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Alzheimer’s Prevention: Understanding & Acting on Key Risk Factors

Confidence is that feeling by which the mind embarks in great and honorable courses with a sure hope and trust in itself.

Cicero

Currently, there are 5.8 million individuals in the U.S. living with Alzheimer’s. This disease and other forms of dementia take the lives of one in three seniors – more than prostate and breast cancer combined. Alarmingly, the statistics are only worsening: within 30 years, the number of people living with Alzheimer’s is anticipated to jump to nearly 14 million. [1]

Although all forms of cancer, heart disease, and stroke may take more lives than Alzheimer’s currently, few people – if anyone – can say they know an Alzheimer’s survivor. While survivor rates are improving for these other conditions, Alzheimer’s deaths are only increasing. For example, between 2000 and 2017, deaths from heart disease have decreased by 9%. In that same period, Alzheimer’s-related deaths have increased 145%. [2]

As the world waits for a cure, leaders in wellness optimization – including the clinical team from Cenegenics – are urging individuals to start considering their own risk factors and making healthy choices to safeguard their cognitive wellness now. Unfortunately, there have been no drugs that have proven to be effective for treating Alzheimer’s, and a genuinely new drug for the disease has not been approved in over 15 years. [3] Clearly, we cannot take a single-pill approach to addressing this epidemic. What we need instead is a comprehensive approach to address the root causes of this disease. Below, discover the underlying factors that can help shape Alzheimer’s prevention initiatives over the coming years.

What is Alzheimer’s?


Diagram of a brain colored blue and pink with light coming from center.)

Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that affects memory, thinking, and behavior. Symptoms typically develop slowly and over time, and eventually affect existing memories and a person’s ability to make new memories, personality traits, and the ability to complete daily activities.

This form of dementia is a result of two factors: the development of plaques made from amyloid-beta proteins between nerve cells, as well as tangles, or tau, inside the cells. The accumulation of amyloid-beta cells creates sticky plaques, which destroy synapses.

One of the main risk factors for Alzheimer’s is the ApoE4 gene variant. Having this variant from one parent can increase risk by 30%, while two copies can increase the lifetime risk to 50% to 90%. Non-carriers also have a lifetime risk of 9%, however. [4]

Alzheimer’s is broken down into three main types:

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  • Inflammatory
    In cases of inflammatory Alzheimer’s, patients may have one or two copies of the ApoE4 alleles. With two copies, symptoms may develop in the late 40s or 50s, while people with one copy may not develop symptoms until a decade or so later.

    This form of Alzheimer’s begins with a compromised ability to store new information. A number of biomarkers may appear in an assessment, including a decreased ratio of albumin to globulin, and insulin resistance.
  • Atrophic
    People with atrophic Alzheimer’s disease may also be carriers of one or two ApoE4 alleles, but the symptoms tend to manifest later. While there is no evidence of inflammation, poor or suboptimal levels of certain brain-supporting components may be picked up in an assessment, including compromised hormone function, vitamin D deficiency, insulin resistance, and elevated homocysteine.
  • Vile
    The fastest-acting form of Alzheimer’s, Type 3 usually isn’t caused by hereditary factors, unless a previous family member developed the disease in very old age. Typically, symptoms develop in the late 40s to early 60s. Individuals with this form tend to develop problems with numbers, speech, and organization skills, along with the inability to form new memories.

    While Types 1 and 2 move as if slowly breaking down a building, Type 3 acts as an aggressive demolition. In this condition, biomarkers such as low zinc and increased copper may be observed. Patients may also have hormonal abnormalities, elevated mercury and mycotoxins, and be diagnosed with depression initially.

It’s important to note that many cases may present as a combination of Types 1 and 2, with chronically elevated glucose leading to increased inflammation, as well as high insulin secretion.

Which Factors Influence Alzheimer’s?


