Several years ago, I worked with a woman who had given up. Her grandmother had had Alzheimer’s and her mother had Alzheimer’s, so she decided that Alzheimer’s was her fate. Her philosophy of life was to live for today, because she didn’t know what tomorrow would hold. While there’s nothing wrong with that philosophy in general, there’s something very wrong with throwing in the towel on your health. Genetics play a role in many conditions, but contrary to popular belief, they are not your destiny. What plays an even bigger role is the way in which diet, lifestyle, and environmental factors trigger genes to turn on and off. Let’s take a look at what new research is saying about Alzheimer’s risk factors, prevention, and actions.
Alzheimer’s is a condition marked by debilitating cognitive decline in the aging brain. It is one of the leading cause of death in the US. Cases of Alzheimer’s are on the rise with 5.2 million Americans currently affected, and potentially 40 million more who will be diagnosed in their future. With these kinds of numbers, everyone should be concerned. There is a very high probability that you or a loved one will be affected. The prospect of losing everything that makes you YOU is scary!
With Alzheimer’s, there is a definite genetic component. The gene that has been tracked down as the risk factor presents some compelling evidence that at first seems to give my past coworker’s life philosophy some real credence. Research has shown that those who have no copies of the gene have a 9% chance of developing Alzheimer’s. One copy increases risk to about 30%, and two copies pushes that risk all the way to 50-90%! If genetic testing shows you have two copies, a risk of 50-90% does indeed sound like a logical reason to resign yourself to that dismal future. However, these risk factors do not apply to everyone. They only apply to the population of people who are living the standard American lifestyle and eating a standard American diet. What does that mean? High stress, toxic chemicals, processed and fast foods, little sunlight and no exercise. Change your life and change your risk.
So what kind of changes are needed? Let’s look at some details about Alzheimer’s. There are three types of this condition, and one combined type, which I will wildly oversimplify here. In Type 1, chronic inflammation is present. Nerves in Type 2 are no longer able to access their energy source. Type 3 is characterized by toxic exposure. The combined type, Type 1.5, is a blend of Type 1 and 2. Insulin resistance, the precursor to diabetes, is present in Type 1.5, causing both inflammation and damage to the nerve cells’ energy systems. Some medical professionals have gone as far as calling Alzheimer’s “Type 3 Diabetes”.
These details actually give us a lot of information to work with. In brief summary, in those with Alzheimer’s, we see inflammation, damaged cell energy systems, toxic exposure and/or insulin resistance. This alone is enough to hint at potential causes (beyond genetics!), preventative measures, and actions that can be taken even after a diagnosis. Please check back next week when I address these topics in depth.
This information is for educational purposes only and should not be used as medical advice.
Sources and further reading:
Kresser, C. (2016.) RHR: Prevention and Treatment of Alzheimer’s from a Functional Perspective—With Dr. Dale Bredesen. https://chriskresser.com/prevention-and-treatment-of-alzheimers-from-a-functional-perspective-with-dr-dale-bredesen/
Kresser, C. (2016.) Clinician’s Guide to Anxiety, Depression and Cognitive Disorders. Kresser Institute.
Newport, M. (2011.) Alzheimer’s Disease: What If There Was A Cure? The Story of Ketones. Basic Health Publications, Inc.