Alzheimer’s. The word conjures up an image of a forgetful or confused elder. While this image is accurate for the earlier stages of Alzheimer’s disease, later stages are devastating. Alzheimer’s is a progressive, fatal brain disease that destroys every faculty, robbing its victims of dignity, personality, and cognitive abilities. In the late stages of the disease, victims lose control of bladder and bowel, the ability to feed themselves, and all ability to communicate.
There is no accepted singular cause of this disease and there is no known cure. There isn’t even a definitive diagnosis until post mortem dissection reveals an abundance of tell-tale plaques (deposits between nerve cells) and tangles (twisted fibers of proteins that develop within dying cells). Scientists have not determined whether these plaques and tangles cause Alzheimer’s or visa-versa. All they do know is that there is a definite correlation between Alzheimer’s and their occurrence as well as the amount of inflammation and brain shrinkage present. All of these changes occur as a part of normal aging, but in the case of Alzheimer’s, the changes are extreme.
More than 35 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s disease; 5.3 million are Americans. The latest National Vital Statistics Report prepared by the CDC reports Alzheimer’s disease to be the 7th leading cause of death, while other reports place it as number 5.
Alzheimer’s is usually associated with advancing age, beginning at 65. By age 85, 45% of the population exhibits memory deficits indicative of the disease. Life expectancy post diagnosis averages 6-10 years, though some have lived for 20 years.
As the population ages and life expectancy increases, we face a daunting challenge: how to care for the 115.4 million people we expect to suffer from Alzheimer’s by 2050.1
The Alzheimer’s Association website lists “Alzheimer’s Myths,” among them the suggestion that aluminum, Aspartame, flu shots, or mercury fillings are causal factors. However, ongoing research is still investigating some of these possible causes.
The Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation reports that “aluminum does turn up in higher amounts than normal in some autopsy studies of Alzheimer’s patients, but not in all, and the aluminum found in some studies may have come from substances used in the laboratory to study brain tissue.” They conclude that scientists are still uncertain about the role aluminum plays in Alzheimer’s disease. 2
The Alzheimer’s Disease Research of the American Health Assistance Foundation is not ready to dismiss the metal connection, either. “Metals have been implicated in neurodegenerative diseases, although it is unlikely that any are the sole cause. For example, interest in a possible connection between aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease arose over 40 years ago, and the toxicity of aluminum has been the subject of much controversy since that time. However, aluminum has never been proven to be a direct cause of Alzheimer’s, and increasingly, evidence shows that Alzheimer’s disease is likely caused not by one, but by a combination of factors.”
Some studies show zinc levels are too low—some show they are too high. Some show a correlation to electro-magnetic exposure. Infant monkeys exposed to low levels of lead had higher levels of Alzheimer’s disease-related genes, elevated amyloid-beta levels and greater Alzheimer’s disease-like pathology in their frontal cortex. There is a correlation between Alzheimer’s and traumatic head injuries, type 2 diabetes, diet, education levels, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, elevated homocysteine levels, inflammation,and oxidative damage (which is caused by free radicals).
Recent studies suggest a lifestyle that includes a low-fat, antioxidant-rich diet high in vitamins E and C (especially when the vitamin E comes from foods, not supplements) promotes a healthier brain. B vitamins are also essential to control homocysteine levels. Studies also show the importance of exercising the brain.
Genetics also play a role. Early onset Alzheimer’s, though rare, does run in families and up to 50% of the cases are linked to genetic defects (in 3 separate genes). The typical late onset Alzheimer’s also appears to have genetic links that affect the age of onset, though carrying the gene is not a sure indicator that the disease will develop.
Once again, do we need a study to tell us that toxic heavy metals known to cause brain damage and neurological damage are bad for the brain? No, we don’t.
If you haven’t as yet thrown out your aluminum cookware, boil water in an aluminum pan. Now pour the cooled water into a clear glass. Do you really want to drink that gray water? Cover a dish of spaghetti sauce with aluminum foil and make sure the foil touches the sauce. Leave it for a day and notice how the acidity of the tomatoes ate holes in the foil, dissolving aluminum into your food. Do you still want to eat it? Do you really want to cook with aluminum foil? Do you want to be injected with a vaccine containing mercury or aluminum? Do you want to eat fish contaminated with mercury?
Our brain is first and foremost an organ of the body. It requires good, healthy nutrition and as few toxins as possible in order to function well. Studies are showing definite correlation between diet and brain health as well as toxicity and brain health. So once again, don’t eat processed food. You don’t need it. You body doesn’t want it. It isn’t good for you. Detox. Eat well. Exercise your body. And don’t forget to exercise your brain.