Fish oil supplements in a wooden spoon and spilled around and laying on a wooden table

s we saw in the previous section, one form of Alzheimer’s is more inflammatory, while one is more atrophic, and the final appears to be environmental. With this in mind, it becomes apparent that a range of factors influence the disease, including:

  • Inflammation caused by infection, diet, and other causes
  • A decline and shortage of:
  • Supporting nutrients
  • Hormones
  • Brain-supporting molecules
  • Toxic substances, including metals and biotoxins

There are a number of ways these biomarkers can be picked up through diagnostic testing. For example, brain scans, a complete blood count (CBC), metabolic and thyroid panels, B12 levels, and changes in daily abilities may all be monitored to look for indicators that could point towards an elevated risk for Alzheimer’s.

Because the factors that contribute to Alzheimer’s span far and wide, the best approach to take is the most comprehensive. In-depth diagnostics will therefore give the most illuminating picture of risk, which can also help to reveal the biomarkers which are at suboptimal levels but can be managed. This then helps clinicians create a detailed action plan to help patients take control of their risk.

For example, clinicians can test for the following factors which play a role in Alzheimer’s development:

  • ApoE status
  • Inflammation
  • Infections which could lead to widespread inflammation, including:
  • Herpes simplex-1
  • Lyme disease
  • P. Gingevalis
  • Various fungi
  • Homocysteine
  • Fasting insulin
  • Complete hormone status
  • Toxic exposure
  • Immune function
  • Microbiome
  • Blood-brain barrier
  • Excess fat
  • Hemoglobin A1c

  • Although factors such as ApoE status can’t be controlled, many other biomarkers can be managed. For instance, homocysteine levels can be controlled through the use of individually-dosed nutraceuticals, including vitamins B12, B6, and folate. Elevated glucose and insulin, which are two of the most important factors that can influence disease-causing inflammation, can also be addressed through specific dietary and lifestyle changes. In the final section, we’ll explore some of the specific tactics that can be used to formulate a personalized Alzheimer’s prevention roadmap.

    How Can Alzheimer’s Risk Be Managed?


    Mature couple, smiling, working together in a garden

    There are many different ways people can take control of their Alzheimer’s risk. Here are the top 5 most powerful tactics:

    • Focus on optimal – not “normal” – health.
      Traditionally, the definition of “normal health” has simply been the absence of disease. But to pursue optimal health and minimize disease risk to the greatest degree possible, we must aim higher. Normal is not enough, and we need to instead focus on pursuing optimal health at every age.
    • Take a comprehensive approach.
      Addressing one risk factor won’t make much of a difference in the long run. Yet, focusing on all of the risk factors combined could yield significant results in terms of prevention.
    • Look at root causes, not symptoms.
      By nature, the modern health care system is geared towards treating symptoms. This isn’t the fault of physicians; after all, their primary goal is to improve quality of life. Yet, to promote optimal health for an entire life, we must target the root causes of disease, not just their symptoms.
    • Continually progress based on clinical feedback.
      As you move towards optimal health, your levels will continually progress. As such, doses for treatments such as nutraceuticals, bioidentical hormones, and even food and exercise may need to change. Follow the ongoing guidance of your clinical team to make continuous progress. 
    • Start now.
      The earlier we take responsibility for our health and become more proactive, the better our odds for avoiding degenerative diseases as we get older will be. 

    7 Alzheimer's Prevention Strategies

    While each individual’s action plan for minimizing Alzheimer’s risk will look different, below are 7 prevention strategies you can start to implement effectively:

