Alzheimer's Disease on the Run

By Sue Joan

Those of us approaching our Autumn and Winter years make jokes about it.

What's the fun of Alzheimer's?  You meet new friends every day!

It's those male companions I hang around with lately, including Al Zeimer and Arthur Itis.

But an alarming article entitled "Alzheimer's Epidemic Feared" from the Associated Press by Lauran Neergaard published in 2000, made  the sobering suggestion that the incidence of Alzheimer's Disease, the dreaded disease wherein total dementia is experienced, was increasing so fast that by 2025, there will be 22 million people affected.

It is now 2017 and we are indeed, seeing higher rates of dementia.

Some of it, is brain aging which can be slowed or prevented with a healthy lifestyle including low fat nutritional program, cardio exercise at least 5 times a week, reading more etc.  These healthy habits also, as seen in several peer reviewed studies, cut the risks of stroke, heart attack and cancer by at least 25%.

In popular parlance, the public tends to call any type of "dementia" "Alzheimer's but we know now, there are several types of brain aging syndromes. Why are we seeing them? People are living longer, people recover from heart attacks and strokes but often not without damage to the brain.  PVD (peripheral venous disease) or clogged veins can be addressed with surgeries but again, may be a cause or factor in brain damage especially in the aging population. It is said that 60% of dementia in the aging, is a result of septicemia, a hospital related illness which used to be fatal but with antibiotics, can be cured. (A survey a few years ago suggested that 400,000 people a year end up getting hospital related illness). 

FTD, short for Frontal Temporal Lobe Degeneration, can be the result of ischemic or hemorrhagic strokes and is actually much more prevalent in the aging population than classic Alzheimer's.  People with this disorder retain their memories and can do some thinking but have balance issues, lack of judgment, confusion, trouble walking etc.

Some of the chemicals we consume such as Nutrasweet, are suspected to be toxic.  Perhaps the PCBs in the air as well as things like DDT could be contributing factors. Some say there is almost no way to not consume some insecticide on fruit unless the fruit is washed off with soap and somehow soaking a piece of fruit in my dishpan of soapy water removes my desire to eat the fruit!

Another suspect is the lack of fitness in the general population. Although the majority of people seem to feel that exercise is good, less than 20 percent of the population exercises enough to derive any benefit from it.  Decreased circulation and function of the heart could severely affect the brain.

There is some evidence not reading or consuming foods with a lot of fat in them can ill affect health as well as brain health.  It turns out that when we learn something new, our brain tends to form new synapses - the opposite of the process of Alzheimer's. Also, women who are multi-gravid, tend to form new synapses with every pregnancy.

The news article agreed with the good effects of education and reading books:

People with more education, in contrast, seem at lower risk of
Alzheimer's. A study presented Sunday of Swedish twins where one
twin had Alzheimer's and the other was healthy suggests a love of
reading, as a child and adult, might be protective.

Dr Ronald Peterson of the Mayo Clinic told the Associated Press:

A key factor appears to be the size of the hippocampus, a region
of the brain that is important for learning and memory. People with
a normal-sized hippocampus, as measured by an MRI machine, seem to
decline slowly. People whose hippocampus has started to atrophy at
the time of MCI diagnosis decline faster.
Several Health articles cite studies wherein taking certain drugs seems to ward off Alzheimer's. Among the drugs suggested was the daily small dosage of aspirin (also thought to be protective against stroke and heart attack).

At present, it seems the only thing we really know about dementia is that the incidence is increasing at an alarming rate and that there may be many contributing factors to this increase.

Whatever causes dementia, it appears that healthy living including avoiding questionable chemicals like Nutrasweet combined with good daily learning habits, good nutrition and maintaining a reasonably healthy weight and regular cardio exercise, may be the best protection we have at present. (See Dean Ornish: REVERSING HEART DISEASE - this cardiologist's Dad died of a heart attack at the age of 49.. Dr Ornish did extensive research on himself and 10,000 patients with daily cardio exercise and a low fat nutritional program).

Article by Sue Joan

Source: AP 7-9-00, Star 7-9-00, also other sources previously read and available upon request

Ornish, Dean: REVERSING HEART DISEASE (Published in 1994 but still available and excellent book)