011, there were 36 million sufferers in the US. Alzheimer's is predicted to affect 1 in 3 over the age of 65. By 2050, half of all people over the age of 80 are predicted to have it! Medical science already has the tools to prevent it, but very few Doctors know about them, let alone make their recommendation.
The risk factors for AD includes family history, gluten intolerance, heavy metal excess, fever blisters, glucose intolerance, obesity, head trauma, drug, age, physical and psychological stress. Stress can not only be diagnosed, but quantified by a simple office test: Heart Rate Variation (HRV). Also, if one has a single gene Apo E4 there is a 75% chance and if a double E4 a 94% chance of the disease.
The earliest observable symptoms are often mistakenly thought to be “age-related” senior moments. The inability to acquire new memories, the difficulty in recalling recently observed facts are noted first by the individual, then by loved ones and lastly by friends. These individuals, particularly those with a high social IQ, cover up these mental lapses with believable excuses. As the disease advances, symptoms include confusion, irritability, aggression, mood swings, language breakdown, long-term memory loss and the general withdrawal of the sufferer as their senses decline. Gradually, bodily functions are lost, ultimately leading to death. Individual prognosis is difficult to assess, as the duration of the disease varies. AD develops for an indeterminate period of time before becoming fully apparent, and it can progress undiagnosed for years. The mean life expectancy following diagnosis is approximately seven years. Fewer than three percent of individuals live more than fourteen years after diagnosis. When AD is suspected, the diagnosis is usually confirmed with behavioral assessments and cognitive tests, such as a MMSE. A Psychological Inventory Test (to be covered in a later posting) that checks nine different brain areas of function also helps in diagnosis and prognosis. It is best to pick up the disease in its earliest stages when much can be done to delay or even prevent it. Often I will order a MRI to look at the hippocampus volume, and if in real doubt do a PET scan with a PIB contrast.
If Alzheimer’s is in your future, much can be done to greatly delay, or better yet, prevent it. Despite the many ways to determine if you are in harms way, there is no guarantee that it will arrive until after it is too late. Therefore, an ounce of prevention should be considered before a ton of care. One cannot change their genes (Apo E or Family History), but can certainly amend them in what is now termed epigenetic modification. The research indicates that AD is mainly an inflammatory process albeit a slow ongoing oxidative smoldering process. Involved in this process are two key moleules, Nrf2 and BDNF. Nrf2 is a master regulator molecule of the antioxidant response. This response is important to diminish our oxidative stressors. Because Nrf2 is able to induce genes important in combating oxidative stress, it activates the body’s own protective response, Nrf2 is able to protect from a variety of oxidative stress-related complications, even in situations where the administration of exogenous antioxidants (such as Vitamin C and Vitamin E) have failed. The other important player, BDNF keeps nerve cells alive and stimulaes the growth of new ones. Recent studies shows that it prevents and reverse Alzheimer’s independent of the amyloid plaque tangles. BDNF levels can be naturally boosted by heavy exercise and caloric restriction. Nutrients that also help make BDNF or protect it from declining are acetyl-l-carnitine, fish oil, blueberries, and curcumin.
There are both prescription drugs and supplements that are recommended for AD. The three drugs that are FDA approved to increase an important chemical in neuro-transmission, Acetyl Choline, are Aricept, Exelon and Razadyne. The other FDA medication is Nemanda which tries, but not completely successfully, to inhibit the neurons from “burn out” from excessive excitation. Because 90% of folks who have Alzheimers also have the Herpes Simplex-2 Virus, taking a daily antiviral, such as Acyclovir may also be prevention, although not FDA approved for this. Other prescriptions that are used in that AD which by some researchers is considered to be Type 3 Diabetes are Metformine and Actos.
A supplement representing more than 30 years of neuroscience research, is BrainSustain. This is a unique powdered drink formula, developed by Board-Certified Neurologist, David Perlmutter, MD, FACN, to enhance brain performance and health. It is usually given in a smoothie or Almond Milk Shake. BrainSustainTM improves the energy production of brain mitochondria providing generous antioxidant support to combat the damaging effects of excess free radicals. It contains the following underlined ingrediants. Broccoli Seed Extract, which is the Johns Hopkins non heated patented extract of the phytochemical in broccoli (sulforaphane glucosinolate). Extensive research demonstrates that this compound upregulates the Nrf2 system, enhancing the production of important antioxidants such as glutathione and superoxide dismutase as well as activating vital Phase 2 detoxification enzymes. N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine (NAC), a derivative of the amino acid, L-cysteine, is the precursor to glutathione, one of the brain’s most important antioxidants. The aim of oral supplementation is to augment the body’s reserve. NAC itself is a potent antioxidant shown to reduce formation of nitric oxide, a free radical implicated for a causative role in neurodegenerative disorders. Phosphytl Serine (PS), a component of lecithin, plays an important role in neuronal energy production and enhances neuronal communication. After careful examination of scientific evidence, the FDA granted “qualified health claim” status to PS, stating that “Consumption of PS may reduce the risk of dementia in the elderly”. N-Acetyl-L-Carnitine (aka ALCAR), an acetylated form of the amino acid, L-carnitine, is able to cross the blood brain barrier, where it acts as an effective antioxidant and protects brain cells from toxic chemical and stress-induced damage and deterioration. N-Acetyl-L-Carnitine enhances neuronal energy production by transporting fuel sources into the mitochondria and removing energy production waste products from them. Carnitine is readily converted into acetlycholine, a neurotransmittter essential for learning and concentration. Alpha Lipoic Acid also provides more antioxidant action and regenerates other important brain antioxidants including vitamins E, C, and glutathione. Unlike other antioxidants, alpha lipoic acid is both fat and water-soluble, greatly enhancing its ability to be absorbed from the gut and penetrate into the brain. Coenzyme Q10 measurably increases the efficiency of cellular energy production and serves as a potent antioxidant that may protect the brain from oxidative stress damage, which is believed to be partially responsible for neurodegenerative disease. A special DHA, (a2), derived from algae is not only vital to brain health, but 25% of the brain is made up of it. DHA-a2 facilitates optimal structure and functioning of the brain cell membranes.
BrainSustainTM also contains VegaProTM, XYMOGEN’s proprietary pea/ rice protein blend, as well as fat soluble antioxidants, vitamins D3 and E (as mixed tocopherols), and activated B vitamins, including 50 mg of riboflavin and folic acid (as calcium folinate). Available in Vanilla Delight, Chai & Creamy Chocolate, BrainSustainTM costs from $40 to $80 a month depending on whether an individual takes one or two scoops of this product daily. In general I advise one to prevent and two to treat Dementia.