Alzheimer’s Cure – More Than One Easy Step

September 9, 2014 in Exercise, Health Claims, Uncategorized by Joyce Bunderson

Don’t you just love it when all it takes is one easy step, one easy change and you’ve solved a problem?  I do.  I know with many public health problems, that’s exactly how they seemed to be solved. I realize that finding out about just adding a vitamin, mineral or developing a vaccine or medication was a huge amount of hard work. But in comparison with the millions of affected and suffering individuals in history, the relative ease of taking a vaccine, or eating a certain food, or taking a certain medication that avoids or solves a serious problem is fairly easy and wonderful. The millennia of polio epidemics, followed with vaccines since the early 1950s that essentially eradicated polio from the world, (with the exception of four countries) is a great example. Smallpox, Diphtheria, Measles, Tetanus, Rubella, Chickenpox, Whooping Cough (Pertussis), Hepatitis, Influenza and so on are a few serious threats to life and health that have been solved or greatly improved. Of course, pneumonia became less of a death sentence with the discovery of penicillin and succeeding antibiotics. Scurvy (vitamin C); beriberi (thiamine – vitamin B1); pernicious anemia (vitamin B12); Pellagra (Niacin); Neural tube defects (Folate); Rickets (vitamin D); Night blindness (vitamin A); and Goiter (iodine) are all solved with nutrients in food. Unfortunately however, the plague of Alzheimer’s disease does not appear, at least at this time, to be on the road to some easy one supplement, one vaccine, one vitamin, or one food resolution. The news is not all gloomy, however.

The other day I was busily running around trying to get things ready for an open house when I saw an article written by Matt McMillen, titled Alzheimer’s: The State of Prevention, Treatment. He started his article by citing two new studies in Alzheimer’s disease research; one on the involvement of vitamin D and a second that suggests that up to a third of Alzheimer’s cases are preventable. There were quite a few things that I liked about the article; one was that they interviewed Dale Bredesen, MD, who is the director of UCLA’s Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research. My ears always perk up when I read something from a professor of my alma mater. Dr. Bredesen is so impressive, absolutely amazing – just read a little about him!

Dr. Bredesen is not one who believes there’s nothing we can do to prevent Alzheimer’s. He does say that genetic tendency is very strong, but even in those people there are things that do seem to reduce the risk. You can read McMillen’s article, but I just want to cite a couple of things that Bredesen said.

One is that when you eat sugar or simple carbs (processed flour products, not whole grains, white rice, etc.) you drive up your blood glucose level and that requires your body to produce insulin. To break down the insulin, the body uses insulin-degrading enzyme.  But here’s the surprise (to me anyway) insulin-degrading enzyme is also important for degrading amyloid beta (a protein that builds up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease); and the body’s insulin-degrading enzyme can’t be doing both things at the same time. So heads up!  We don’t need to wait to have the final, final word from the definitive research; we can cut down on sugar and simple carbohydrates right now. There are plenty of other reasons to cut now on simple carbs, so why not try to protect ourselves from Alzheimer’s.

Here’s another explanation by Bredesen that piqued my interest. He explained that Alzheimer’s would likely not be controlled by a single agent but by a combination of agents; it’s like the HIVcocktail of three modest effect pharmaceuticals. When combined they provide therapy which works very, very well.  Of course, as related to Alzheimer’s this remains to be seen; we can but hope. He says there’s not a single cause for this devastating disease. There is an extensive list of contributing risk factors. Bredesen also said that Alzheimer’s should be considered a syndrome because of the disparate risk factors.

I love his optimism; he said that this decade is going to be the most exciting decade for Alzheimer’s disease. So many of us hope he’s right. Meanwhile, why not move toward reducing the risk factors that already are identified?

  1. Lack of exercise
  2. Diabetes
  3. Inadequate sleep and stress
  4. Inflammation
  5. High blood pressure in middle age
  6. Obesity in middle age
  7. Depression
  8. Smoking
  9. Low education

Certainly, there are opportunities for lifestyle changes to impact some of the risk factors. Just embarking upon additional physical activity, has the potential to reduce risk of obesity, hypertension and diabetes. Just getting more and better sleep, and reducing stress helps. Don’t forget, if it’s good for your heart it’s good for your brain. So just by getting moving and eating a Mediterranean-style diet you may be taking a big step toward reducing your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Add to this more music listening and more joy. The solution appears not to be a single easy step, but a clearly important step is moving toward being physically active and eating a Mediterranean-style diet, which of course, leaves out those tasty brain enemies made up of sugar and simple carbohydrates. Because of their damaging effects, it is important to make a separate effort to cut back drastically on damaging junk foods. This course of action may deliver valuable rewards for each of us who make the effort, in reducing the occurrence or extent of Alzheimer’s disease in our lives.