In a flurry of new research, scientists scanned people's brains to show hypertension fuels a kind of scarring linked to later development of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. Those scars can start building up in middle age, decades before memory problems will appear.
Scientists have long noticed that some of the same triggers for heart disease -- high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes -- seem to increase the risk of dementia, too.
But for years, they thought that link was with "vascular dementia," memory problems usually linked to small strokes. Now they have learned that factors like hypertension also seem to spur Alzheimer's disease-like processes.
Alzheimer’s numbers continue to rise.
According to the new Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report for 2009, 5.3 million people in the U. S. now have the disease, which bumps it up to the sixth leading cause of death. A new case emerges every 70 seconds.
Alzheimer’s disease is also another major burden to the economy and cost us 148 billion dollars in 2009.
Alzheimer’s type dementia isn’t a disease limited to those of you over age 65. Some 200,000 to 250,000 people under age 65 are inexplicably stricken with so-called “early-onset Alzheimer’s.”
Alzheimer’s is just as much a threat to the future of American adults as the rampant rise in autism is to our children. Clearly something is wrong. Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging, any more than autism is a normal developmental “stage” for your child.
What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic form of dementia that results in severe memory loss and eventually death.
The average lifespan of someone with Alzheimer’s is about eight years, although many can survive up to 20 years with proper care.
The Major Four Culprits Causing Alzheimer’s
There are four huge factors responsible for the nerve damage that leads to Alzheimer’s disease:
Insufficient omega-3 fatty acids
Insulin resistance is a major factor in elevating your blood pressure, as well as for packing on excess weight, elevating your lipids, and elevating your blood sugar. If you are producing too much insulin, you’re going to be at risk for all of these—and Alzheimer’s as well.
It isn’t surprising that there is a correlation between hypertension and Alzheimer’s disease. After all, Alzheimer’s is tied to:
Studies show that if you eat a diet high in animal-based omega-3 fats, like high quality krill oil, you will lower your risk for Alzheimer’s. But increasing your omega-3 isn’t enough—you must also decrease the amount of omega-6, because the ratio between the two is important.
Aluminum, along with other heavy metals, is prevalent in your environment and can accumulate in the soft tissues of your body. Aluminum in your brain has been shown to increase Alzheimer’s risk. Aluminum can also be found in many common products including dental amalgams, antiperspirants, some antacids, aluminum cans, non-stick cookware, and vaccines.
Mercury is another factor in dementia, having been shown to lead to the formation of “amyloid plaques.”
Scientists have reported that even trace amounts of mercury can cause the type of nerve damage that is characteristic of the damage found in Alzheimer’s disease—for example, the amount that leaches into your tissues from a dental amalgam.
Insulin Resistance and Alzheimer’s Disease
Insulin resistance is associated with both heart disease and dementia, so it follows that elevated blood pressure would be associated as well.
Insulin is produced by your brain, as well as by your pancreas.
Insulin and insulin receptors in your brain are crucial for learning and memory, and it’s known that these components are lower in people with Alzheimer’s disease. In your brain, insulin binds to an insulin receptor at a synapse, which triggers a mechanism that allows nerve cells to survive and memories to form.
However, researchers have found that small toxic proteins, called ADDLs, in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients remove insulin receptors from nerve cells, rendering those neurons insulin resistant. It has been suggested that ADDLs accumulate in the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease (by forming sticky clumps), thereby blocking memory function.
There is even a test that measures ADDL in your spinal fluid, claiming to detect Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages.
Another link between insulin resistance and Alzheimer’s is inflammation caused by excess body fat. Fat cells produce substances that affect your immune system, which in excess, trigger inflammation. And inflammation in your brain is thought to be one of the precursors to dementia[i].
The best way to lower your risk for both hypertension and Alzheimer’s is to drastically decrease the foods that cause your pancreas to flood you with insulin.
Fortunately, the steps you take to manage your blood pressure will also serve to lower your Alzheimer’s risk.
Could it All be One Disease?
We have known for a long time that nearly all chronic degenerative diseases are related, and most have similar underlying causes.
But the link between hypertension, insulin resistance, and dementia really illustrates how body imbalances can lead to “multi-system failure”—meaning, multiple diseases.
But here’s the good news: successfully addressing one problem will typically improve all of the others.
Six years ago I commented on a report published in the Journal of Hypertension that found high blood pressure related to a decline in cognitive function for adults of all ages. The long-term study utilized 20 years of data about blood pressure and cognitive performance.
Clearly, the idea that blood pressure and Alzheimer’s are linked is not new.
You Can Prevent High Blood Pressure and Alzheimer’s at the Same Time
You can normalize your blood pressure and lower your risk for Alzheimer’s disease by implementing a few simple techniques that address the underlying causes of both:
The newest emerging threat to insulin resistance is fructose. Fructose does a major number on insulin resistance. Since it is the leading source of calories in America, eliminating or drastically reducing fructose from your diet will go a long way towards preventing Alzheimer’s.
Later this year, I will be comprehensively expanding on fructose with some of the leading researchers with much more specific and detailed information on this.
In the meantime, eat a nutritious diet with plenty of fresh vegetables based on your nutritional type, and pay special attention to avoiding sugar and most grains.
Eat plenty of high-quality omega-3 krill oil or fish oil. Unfortunately, you should avoid eating fish because the vast majority is now contaminated with mercury.
Optimize your vitamin D levels through safe sun exposure, a safe tanning bed and/or vitamin D supplements.
Avoid and eliminate mercury from your body. Dental amalgam fillings are one of the major sources of mercury, however you should be healthy prior to having them removed.
Before having your dental amalgams removed, make the necessary dietary changes and implement my mercury detox protocol. Consult ONLY a competent biologically trained dentist or your health could end up worse, not better.
Avoid aluminum, which is an ingredient in many everyday products, including some brands of antiperspirants, cosmetics, toiletries, cleaning products and cookware.
Avoid prescription drugs whenever possible, especially sleeping pills, high blood pressure drugs, hormone replacement drugs and antipsychotics, which have all been linked to dementia; some of the worst drugs for cognitive side effects are Aldomet, Inderal, Tagamet and Xanax[ii].
Exercise for five hours per week. According to one study, the odds of developing Alzheimer's nearly quadrupled for people age 20 through 60, who were less active during their leisure time, as compared with their peers.
Avoid flu and other vaccinations as they often contain both mercury AND aluminum, which are both damaging to your brain.
Wild blueberries, which are high in anthocyanins and antioxidants, are known to guard against Alzheimer's and other neurological diseases.
Drink plenty of pure, filtered water that you know to be free of aluminum and fluoride.
Exercise your brain. Mental stimulation such as traveling, learning to play an instrument, or doing crossword puzzles 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.
[i] Nauert R. “Brain inflammation speeds dementia” PsychCentral September 17, 2008