Diagnosing Alzheimer’s Disease is not easy. The symptoms (forgetfulness, fuzzy thinking, confusion, changes in behaviour or personality) are common to other conditions – including other forms of dementia, stroke, sleep problems, hormonal changes, complications of the aging process and reactions to certain medications.
We do know that there is an association with amyloid plaques and the tau protein in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. It is an association, however, and not causation. 99% of the drugs targeting the amyloid plaques have failed i.e., are useless in managing or reversing the disease.
A 2011 review in Lancet Neurology indicated that there are many possible “drivers” that may contribute to the development of the disease – chronic stress, lack of exercise, lack of restorative sleep, insulin resistance and diabetes, low kidney function, high blood pressure, inflammations from infections and environmental toxins, poor nutrition, small strokes, CVD, concussions, genetics (having the ApoE4 gene), lack of social connection and lack of mental stimulation. Scientist Leroy Hood says that Alzheimer’s is “a really complex disease that has been utterly intractable” and that taking a systems approach “reflects my own conviction that these complex diseases almost never respond to a single drug”
Professor of Neurology at UCLA, Dr. Dale Bredesen, believes that Alzheimer’s is “triggered by a broad range of factors that upset the body’s natural process of cell turnover and renewal.” After nearly 30 years of research he has identified more than three dozen mechanisms that amplify the biological processes that drive the disease. These factors are not enough by themselves but in combination, have a cumulative effect resulting in the destruction of neurons and a disruption in the signaling between neurons. “Normally, synapse-forming and synapse-destroying activities are in dynamic equilibrium” says Dr. Bredesen.
Dr. Bredesen also believes that Alzheimer’s Disease has three subtypes – each driven by different biological processes with each subtype requiring a customized treatment program.
So What Type of Alzheimer’s might you get?
Subtype No. 1 is associated with systemic Inflammation. As you probably know, chronic systemic inflammation is persistent, low-grade inflammation that is ongoing. Chronic inflammation is considered a precursor to accelerated aging and disease and has been linked to memory loss and cognitive decline. It stands to reason that – if you have raised systemic inflammatory markers in your blood – that you may have the tendency to this particular subtype. Three of the markers for systemic inflammation are hsCRP, Ferritin and RDW (Red Blood Cell Width) If any of these markers are chronically raised in the blood, there is a good chance that you have systemic inflammation and may have an increased chance of getting Alzheimer’s subtype No.1.
Alzheimer’s Subtype No. 2 appears to be related to the body’s handling of glucose. It is characterized by Insulin Resistance and extremely low levels of certain vitamins and minerals, and hormones. Blood values that may be important to be aware of include Fasting Blood Glucose, HbA1c and Serum Insulin (Serum Insulin is a marker for Insulin Resistance or may indicate a tendency towards chronic inflammation if the FBG and HbA1c are normal). If combined with abdominal obesity, abnormal lipid levels and high blood pressure, the possibility of Type 2 Alzheimer’s later in life increases i.e., if you have Metabolic Syndrome.
Type 3 Alzheimer’s appears to be related to chronic exposure to environmental toxins like metals and moulds. It is generally categorized by a specific type of brain atrophy seen on MRI. It often occurs in younger individuals with no family history of Alzheimer’s.
Dr. Bredesen has created his “Bredesen Protocol” designed to reverse chronic inflammation, decrease insulin resistance and avoid brain atrophy. The salient points are as follows:
- Eat a mostly plant-based diet – including broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and leafy greens like kale and spinach;
- Restrict or avoid simple carbohydrates from the diet i.e., bread, pasta, cookies, cakes, candy and sodas. Eliminate gluten and added sugar;
- Avoid high mercury fish like tuna, shark and swordfish;
- Practice at least 12 hours a day of intermittent fasting i.e., eat within a twelve-hour window and fast for the other twelve;
- Optimize your sleep patterns and get at least eight hours per night;
- Hydrate your body with water;
- Do Aerobic exercise for 30 to 60 minutes five times per week;
- Meditate and do yoga to relieve stress;
- Do brain training exercises for 30 minutes three times-per-week.
My take on this very naturopathic protocol is:
- Reduce inflammation that begins in the gut e.g., wheat/gluten triggers inflammation;
- Increase anti-oxidant consumption through the diet and add anti-oxidant supplements to reduce oxidative stress;
- Control your blood sugar to reduce your risk of Type 2 Diabetes through diet and increasing your chromium, manganese and molybdenum intake;
- Exercise your body and your brain;
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Until next time…