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Alzheimer's and Brain Health

While the brain accounts for only 2% of body weight, it uses 25% to 50% of all the calories and oxygen the body takes in.

There are three types of memory loss:

  • Age-related memory impairment (AMI) which includes mild forgetfulness that occurs as a natural consequence of aging.  In fact, studies have shown that there is a decline in memory from age 25 to age 40 of 21%. This decline continues, so that by the age of 70-79, the memory decline may be as much as 43%. 
  • Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is an intermediate stage between normal age-related memory changes and dementia.  In MCI, the incidents of forgetting take place more frequently and it takes longer to recall certain words, facts, and events.
  • Dementia is a cognitive decline severe enough to interfere with daily life.  Generally speaking, dementia results from the widespread death or malfunction of the neurons but the direct cause of the dysfunction varies from condition to condition.  The key is dementia is NOT a natural consequence of aging but is the result of external conditions or disease processes that occur more frequently in older populations.  Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia which affects at least 5.4 million Americans.  This accounts for an estimated 60% to 80% of all dementia cases.

Since Alzheimer's is the most severe form of cognitive impairment and the one that most people are concerned about we will focus the remainder of the discussion on facts and prevention strategies for Alzheimer's.

The following are risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Advanced age
  • A family history of dementia in a first-degree relative
  • Apolipoprotein E4 allele
  • Head trauma, particularly in the preceding 10 years
  • Low educational attainment
  • Small head size and brain volume
  • Insulin resistance/diabetes 
    • Insulin resistance and diabetes are now emerging as a major cause of the cognitive decline. In fact, Alzheimer’s disease is now being called type 3 diabetes.
  • Certain Infections

Some possible risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease: 

  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Drug abuse
  • Exposure to metals such as aluminum, zinc, mercury
  • Exposure to industrial solvents and pesticides
  • Electromagnetic fields
  • Advanced maternal age
  • Maternal inheritance
  • Cerebrovascular disease
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Thyroid disease

In addition to all the items listed above other factors can contribute to memory decline including nutrient deficiencies, food allergies, hormonal imbalances, and an inflammatory diet.

Some medications can also negatively impact memory and these include:

  • Analgesics
  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-arrhythmic drugs
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antidepressants
  • Antihistamines
  • Antihypertensives
  • Steroids
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Levodopa
  • Sedatives
  • Statins

In summary, the top 10 tips to aid in maintaining sharp focus and memory as you age are centered around decreasing inflammation.  Inflammation triggers a series of events that lead to the destruction of neurological tissues.  In the case of Alzheimer's, beta-amyloid proteins cause inflammation.  For the prevention of brain-related diseases, it is paramount you balance inflammation in the body.

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