Alzheimer's Prevention Protocol
Once thought rare, it’s now estimated that there are about 5.5 million people in the U.S. currently living with Alzheimer’s. The disease afflicts 10% of Americans over the age of 65 and 50% of those over 85. The disease doesn’t only affect the elderly, though. It can strike when a person is in his or her 40s, and deterioration in critical areas of the brain may even precede symptoms by as much as 20 to 40 years.
Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by progressive mental deterioration to such a degree that interferes with one’s day-to-day activities, such as the ability to function socially and at work. Memory and abstract thought processes are impaired. Once considered a psychological phenomenon, Alzheimer’s is now known to be a degenerative disorder. Specific physiological changes occur in the brain over time. Nerve fibers surrounding the hippocampus, the brain’s memory center, become tangled. Characteristic plaque forms in the brain as well. These plaque deposits can accumulate and damage nerve cells. The result of these physiological changes is that information can no longer be carried properly to or from the brain, new memories cannot be formed, and memories formed in earlier years cannot be retrieved.
Many people worry that forgetfulness signals the onset of Alzheimer’s. Forgetfulness is common, though, and not a cause for concern - we all forget where we’ve put our car keys, the names of people we’ve just met, and items from our grocery list. The main difference between forgetfulness and dementia is the following: if you don’t remember where you put your keys, that’s forgetfulness. If you don’t remember why you need your keys, that may be a sign of dementia.
The precise cause(s) of Alzheimer’s disease remains unknown. Many clues point to long-standing nutritional deficiencies. For example, people with Alzheimer’s tend to have low levels of vitamin B2, vitamin B3, and zinc. The B vitamins are important for cognitive functioning, but unfortunately, have been stripped from the processed foods that are increasingly common in our modern diets. Low levels of B6, B12, and folic acid coupled with high homocysteine levels predict cognitive decline with aging. Malabsorption problems, alcohol use, and medications further deplete crucial vitamin and minerals, leading to deficiencies.
One of the other potential causes of Alzheimer’s is high concentrations of aluminum in the brain. High exposure to this heavy metal combined with nutritional and antioxidant deficiencies further predisposes one to Alzheimer’s disease. Heredity may also be involved. Many people with the disease have a family history of the disorder, and four gene variations have also been linked to the disease (all of which reduce the clearance or increase production, of beta-amyloid - the main component of the plaque deposits).
Another culprit of the death of brain cells is the immune system. It’s been theorized that the complement proteins that normally help clear away dead cells begin to attack healthy cells as well in Alzheimer’s disease. The presence of amyloid may trigger the release of a cascade of complement proteins, which could spark a vicious cycle of inflammation and further plaque deposits.
As more is learned about the influence of varying causative factors of Alzheimer’s disease, the possibility of delaying the progression of the disease is becoming more real. Below you will find nutrients and supplement recommendations, herbs, and lifestyle tips to prevent the onset of this degenerative disorder.
Keep your brain busy to decrease the speed of brain degeneration. Stay intellectually active by keeping busy, reading, writing letters or a journal, and learning new things. Puzzles, riddles, and brain teasers are great tools to keep the mind active - try a crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an app such as Lumosity or Elevate for a wide variety of brain-training games. Staying social and engaged is also important. Have weekly social engagements so you can stay in touch with friends and family members, have interesting discussions, and remain socially active.
Eat a well-balanced diet at least 80% of the time (with a little wiggle room). Include an increased amount of fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, in order to keep cholesterol levels in check, as there is a link between cardiovascular diseases and Alzheimer’s.
Limit your intake of sugar and refined carbs such as bread, rice, and pasta, as these also encourage high cholesterol and unhealthy vascular health. Similarly, red meat and sodium intake should be kept to a minimum. Instead, eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean organic meats, wild-caught fish, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains such as quinoa and buckwheat, and healthy fats such as avocados, olive oil, and coconut oil.
Healthy fats are especially important to brain health - the brain is 60% fat and requires fat to use as energy and fuel. Especially important to the brain are polyunsaturated fats (nuts and seeds, fish), DHA (salmon and other fatty fish, organ meat such as liver, algae), and saturated fats (coconut oil, coconut milk, eggs). Include a healthy source of fat with every meal. Bonus points: fats also encourage the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K).
