By Dr. Mercola
Considering there’s no known cure and few if any effective treatments, it’s really important to pay attention to prevention if you want to avoid becoming an Alzheimer’s statistic.
The good news is that your lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise, and sleep can have a significant impact on your risk.
As noted by Dr. Richard Lipton6 of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine where they study healthy aging, lifestyle changes “look more promising than the drug studies so far.”
High-Sugar Diet Raises Your Risk of Alzheimer’s
Mounting research suggests our modern diet is playing a significant role in the skyrocketing prevalence of Alzheimer’s. Processed foods tend to be nearly devoid of healthy fat while being excessive in sugar, and this combination appears to be at the heart of the problem.
Most people (especially Americans) are on a processed food diet, and this virtually guarantees you’ll end up getting inverted ratios of carbs and fats, not to mention both are typically inferior due to processing and adulteration.
The connection between sugar and Alzheimer’s was first broached in 2005, when the disease was tentatively dubbed "type 3 diabetes.” At that time researchers discovered that your brain produces insulin necessary for the survival of your brain cells.
A toxic protein called ADDL removes insulin receptors from nerve cells, thereby rendering those neurons insulin resistant, and as ADDLs accumulate, your memory begins to deteriorate.
Previous research has also shown diabetics have a doubled risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Now, researchers are again warning that Alzheimer’s appears to be intricately linked to insulin resistance. In one recent study,7 the researchers used brain scans to assess 150 middle-aged people who were at risk of Alzheimer’s but showed no signs of it at the outset of the study.
As reported by The Huffington Post:8
“Brain scans revealed that greater insulin resistance was linked to less sugar in key parts of the brain, often affected by Alzheimer's.
Insulin is the hormone that helps your body use sugar from the foods you eat, and either converts it into energy or stores it away. Insulin resistance is when your body's response to a regular level of the hormone is reduced, creating a need for more insulin.
‘If you don’t have as much fuel, you’re not going to be as adept at remembering something or doing something,’ the study's lead author Auriel Willette...
‘This is important with Alzheimer’s disease, because over the course of the disease there is a progressive decrease in the amount of blood sugar used in certain brain regions. Those regions end up using less and less.
When this happens, the study's authors believe, certain parts of the brain can't carry out complex processes, like forming memories.”
Alzheimer’s and Heart Disease Share Risk Factors
Insulin resistance also raises your risk for heart disease, so it’s not surprising to find that heart disease is associated with Alzheimer’s as well.
Arterial stiffness (atherosclerosis) is associated with a hallmark process of Alzheimer’s, namely the buildup of beta-amyloid plaque in your brain. According to researcher Timothy Hughes,9 “the process of vascular aging may predispose the brain to increased amyloid plaque buildup.”
Recent research also points out that heart disease increases your odds of developing Alzheimer’s — in fact, these two diseases share a number of risk factors.
According to a study published in the journal Radiology, shared risk factors include smoking, alcohol use, diabetes, high fasting blood sugar levels, and obesity. 10
From his research, Dr. Perlmutter has concluded that Alzheimer’s disease is primarily predicated on lifestyle choices and, in a nutshell, anything that promotes insulin resistance will ultimately also raise your risk of Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer's Is Directly Related to Elevated Blood Sugar Levels
It’s not so surprising then that, as noted in the featured CNN video, poor sleep appears to drive the buildup of amyloid plaques in the brain. In short, people who sleep poorly tend to have higher amounts of amyloid plaques in their brain, which in turn are associated with worse performance on memory tests. As such, poor sleep may actually be an early indicator sign of amyloid buildup, which could be causing very subtle brain changes long before disease develops.
So just how much sleep do you need for optimal health? Based on a review of 300 studies assessing sleep and health outcomes, the latest sleep guidelines state that adults aged 18 to 64 need 7 to 9 hours, and seniors over the age of 65 need 7 to 8 hours each night.
School-age children need 10 to 13 hours, and teens, who tend to be among the most sleep deprived, need 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night. Considering the ramifications of sleeping poorly over decades, it would be wise to address your children’s sleeping habits early on, and to teach them the value of getting enough quality sleep on a regular and consistent basis.
Key Dietary Considerations for Alzheimer’s Prevention
Getting back to where we started, research25 from the Mayo Clinic has revealed that diets rich in carbohydrates are associated with an 89 percent increased risk for dementia while high-fat diets are associated with a 44 percent reduced risk. This combination of very little sugar and carbs, along with higher amounts of healthy fat is essential not only to address Alzheimer's, but diabetes and heart disease as well, since all of these conditions are rooted in insulin and leptin resistance.
