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Some Factors in Alzheimer’s Disease

Sixty years ago Alzheimer’s disease (Alz ) was rare. A few people 40 to 60 had memory loss and confusion–symptoms like the dementia of the elderly, often related to hardening of the arteries. Now, 5 million Americans have Alz. It seems to start later and some doctors say that half of those over 85 will get it. There are characteristic plaques and tangles in the cerebral cortex as well as a general shrinkage of the brain. No single cause and no cure are known. Toxic chemicals in the environment and years of poor food choices might be to blame.

Over a third of Alz patients also have type II diabetes. Insulin resistance doesn’t give the brain enough glucose and a low fat diet doesn’t let it burn fat. Dr. David Perlmutter in his book Grain Brain says 40% of 9000 subjects on high carbohydrate fast food had depression, anxiety and symptoms of early Alz. Trans-fats in margarine and manufactured food cause stiff cell walls in blood vessels in your heart and in your brain. Stress hormones and nicotine that raise your blood pressure can cause lesions in arteries and lead to atherosclerosis. Your brain cells might not get enough oxygen. Michael Downey in Life Extension, Feb, 2015, cites a study showing a 20% lower blood flow in the brains of Alz patients. He cites other studies where vinpocetine (from periwinkle) can increase blood flow to the brains of Alz patients and improve their brain functions. Vigorous exercise also brings more blood to the brain.

Dr. Glenn Rothfeld in Nutrition & Healing, July, 2015, says that Alz patients have three times the amount of mercury in their brains as do others. Most mercury comes from industries that burn coal (48 tons of mercury go into the air every year.) This is a big reason to phase out coal burning for generating electricity much sooner than 2030.

Aaron Reuben in Mother Jones, July-Aug, 2015, cites research linking the tiny particles from diesel exhaust to brain disease. These micro-particles can travel directly from the lining of the nose up nerves to the brain. Autopsies of children in Mexico City showed their brains had beta amyloid, a chemical found in Alz brains. A Harvard study of 19,000 retired US nurses noted that those exposed to particles in smog lost cognitive abilities faster than those in cleaner air.

Dr. Rothfield says in Aug.,2015, that one way to prevent Alz is getting enough sleep. He cites research by sleep biologist Dr. Nedergaard who found that toxic waste products in the brain, such as beta amyloid, were removed from the cerebrospinal fluid twice as fast in the sleeping brains as in waking brains of several animal species.

The wide-spread use of statins, anti-cholesterol drugs, might be a factor in the increase of Alz. Brain cells are constantly being replaced. Most of the brain is made of cholesterol so it’s necessary to have enough. Depression is a known side-effect of statin drugs. Dr. Dale Peterson says there’s no evidence that a low fat diet and lowered blood cholesterol can even prevent deaths from heart disease. He advises eating real food to keep both the heart and brain healthy.

Prevention is better than treatment. Aricept, a drug for Alz, is said to cost $24.6 billion per year with no guarantee it will slow its progression. We can’t all live like the Amish, with lots of exercise in clean air, natural foods like healthy animal fats, and enough sleep. However, we can avoid pollutants and not eat manufactured food and that from factory farms.

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Are You Headed for a Nursing Home?

A major cause of the high cost of health care is the number of elderly who have to go into a nursing home, sometimes for years. It now costs from $5000 to $6000 a month. Two conditions are most common. One estimate is that 70% of patients have dementia, mostly Alzheimer’s disease, or have extreme osteoporosis with the possibility of one or more broken bones. Dr. Diane Schneider says that osteoporosis is a silent disease and that one of every two women over fifty will break a bone because of it. That’s a wake–up call to get treatment before it gets worse with age. On the other hand Alzheimer’s seems to be a progressive disease that might eventually affect half of all persons over eighty.

First let’s look at the frail woman who breaks a hip from a simple fall. She has had gradually worsening osteoporosis for many years as her bones got thinner and weaker. She may be proud of the fact that she kept her body thin and doesn’t have heart disease or diabetes. She didn’t realize she needed enough magnesium and protein in her diet as well as calcium to keep her bones strong. The extreme case of a woman breaking a hip from falling out of bed means that all her bones are too thin. Her pelvic bones are so fragile that a surgeon can’t even consider a hip replacement. She is dependent on the nursing staff for everything.

Other patients may look healthy and have normal or higher weight but can’t be left alone. They are the ones with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia who might wander off and get hurt. They might live many years but have no meaningful life.

Both types of patients might have avoided going to a nursing home if they had taken care of their health when they were younger. Your body is meant to be healthy but only when you exercise as our ancestors did. They walked a lot and did work that used their muscles. Most doctors now agree that vigorous exercise will help you grow new brain cells and might prevent dementia. Aerobic and resistance exercise together can keep your bones strong as well as strengthening your muscles. Start now to improve both your body and your brain. Whether you, an insurance policy or Medicaid pays the high monthly cost of staying in a nursing home, you don’t want to go there.

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