    1. Choose low-glycemic carbohydrates, including fruit, vegetables, and other whole-food carbohydrates.
    2. Eat foods high in essential fatty acids, including fatty fish and nuts.
    3. Manage or avoid inflammatory foods, such as gluten and dairy. While only 5% of the population has celiac disease, many more individuals have low-grade sensitivities to gluten. Over time, these sensitivities can lead to conditions such as leaky gut, which can compound into infection, widespread inflammation, and ultimately, chronic illness. [5]
    4. Choose cruciferous vegetables to aid in hormone management and detoxification.
    5. Take in a moderate amount of high-quality protein.
    6. Get tested for deficiencies or insufficiencies in key nutrients, including B family vitamins, vitamins D, C, E, and K2, and omega-3s, among others. While supplementing with nutraceuticals may have benefits, it’s essential to have the proper lab work done to determine appropriate dosing.
    7. Exercise regularly. Routine exercise reduces insulin resistance, fasting glucose, and insulin, which increases the production of neuron-supporting molecules. Exercise can also improve vascular health, which potentiates increased blood flow to the brain, and can even increase the size of the hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for memory). Finally, exercise can improve sleep quality to help heal the body and brain, and aid in managing stress and mood, which support adrenal gland health.

    Arm Yourself with Knowledge - In Conclusion


    An older man and a younger man sitting on a bed smiling while looking at a photograph

    Alzheimer’s disease is on the rise, and while there may currently be no cure or effective treatment, there are still risk factors within our control to change. Aside from genetic influences, factors such as inflammation, the environment, and lifestyle choices can all be optimized to minimize Alzheimer’s risk. Yet, we can’t develop an individualized action plan without first knowing where our health stands currently.

    For this reason, undergoing a comprehensive Elite Health Evaluation is the first step in understanding and controlling your risk for Alzheimer’s and other serious diseases. And, as the important precursor to all Cenegenics programs, our Elite Health Evaluation provides the key indicators our clinical team needs to cultivate a comprehensive, individualized plan for each of our patients. If you’re interested in having your evaluation completed, contact your nearest Cenegenics location today.

    Next Steps: Journey Together Toward Cognitive Health

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    About the Contributor

    Rudy Inaba 
    Global Director of Nutrition & Exercise

    Rudy Inaba is Cenegenics’ Global Director of Nutrition & Exercise. He is a recognized fitness and sports nutrition consultant with nearly 15 years of experience in clinical exercise physiology and lifestyle management. After pursuing his Master of Science in Clinical Exercise Physiology at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Rudy joined Cenegenics where he leads 20 clinical locations nationwide in their advancements in kinesiology, nutritional biochemistry, and their analyses of industry research & market trending.

    Key Resources

    This guide was produced with contributions from the following key resources: 

    The Cenegenics Education and Research Foundation  

    The Textbook of Age Management Medicine Volume 1: Mastering Healthy Aging Nutrition, Exercise and Hormone Replacement Therapy

    Click to purchase

    The Cenegenics Education and Research Foundation  

    The Textbook of Age Management Medicine Volume 2: Mastering Healthy Aging Nutrition, Exercise and Hormone Replacement Therapy

    Click to purchase

    Textbook Authors:

    Jeffrey Park Leake, M.D., CPT

    Dr. Jeffrey Park Leake is a Partner and Director of Education at Cenegenics Elite Health specializing in age management and wellness. Having trained hundreds of physicians worldwide, Dr. Leake is also the Director of Education for the Clinical Strategies for Healthy Aging course at AMM Educational Foundation.

    Todd David Greenberg, M.D., CSCS

    Dr. Todd Greenberg is a practicing physician with a broad range of expertise, including wellness, exercise, sports injuries, and MRI of sports injuries. He is a Radiology Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Washington.

    References

    [1] Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. Alzheimer’s Association®. 2019. Retrieved from URL: https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/facts-figures

    [2] Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures; see above.

    [3] Alzheimer’s Association®.

    [4] “Alzheimer’s Prevention” What You Can Do to Reduce Your Risk.” Cenegenics. 30 Sept. 2019. Retrieved from URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ijGhqdYMzI

    [5] “Alzheimer’s Prevention” What You Can Do to Reduce Your Risk.” Cenegenics. 30 Sept. 2019. Retrieved from URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ijGhqdYMzI

     

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