Understanding this can make your life a whole lot easier. You don't need to memorize the dos and don'ts for each and every disease you seek to avoid; all you need to do is shift over to a mindset that is focused on optimizing health. Disease prevention then becomes a beneficial "side effect." My optimized nutrition plan can set you on the right path in this regard. In summary, the following four dietary instructions are key for staving off Alzheimer’s:
• Eat REAL FOOD, ideally organic. Avoid processed foods of all kinds, as they contain a number of ingredients harmful to your brain, including refined sugar, processed fructose, grains (particularly gluten), genetically engineered (GE) ingredients, and pesticides like glyphosate (an herbicide thought to be worse than DDT, and DDT has already been linked to the development of Alzheimer’s).
Ideally, you’ll want to keep your added sugar levels to a minimum and your total fructose below 25 grams per day, or as low as 15 grams per day if you already have insulin/leptin resistance or any related disorders. Opting for organic produce will help you avoid synthetic pesticides and herbicides.
It’s even more important to choose organic grass-fed meats and animal products, as animals raised in confined animal operations (CAFOs) are routinely fed GE grains contaminated with pesticides, along with a variety of drugs. Some researchers have even suggested Alzheimer’s may be a slow-acting form of mad cow disease, acquired by eating contaminated meats; and mad cow disease originated in the CAFO system, which forces herbivores to eat animal parts...
• Replace refined carbohydrates with healthy fats. Your brain does not need carbs and sugars; healthy fats such as saturated animal fats and animal-based omega-3 are FAR more critical for optimal brain function. Healthy fats to add to your diet include:
✓ Butter made from raw, grass-fed organic milk
✓ Raw dairy
✓ Organic pastured egg yolks
✓ Coconuts and coconut oil (coconut oil actually shows promise as an effective Alzheimer's treatment in and of itself)
✓ Unheated organic nut oils
✓ Raw nuts, such as pecans and macadamia, which are low in protein and high in healthy fats
✓ Grass-fed meats or pasture raised poultry
Avoid all trans fats or hydrogenated fats that have been modified in such a way to extend their longevity on the grocery store shelf. This includes margarine, vegetable oils, and various butter-like spreads.
Other Alzheimer’s Prevention Strategies
Besides the key dietary instructions just mentioned, along with getting regular exercise and enough restorative sleep, the following suggestions may also be helpful for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease:
1. Intermittently fast
Ketones are mobilized when you replace carbs with coconut oil and other healthy fats. Intermittent fasting is a powerful tool to jumpstart your body into remembering how to burn fat and repair the insulin/leptin resistance that is a primary contributing factor for Alzheimer’s.
2. Improve your magnesium levels
Preliminary research strongly suggests a decrease in Alzheimer symptoms with increased levels of magnesium in the brain. Unfortunately most magnesium supplements do not pass the blood brain levels, but a new one, magnesium threonate, appears to and holds some promise for the future for treating this condition and may be superior to other forms.
3. Eat a nutritious diet rich in folate
Vegetables, without question, are your best form of folate, and we should all eat plenty of fresh raw veggies every day. Avoid supplements like folic acid, which is the inferior synthetic version of folate.
4. Optimize your vitamin D levels with sensible sun exposure
Sufficient vitamin D is imperative for proper functioning of your immune system to combat inflammation that is also associated with Alzheimer's. If you are unable, for whatever reason, to get enough sensible sun exposure, make sure to take daily supplemental vitamin D to make your blood level at least 40 to 50 ng/ml. This is typically about 8,000 units of vitamin D for most adults.
5. Avoid and eliminate mercury from your body
Dental amalgam fillings, which are 50 percent mercury by weight, are one of the major sources of heavy metal toxicity, however you should be healthy prior to having them removed. Once you have adjusted to following the diet described in my optimized nutrition plan, you can follow the mercury detox protocol and then find a biological dentist to have your amalgams removed.
6. Avoid and eliminate aluminum from your body
Sources of aluminum include antiperspirants, non-stick cookware, vaccine adjuvants, etc. For tips on how to detox aluminum, please see my article, “First Case Study to Show Direct Link between Alzheimer’s and Aluminum Toxicity.” There is some suggestion that certain mineral waters high in silicic acid may help your body eliminate aluminum.
7. Avoid flu vaccinations
Most flu vaccines contain both mercury and aluminum.
8. Avoid statins and anticholinergic drugs
Drugs that block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter, have been shown to increase your risk of dementia. These drugs include certain nighttime pain relievers, antihistamines, sleep aids, certain antidepressants, medications to control incontinence, and certain narcotic pain relievers.
Statin drugs are particularly problematic because they suppress the synthesis of cholesterol, deplete your brain of coenzyme Q10, vitamin K2, and neurotransmitter precursors, and prevent adequate delivery of essential fatty acids and fat-soluble antioxidants to your brain by inhibiting the production of the indispensable carrier biomolecule known as low-density lipoprotein.
9. Challenge your mind daily
Mental stimulation, especially learning something new, such as learning to play an instrument or a new language, is associated with a decreased risk of Alzheimer's. Researchers suspect that mental challenge helps to build up your brain, making it less susceptible to the lesions associated with Alzheimer's disease.