I have seen and heard of many older people (even in their 50’s) who were working as executives or other top positions are now diagnosed with dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson disease. It is so sad to see them. It is hard for their caregivers too. I actually wrote my thesis for my masters about “caregiver’s burden”. Moreover, Alzheimer’s is not just a disease of old age. Younger-onset (also known as early-onset) Alzheimer’s affects people younger than age 65. Up to 5 percent of the more than 5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s have younger-onset. Many people with early onset are in their 40s and 50s (I found a YouTube video of a woman, who is 31 years old and pregnant, is suffering from Dementia). In the United States, it is estimated that approximately 200,000 people have early onset.
New research has found changes in the brain and body up to 20 years before Alzheimer’s symptoms arise. Scientists discovered that many young people whom carried the gene for early-onset Alzheimer’s, some as young as 18, had changes in their brain, blood and nervous system that presaged the onset of Alzheimer’s decades later. It’s clear that we need to focus on prevention.
First of all, we need to look at several research findings that may cause dementia.
1. Routine use of proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs)—drugs such as Nexium and Prilosec, used to treat heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease or peptic ulcers
2. Statin – Cholesterol lowering medication
3. Sleeping pills – long time use of benzodiazepines, which is a group of drugs that includes Valium, Xanax and Ativan.
1. Endocrine disorders, such as Addison’s disease or Cushing’s disease
2. Diabetes – Repeat episodes of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
3. Hyperparathyroidism, which is very high levels of calcium in the blood
4. Hypothyroidism (low levels of thyroid hormone) or thyrotoxicosis (very high levels of thyroid hormone in the body)
5. Liver cirrhosis
Lifestyle and diet
1. Brain injury
2. Heavy metal exposure, such as to lead, arsenic, mercury, or manganese
3. Alcohol abuse
4. Nutritional disorders, such as vitamin B1 deficiency, vitamin B12 deficiency, Vitamin D deficiency, pellagra, or protein-calorie malnutrition
As you can see, even though I categorized multiple causes of dementia into medication, diseases, and lifestyle and diet, most of them are related to your lifestyle and diet. A team of Harvard-affiliated researchers discovered gut bacteria influence brain inflammation, the mechanism behind dementia. Brain inflammation kills brain cells, thus gradually atrophying the brain, and raising the risk of dementia. If you want to prevent dementia, you need to learn how to prevent brain inflammation.
Moreover, the researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm studied the blood brain barrier (BBB) in mice that did not have bacteria living within their intestines. The researchers demonstrated that the blood brain barrier in these mice was significantly compromised, basically a situation of what we may call a “leaky brain,” and this leakiness of the barrier persisted into adulthood. When these mice’s intestines were inoculated with the fecal material including bacteria from a healthy mouse, the permeability of the blood brain barrier was markedly improved.
There are many more studies about the relationship between gut and brain, and now we understand that we need to have healthy balanced gut.
Interestingly, you can find many studies about a ketosis and dementia connection as well. I have been talking about good fat in several newsletters and blogs, and this is one of the great benefits from high fat diet. The ketogenic diet has been in clinical use for over 80 years, primarily for the symptomatic treatment of epilepsy. Just like our muscles, the brain requires energy to function properly. Both neurons and muscles have the unique capacity to metabolize ketones as an alternative fuel source when glucose is in short supply, for instance during fasting or on a low-carbohydrate diet. A study with 23 elderly with mild cognitive impairment showed that a ketogenic diet improved verbal memory performance after 6 weeks compared to a standard high carbohydrate diet. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 152 patients with mild- to moderate Alzheimer’s disease were given either a ketogenic agent or a placebo, while maintaining a normal diet. 90 days later, those receiving the drug showed marked cognitive improvement compared to placebo, which was correlated with the level of ketones in the blood.
So, there is a hope for us now that our brain function can stay strong by being on low carb high fat diet (high quality fat, not corn and/or soybean oil or fried food) and taking high quality supplements of B vitamins, vitamin D, vitamin K as well as probio.
Remember taking care of your health is so important because you don’t want to cause a lot of burden to your family members and friends.
To your health!