Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder and the leading cause of cognitive and behavioral impairment in industrialized societies.
The cause of AD is unknown and the major risk factor for AD is age. About 5% of all AD cases have a genetic or familial cause, however, the vast majority of all AD cases (~95%) are of sporadic origin.
Both the familial and the sporadic forms of AD share a common disease phenotype involving at least eight characteristic features including:
- uncontrolled oxidative stress
- up-regulated pro-inflammatory signaling
- changes in innate-immune signaling
- progressive accumulation of lesions including neurofibrillary tangles (NFT) and amyloid beta (Aβ)-containing senile plaques (SP)
- significant synaptic signaling deficits
- neurite and brain cell atrophy
- progressively altered gene expression patterns that are different from healthy brain aging
- progressive cognitive impairment and dementia in the host
There is currently no cure or adequate clinical treatment for AD, and it remains unclear how AD originates and propagates throughout the brain and central nervous system (CNS).
Alzheimer’s disease is becoming more prominent in the news these days.
The Los Angeles Times reports in “Science Now” that “over the next 35 years, about 28 million baby boomers will likely develop Alzheimer’s disease, and the annual bill for their care will balloon from $11.9 billion in 2020 to more than $328 billion in 2040,” according to research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference. Baby boomers represent 2% of Medicare costs, and that’s just Medicare. By the time we hit 2040, baby boomers will present almost 25% of Medicare costs.
The prevalence of AD in the baby boom generation will rise from 1.2% in 2020, when most baby boomers will be in their 60s and 70s, to “an astonishing” 50.1% in 2050, when baby boomers will be in their mid-80s and older, according to a conference statement. By 2040, more than twice as many baby boomers will have AD (10.3 million) than the equivalent age group has in 2015 (4.7 million).
Unless a treatment comes along that “could delay or prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, the cost of caring for baby boomers with the disorder by 2040 will eat up a quarter of the nation’s total Medicare spending, researchers have estimated.”
What are some lifestyle measures to prevent Alzheimer’s disease? Here are nine tips you can start using today:
- Stay physically active. Long-term low physical activity seems to prevent the development of Alzheimer’s
- Reduce the amount of TV you watch. High television viewing may raise Alzheimer’s risk. The Washington Post reported that too much television “might damage your brain and also raise the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease — and that the effects could show up much sooner than previously believed,” according to research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.
- Get your zzzzzzz’s. Poor sleep may increase risk for Alzheimer’s, study suggests. The AP reports that research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference suggests that “poor sleep may increase people’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease by spurring beta-amyloid, “a brain-clogging gunk that in turn further interrupts shut-eye.” Researchers arrived at this conclusion after giving memory tests and “PET scans to 26 cognitively healthy volunteers in their 70s to measure build-up of” beta-amyloid. The investigators found that “the more amyloid people harbored in a particular brain region, the less deep sleep they got – and the more they forgot overnight.”
- Train your brain in school. Low grades at age 10 may be linked to higher risk of dementia later in life. “In a presentation at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference,” researchers “report that getting good grades in school is among the important factors that can protect against dementia later in life.” After analyzing “data from a cohort study that ran for more than 90 years,” Swedish researchers “found that participants with low grades at age 10 were at 21% higher risk for an eventual dementia diagnosis.” Continuing education can help reduce risk of brain decline and dementia.
- Quit smoking. Smoking increases risk of brain decline, and quitting can reduce a smoker’s risk down to levels comparable to people who have never smoked.
- Remain social. People who have an active social life have been shown to have more active and healthy brains.
- Maintain your mental health. Depression, anxiety and stress can speed a person’s brain aging, if they are left untreated. “We know that stress hormones, when produced in excess, causes the brain to shrink more rapidly.
- Be Good to Your Gut. The gut microbiome modulates the regulation of multiple neurochemical pathways through a complex series of signaling-systems that mechanistically link the gastrointestinal (GI) tract to the central nervous system (CNS), the enteric nervous system and the neuroendocrine and immune systems. A disruption of the gut ecosystem leads to systemic inflammation and the weakening of the blood brain barrier permitting dysbiotic bacteria and or their endotoxins to gain access to the brain. This can trigger neuropathology and alter brain function via chronic Dysbiosis of the alimentary canal may play a contributing role in disease pathogenesis.
- Eat a Gut Healthy Diet. There are evolving data that a diet high in inflammatory foods that disrupt the gut microbiome may contribute towards the development of AD. Evidence is also mounting that dietary advanced glycation end products (AGEs) such as red meat are an important risk factors for AD. Higher diet quality has been linked to less cognitive decline. A diet considered high quality according to a healthy eating index preserves cognition in patients at high risk for cardiovascular disease and mental decline, results of a new study suggest. The Mediterranean diet which is loaded with anti-inflammatory phytonutrients and fertilizing prebiotics is protective against AD development. Diabetes and prediabetes raises the risk of AD, so be careful with refined and sugary carbs that spoke blood glucose and insulin levels.
To learn more about how to build your gut health and protect your body and your mind-read my latest book The Gut Balance Revolution.
To Your Good Heath,