Alzheimer’s Disease—Yes, It’s Preventable!
By Dr. Mercola
An estimated 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, a severe form of dementia,1 and hundreds of thousands more may suffer from an often misdiagnosed subtype called “hippocampal sparing” Alzheimer’s, according to recent findings.2
The most recent data3, 4 suggests that well over half a million Americans die from Alzheimer’s disease each year, making it the third leading cause of death in the US, right behind heart disease and cancer.
As discussed by Dr. Danielle Ofri in a recent New York Times blog,5 losing your mind, and with it, much of your personality and dignity, is a terrifying proposition. Making matters worse, many doctors shy away from addressing dementia—both with colleagues and their patients.
The reasons are many. Dr. Ofri suggests Alzheimer’s strikes at the emotional heart of many clinicians, whose careers depend on the stability and functioning of their own minds and intelligence. In short, it frightens them too much to talk about it.
However, I strongly disagree with her commentary on the lack of strategies to prevent or modify the course of Alzheimer’s.
“I suspect… that our reticence stems from deeper issues,” Dr. Ofri writes. “All the top 10 killers in America are potentially preventable, or at least modifiable — all except dementia… We have tests to screen for many cancers, and treatments that prolong life… But there’s nothing, really, that we can do about dementia.
There aren’t any screening tests that can pick up the disease before symptoms appear. And even if there were, there aren’t any treatments that make a substantial difference.
For doctors, this is profoundly frustrating. No wonder dementia gets pushed onto the back burner. In the dishearteningly limited time of a medical visit, we’re forced to focus on the diseases we can treat.”
On the contrary, while early diagnostic tests are in short supply and successful treatments are virtually nonexistent, the evidence shows there’s plenty of hope when it comes to prevention!
This is exactly why doctors need to get with the program and start directing their patients toward healthier lifestyles rather than fall into the trap of thinking the situation is hopeless and their patients are helpless victims.
Heart Disease May Increase Your Odds of Developing Alzheimer’s
I firmly believe that since there’s no conventional cure, now or in the foreseeable future, the issue of prevention is absolutely critical if you want to avoid becoming an Alzheimer’s statistic.
Ideally, doctors would begin counseling patients who are in their 20s and 30s on lifestyle strategies that promote heart and brain health throughout life. Then we would probably see a major shift in Alzheimer’s statistics for that generation.
As it stands, the evidence points to lifestyle factors, primarily diet, as the driving forces of dementia. There are also many connections between Alzheimer’s and other dietary-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, suggesting that ALL of these diseases are preventable through identical means.
For example, previous research suggests diabetics have a doubled risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease was even tentatively dubbed “type 3 diabetes” in 2005, when researchers discovered that your brain produces insulin that is necessary for the survival of your brain cells.
They found that 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. Recent research also points out that heart disease increases your odds of developing Alzheimer’s. As reported by MedicineNet.com:6
“Researchers found that artery stiffness — a condition called atherosclerosis — is associated with the buildup of beta-amyloid plaque in the brain, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.”
‘This is more than just another example of how heart health relates to brain health. It is a signal that the process of vascular aging may predispose the brain to increased amyloid plaque buildup,’ said lead researcher Timothy Hughes…
Plaque builds with age and appears to worsen in those with stiffer arteries, he said. ‘Finding and preventing the causes of plaque buildup is going to be an essential factor in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and extending brain health throughout life,’ Hughes added.”
Subtype of Alzheimer’s Disease Is Often Misdiagnosed
In related news, research7, 8 presented at the 2014 American Academy of Neurology’s meeting in Pennsylvania sheds new light on Alzheimer’s cases that are often misdiagnosed. Researchers from the Mayo Clinic believe they have identified a variant of the disease, referred to as “hippocampal sparing” Alzheimer’s, which is thought to affect an estimated 600,000 Americans. As explained by Medical News Today:9
“All subtypes of Alzheimer’s have two specific hallmarks in the brain. Amyloid beta is responsible for the formation of brain plaques, while tau produces tangles in the brain. In order to classify each subtype, the team used tangle counts to create a mathematical algorithm.
They found that while all Alzheimer’s subtypes had the same amount of amyloid beta, the hippocampal sparing variant showed tau tangles in unequal areas of the hippocampus. They discovered that in patients with this subtype, tau specifically damages neurons in areas of the brain associated with behavior, motor recognition and awareness, and use of speech and vision.”
Of the more than 1,800 Alzheimer’s patients included in the study, 11 percent were found to have hippocampal sparing Alzheimer’s, which does not destroy memory to the degree typically associated with Alzheimer’s. Instead, this subtype of the disease tends to alter behavior, causing uncontrollable anger, visual impairments, speech problems, and the feeling that your limbs do not belong to you. Hippocampal sparing appears to affect more men than women, and the disease tends to set in much earlier than traditional Alzheimer’s. Patients with hippocampal sparing also tend to deteriorate at a fast pace.
Misdiagnosis is common, as this subtype spares your memory. Quite often these patients end up being diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia or corticobasal syndrome10 instead. The former is associated with personality changes, while the latter is a progressive neurological disorder that can involve your motor system, cognition, or both, but patients typically present language problems first, followed by motor symptoms.
While the researchers believe that currently available Alzheimer’s medications may be more effective for those with hippocampal sparing Alzheimer’s than those with more traditional dementia, I firmly believe that drugs are not the answer to any of these conditions. Clearly, at the heart of it all is insulin and leptin resistance, fueled by a diet too high in refined sugars, processed fructose, and grains, combined with far too little healthful fats.
Dr. Mercola and Dr. Perlmutter on Alzheimer’s Prevention (Full Interview)
Published on Sep 26, 2013
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/art… Natural health physician and Mercola.com founder Dr. Joseph Mercola interviews Dr. David Perlmutter on how to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.