Friday, July 15, 2011

Alzheimers - Prevention is Better than Cure

This news article highlights the problem of treating dementias. The relevant article from Nature can be found here.

Prevention is always better than cure. In relation to dementias it is now clear that years, if not decades, before symptoms arise a neurodegenerative process has been in play. As noted at the top of the news release, once alzheimers is established there probably is never going to be a cure. We may be able to forestall progression of pathology but that is all we will be able to do.

While it is tempting to think that alzheimers is all about the brain we must remember that the brain functions within a body. Our overall health is fundamental to cerebral health. Due to my lack of reading lately I can't be sure about all the relevant factors but the below list will serve as a useful guide:

  • There has been a longstanding relationship between cardiovascular health and cerebral health. Maintaining good cardiovascular health is absolutely essential in addressing dementia. This appears to be particularly true for cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Keep check of these levels. Note however that for people over 60 there is evidence to suggest that slightly higher cholesterol levels are protective for the brain. Only slightly higher, the safer bet probably being higher but still within normal ranges.
  • Immunological status is very important. Preventing excessive inflammation is very important for protecting the brain because systemic inflammations plays a cardinal role in promoting dementias. Diet is very important here, as is adequate vitamin D intake. Because many people lose the ability to manufacture vitamin D with age, and because dietary sources are usually of low quantities, supplementation is often a good idea. Before going down that road though have your vitamin D status checked. If it is low start taking supplements.
  • Do not let low level infections linger. These promote systemic inflammation.
  • Maintain oral health. Poor oral health is not only a risk factor for dementias but also heart disease. Again, systemic inflammation can arise from poor oral health.
  • Maintain a appropriate fat intake. Keep the balance right. Avoid trans fats at all costs. Eat fish on a regular basis, watch your omega 3 - omega 6 balance because the modern diet tends to have too much omega 6 and too little omega 3, this promotes inflammatory mediators because omega 6 fats promote the generation of inflammatory prostaglandins while omega 3's promote anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. It is very important to cook fish the right way - baked or broiled, grilled and fried fish may actually promote dementias and heart disease because the high temperatures oxidize the fats.
  • Be very careful about sugar rich foods. Sugar in strict moderation is fine but many processed foods are loaded with too much sugar. Popular carbonated drinks are sugar laden and should not be consumed as a habit.


Alice Byrne said...

Well, I have to admit that prevention is always better than cure. If I recall correctly, there's no known cure for Alzheimer's disease as of now. These tips might be useful in order to prevent the illness itself.

David Tal said...

Thanks for this great article. I have read all information which you have wrote here and very useful tips for those who have Alzheimer's disease.

Alzheimer specialist