Avoid chemicals & toxins. Alcohol, cigarette smoke, processed foods, and environmental toxins, especially metals such as aluminum and mercury, should be carefully avoided. If you still smoke, now’s the time to stop! Smoking more than doubles the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. While many sources of environmental toxins, such as pollution, are largely unavoidable, they also lurk in everyday consumer products such as cleaning products, personal care products, and makeup. Opt for chemical-free, organic options wherever possible.
Do not drink tap water as it may contain aluminum. Instead, make sure you’re drinking fresh, filtered water. Filters such as the Berkey are effective at removing common contaminants such as chlorine, copper, and aluminum (an additional fluoride filter is also available). Reverse osmosis filters also provide pure drinking water, although it will need to be remineralized using trace mineral drops. Spring water is another great choice as it’s pure and rich in naturally-occurring minerals. You can purchase it in glass bottles at many grocery stores, or fill up your own bottles at the source by finding a spring near you via the Find A Spring website.
Pay attention to your sense of smell. A decline in the sense of smell often occurs as much as two years prior to the beginning of a mental decline in people with Alzheimer’s disease. If you notice this symptom, start incorporating these tips immediately - along with the supplemental and herbal recommendations below - to reverse some of the damage.
Incorporate regular exercise to reduce your chances of developing the disease. Specific activities associated with a reduced risk include biking, walking, swimming, and golf. Exercising increases blood flow and oxygen delivery to the brain, directly benefiting brain cells while also providing cardiovascular and mood-boosting benefits.
Get your hormone levels regularly checked as women with Alzheimer’s have been found to have lower estrogen levels than their healthy counterparts. If your hormonal balance is off, regularly consume sources of phytoestrogens, such as tempeh, miso, and organic tofu, in order to balance hormone levels. Greater measures may also be required - consult with your healthcare practitioner.
Multivitamin and Mineral Complex with Potassium
Dosage: Depends based on the brand - *use caution when combining with other supplements
Benefits: All nutrients are necessary in balance. A mineral complex is also needed for proper electrolyte balance.
Vitamin B Complex
Dosage: 100 mg of each of the B vitamin 3 times daily (amounts of individual vitamins in a complex will vary by brand), and extra 100 mg 3 times daily of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5).
Benefits: Important for overall brain function, plays a role in converting choline into acetylcholine (which is needed for memory), and aids in the digestion of food. Deficiency can cause mental difficulties and, as mentioned above, people with Alzheimer’s disease have known deficiencies.
Dosage: 80 mg daily
Benefits: It’s a powerful immune system stimulant - zinc is necessary for T-lymphocyte function, which is needed to fight infection.
Vitamin A plus Carotenoids (including Beta-carotene and Vitamin E)
Dosage: 15,000 IU of Vitamin A daily, 25,000 IU of Carotenoids daily and 200 IU of Vitamin E daily (d-alpha-tocopherol form)
Benefits: Deficiencies in antioxidants expose the brain to oxidative damage. An antioxidant helps to transport oxygen to the brain cells and protects them from free radical damage.
*Note: If you’re on a blood-thinning medication, consult your health care practitioner before taking Vitamin E.
Dosage: 500 mg 3 times daily, on an empty stomach
Benefits: Deficiency has been implicated as possibly causing dementia.
Other supplements to look into for immune support: Vitamin C with bioflavonoids.=
Other supportive supplements: Coenzyme Q10, Folate, Iron, SAMe, TMG, Apple Pectin, Calcium, Magnesium, Kelp
* Consult with a nutrition practitioner prior to taking herbs or supplements
Dosage: 100 – 200 mg 3 times daily in liquid or capsule form
Benefits: Acts as an antioxidant and increases blood flow to the brain. It can also stabilize and, in some cases, improve the mental functioning and social behavior of people with Alzheimer’s disease.
*Note: Do not take ginkgo biloba if you have a bleeding disorder, or are scheduled for a surgery or dental procedure.
Curcumin (from turmeric)
Dosage: 600 mg daily in capsule form; can also sprinkle on any food and add to drinks
Benefits: Anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-amyloid properties.
Dosage: Use as seasoning on foods often
Benefits: Improves cognitive performance, largely due to the anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin which is found in turmeric, a spice that’s included in all curry blends.
By supporting your mind and body with the appropriate nutrients, healing herbs, and holistic lifestyle practices, evidence shows that you can successfully prevent the onset of this degenerative disorder - whether you have a family history of it or not. Empower yourself by realizing that you can make a difference and can play an active role in your own health care. Alzheimer’s doesn’t have to be just another side effect of aging.