Preventing Alzheimer’s with Lifestyle Changes

Image credited to Max Pixel 

It is safe to say that Alzheimer’s disease research is in a state of crisis. For the past two decades, over 73,000 research articles have been published, averaging 100 papers per day, yet little clinical progress has been made. The reason a cure may be impossible is because lost cognitive functions in Alzheimer’s disease patients are due to fatally damaged neuronal networks, and dead nerve cells cannot be brought back to life.

Consequently, replacement with new brain cells— even if it were technically possible, cannot be done without creating a new personal identity. One may live, but is it really a cure if one’s personality is lost forever? Developing drugs that try to clear out the plaques from advanced degenerated brain tissue makes about as much sense as bulldozing tombstones from graveyards in an attempt to raise the dead.

Even if drug companies figured out how to stop further disease progression, many Alzheimer’s victims might not choose to live without recognizing family, friends, or themselves in a mirror. Thus, prevention of Alzheimer’s may be the key.

Preventing Alzheimer’s with Lifestyle Changes

Just as a heart attack or stroke can be significantly prevented, one can think of Alzheimer’s dementia as a ‘‘mind attack.” Mind attack, like heart attacks or strokes, needs to be prevented by controlling vascular risk factors, like high blood pressure and cholesterol. Also, controlling that chronic brain hypoperfusion, the lack of adequate blood flow to the brain over the years before the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, which means a healthy diet, physical exercise, and mental exercise.

The potential number of Alzheimer’s cases could be prevented or reduced every year in the United States if we could just reduce diabetes rates 10%…25%, because diabetes is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s.  So is high blood pressure, obesity, depression, not exercising your body, smoking, not exercising your brain. Altogether, a small reduction in all these risk factors could potentially prevent hundreds of thousands of devastated families. If modifiable factors such as diet were found conclusively to modulate the risk of Alzheimer’s disease to the degree suggested by this research, then we would all indeed rejoice at the implications.

So while there is no cure as of yet, we should try to take every health precaution necessary to reduce the risks!  For more articles on health tips, please sign up for our newsletter.  Interested in speaking with us personally?  Give us a call or schedule a consultation.  We would love the opportunity to help you out!

Exercise, Stress, and the Brain

Exercise is interesting in terms of effects on the brain because it works in about 4 or 5 different ways. One of the most obvious ways is blood flow. If you get your heart working, your brain is going to be filled with oxygen rich blood and nutrients, so that’s the main way that it helps. The other way that’s sort of interesting, is it’s been thought that exercise produces new neurons.

Exercise Induces Production of Growth Factors

So exercise induces the production of growth factors. One is called BDNF, or brain-derived neurotrophic factor,  and it actually stimulates the production of new brain cells. 20 years ago we were told you can’t get any new brain cells, so when you’re born, that’s your lot and you’re not going to make any more. But more recently we’ve found that exercise is a really good way of stimulating brain cell production and some of these are functional.  So just this notion, that something that you can do can generate new brain cells, is a really great thing to think about.

How Exercise Helps The Brain

You might be wondering why exercise helps the brain. Well, what one theory is, is that it just reduces stress. So maybe it’s not that blood is coming to the brain, but maybe you are less stressed. This theory was something that imaging allowed us to test.  So scans and imaging were done on people with high cortisol levels.  High cortisol levels occur if you’re stressed, if you’re angry about something, or even if you’re stuck in traffic!  One of the things found is that the people with high cortisol levels, lost brain tissue faster and that is a serious problem! So if we now know that high cortisol levels enables the body to lose brain tissue faster, we can now look at ways of reducing your cortisol.

Ways To Reduce Cortisol Levels

We can reduce our cortisol levels and decrease stress by exercising, walking, taking breaks.  You can eat a good diet, you can exercise, you can reduce stress, you can make sure you’re well educated on health topics so these things just build up a sort of mental bank account for the future. Even though it seems like work is hard, you’re building a store of brain connections that you’ll need the for the rest of your life. So take care of your brain!  If you need help with coming up with a plan to reduce stress and to lead a healthier lifestyle, contact Thornton Chiropractor to schedule a consultation.  We are happy to help you out!