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Can you prevent Alzheimer’s disease?

Worldwide there are an estimated 33.6 million people living with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and related dementia – 500,000 of those being Canadian, and six million new cases diagnosed per year.

In a Globe and Mail article dated July 20, 2011 seven health risks were outlined that may contribute to Alzheimer risk.

Dr. Barnes, in her research, used mathematical modeling to estimate the global impact of modifiable risk factors with 17.2 million of these current cases being preventable. Here is her research summarized:

  • Low education: associated with 19.1 per cent or 6.4 million cases (use it or lose it. The more educated a person the more likely they are to engage in stimulating brain activity).
  • Smoking: 13.9 per cent or 4.6 million cases (smoking weakens blood vessels and affects blood flow to the brain).
  • Physical inactivity: 12.7 per cent or 4.3 million (exercise is one of the top things that will slow and delay AD and dementia).
  • Depression: 10.6 per cent or 3.6 million cases (those with serious depression have double the risk of developing dementia).
  • High, poorly and controlled blood pressure: 5.1 per cent or 1.7 million.
  • Diabetes Type 2: 2.4 per cent or 800,000 cases.
  • Obesity: two per cent or 670, 000 cases.

I recently gave a lecture to the retired RN’s (registered nurse) group in town on the subject of improving memory and brain function. During my research I wrote a new newsletter – my first since getting my prescribing rights in August of 2010. In the process I researched the work of Dr. Amen and Shankle in their book Preventing Alzheimer’s. The main theme of their treatment protocol is to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s long enough so that living a natural life span without dementia is possible.

AD is thought to result from an accumulation of beta amyloid in the brain tissue but once a person develops symptoms of dementia they have had beta amyloid accumulation for 30 years! Wouldn’t it be better to practice prevention!

There is a genetic test, APOE 4 ellele, associated with a tenfold increase risk and knowing now that we can change the expression of genes with nutrition, it is even more important to consider nutritive prevention for dementia.

My top four remedies to add to your health maintenance program if you are not on them already include:

  • Exercise 20-30 minutes per day, preferably weight training according to Dr. Amen. Make sure you protect yourself against head injury in your chosen sport as head injury also increases the risk of AD.
  • Curcumin: in a well absorbed formula this nutrient crosses the blood brain barrier and has been shown in some studies to reduce amyloid plaque.
  • Vitamin E: the  mixed tocopherol form of vitamin E contains gamma tocopherols to prevent oxidative damage caused by amyloid plaque.
  • Gingko: this herb is really an anti-aging tonic helping not only with brain function and circulation but antioxidant properties that help with many body systems including eye and neurological health. Check out the gingko tree that survived Hiroshima showing that this is one fantastic radioprotective herb!
  • Essential fatty acids (EFA’s) containing high dose EPA DHA: of course you are taking every day anyway! EFA’s limit beta amyloid production and increase neurotrophic factor that promotes the survival of neuronal cells.

If you are someone who is already exhibiting some brain function symptoms that are concerning you it is highly recommended that you see a professional versed in Functional Medicine so you can delay the onset of dementia.

Dr. Ingrid Pincott, naturopathic physician, has been practicing since 1985 and can be reached at 250-286-3655 or www.DrPincott.com

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