It is estimated that 5.3 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, with someone developing the illness every 67 seconds. Considering the devastating effects Alzheimer’s disease has on the patient, as well as his or her family or friends, this data is extremely disheartening. However, while some believe there to be no way to prevent Alzheimer’s, everyone who fears this disease should know that you do have the ability to work against it, and even change the course of genetics. To understand how, it’s important to understand what causes Alzheimer’s disease – the sixth leading reason for death in our country.
What causes Alzheimer’s disease?
A look at the brain of an Alzheimer’s patient reveals buildup of, one, amyloid plaques and, two, neurofibrillary tangles. Amyloid plaques refer to sticky clumps of beta-amyloid protein fragments that hinder our brain cells’ ability to communicate with one another. Neurofibrillary tangles are made up of an invaluable protein that before acted as a pathway for nutrients to move throughout the brain. With this protein collapsed into tangles, and no longer providing transport, our brain cells are left to die.
For the five percent of patients who have early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, these problems are a result of an inherited genetic mutation, while for the majority – the other 95%, the issue lies in genetics, environmental factors, and/or lifestyle choices, including diet.
What can we do to prevent it?
Many are surprised to learn that easy changes or additions to our diet can influence such a debilitating disease as Alzheimer’s, but the research speaks for itself. For example, a small pilot study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in 2013, found that omega-3 fatty acids helped reduce amyloid plaque, thereby hindering damage and death of brain cells. This makes foods rich in omega-3, such as salmon or flax seed, or even fish oil supplements, great choices when working to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
The spice turmeric, which we hear about more and more for treatment and prevention of countless diseases, has also proven to decrease amyloid plaques, delay the negative impact of neurons, and act as an anti-inflammatory. A great source of turmeric is Indian food, where it’s found in curry, or you can simply add it to dishes you make at home, like eggs or rice.
Not only do these foods add nutrients to our diet that combat Alzheimer’s, they have the ability to turn off genes that influence the disease, a process known as epigenetics, when other positive life choices are made. These include getting regular exercise, minimizing stress, avoiding cigarettes, consuming alcohol in moderation, and eliminating or reducing foods that promote inflammation in the body, such as red meat or fried foods, among others.
If you’re interested in taking measures to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease or other illness, it would be beneficial to enlist the help of a certified health coach. This individual can put together a safe program for you, knowing that one plan won’t fit all and individual considerations for diet are necessary (e.g., patients with liver disease and other issues should limit their intake of turmeric or even avoid the spice). Additionally, a certified health coach can provide the guidance and motivation necessary for finding success as you work your plan.
As a certified health coach and trained medical professional, I welcome the opportunity to put you on a path to wellness. Contact me today.