"We have to realize that the era of the magic bullet—drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease—is over. We need to take a holistic approach, like they do for heart disease. What works for the heart, works for the head." -- Dr. Khalsa, ca. 1994
Recent research confirms what we have known for some time now: magic bullet drugs are not the final answer in fighting Alzheimer's. The only effective way to prevent or even slow Alzheimer's at this time in history is by harnessing the power of a holistic or integrative medical approach.
By understanding the key elements of prevention - its pillars, as it were - you can better protect and care for yourself and your loved ones who are struggling with this disease.
The 4 Pillars of Alzheimer's Prevention
You need to find a solution that first recognizes and then reduces the factors that put you at risk. Your answer? The 4 Pillars of Alzheimer's Prevention:
- Diet and Supplements: Just like the rest of your body, your brain needs proper nutrition, blood flow, energy, and care. Discover how simple it can be to supercharge your brain health with the right diet and supplements. Diet and nutrition can prevent the onset of Alzheimer's.
- Stress Management: The effects of the daily grind on your body are well known, but did you know your brain also suffers when you're stressed out? Find out how you can benefit from easy stress-relieving techniques that can dramatically reduce your risk for developing Alzheimer's.
- Exercise: It's simple: if you want to maintain a healthy body and mind, you must exercise. But, in addition to physical exercises, it's time for you to discover how mental and mind-body exercises are essential for your health and wellbeing.
- Medicines: Medications and hormones can be an important part of the answer. Working with your physician, it's vital that you understand how pharmaceuticals may be an important part of your overall solution if you have an Alzheimer's diagnosis.
Alzheimer's Disease - The Next Frontier in Prevention and Treatment
Today, amazing progress continues to be made in both the early detection and prevention of Alzheimer's disease.
One of the physicians at the forefront of this exciting work, Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D., President and Medical Director of the Alzheimer's Research and Prevention Foundation in Tucson, Arizona, contends that a holistic approach is of the utmost importance if we want to continue making such advances in prevention and treatment.
"Since Alzheimer's disease is a multi-factorial disease, with nutrition, chronic stress, and lifestyle choices being among the most important factors," Dr. Khalsa explains, "a solution that works holistically to address each of these factors is critical."
Let's take a look at some key research points to understand better why The 4 Pillars of Alzheimer's Prevention are so necessary in today's treatment and prevention discussions. We begin with a fascinating look at why Dr. Khalsa considers chronic, unrelenting stress (oxidative stress) and free radical damage are at the top of the list of today's most probable lifestyle factors known to cause and advance the disease.
What Causes Alzheimer's Disease
Stressed Out? Your Brain Feels the Pain
Cortisol and adrenaline are naturally produced by your body's adrenal glands in response to stressful situations. At their best, they allow you to respond to the increased stress in appropriate ways.
Typically, when the stress is over, levels of both these hormones return to normal. Their purpose has been served and no long-term harm is done to your body or brain. However, for individuals who experience chronic stress this does not happen... cortisol levels stay high and the consequences for your brain health can be disastrous.
For example, when it is exposed to continued high levels of cortisol, your brain can actually be prevented from taking up the full glucose it needs to function and thrive properly. Excess and continued exposure to cortisol can also slow your nerve impulse transmissions. Eventually, the result is that previously healthy brain cells will die.
In addition, when we look at how cortisol affects your hippocampus, we see even more troubling signs of damage. The hippocampus is the part of your brain that helps sort and store your memories. Studies have shown that the size of hippocampus in Alzheimer's patients is considerably reduced and therefore, as you can imagine, its function is likewise slowed.
As the disease progresses, increased cortisol also inhibits a process called "long-term potentiation" that is critical in helping you lay down your memories in ways that are permanent, logical, and accessible.
In other words, high levels of cortisol can be lethal to your brain neurons.
It can also seriously impair your memory itself, because the hormones actually attack your brain at the source of its memory storage and sorting. But cortisol is just one part of the equation. Let's see how free radicals can contribute to the onset and progression of the disease.
Free Radicals - The Damage Goes Far Beyond Wrinkles
For some time now, free radicals have been linked to the main diseases of aging, including heart disease, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, bronchitis, and gum disease. However, it doesn't stop there. Free radicals are also believed to be an important cause of Alzheimer's disease.
Free radicals are unstable substances in your body that result naturally from the process of oxidation (respiration, digestive processes, etc.). When you are exposed to high levels of pollutants, such as cigarette smoke or other environmental hazards, or even many foods you eat, your production of free radicals increases.
Several recent studies have shown that Alzheimer's sufferers experience a greater degree of oxidative stress in their brains and to their brain neurons than those without the disease. The result is accelerated brain aging and brain cell death.
According to leading scientists, other contributing factors to higher levels of free radicals and/or their resulting oxidative stresses on your brain may include:
Having the Apo-E4 gene
| Elevated homocysteine|
High fat diet
Vitamin B 12 deficiency
Folic acid deficiency
Lack of mental stimulation
Lack of physical exercise
Damage from free radicals and extended exposure to hormones such as cortisol is just a small sample of ways that Alzheimer's causation theories are being reconsidered. Dr. Khalsa and other in the field are excited to be at the forefront of this innovative research. Read on to find out more breaking news in the field and how it affects you.
Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer's - Closer than You may Think
As we age, it often becomes more and more difficult to form new memories. For a long time, this difficulty, known as Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), had been considered a normal part of aging - and only potentially reflected as an indicator of Alzheimer's disease. But recent studies from researchers at Chicago's Rush University published in the science journal Neurology demonstrate that MCI may not only be a marker for Alzheimer's, but may actually be a form of the disease.
Before you jump to conclusions that forgetting where you put your car keys is a sign of Alzheimer's, the study's lead author, Dr. David A. Bennett, director of the Alzheimer's Disease Center at Rush University, emphasized that most people who worry about losing their memory as they age are not suffering from the onset of Alzheimer's. However, the findings of this largest study ever conducted on people diagnosed with MCI, are sobering: most of the 2.5 million to 10 million Americans with MCI may already have some degree of Alzheimer's disease.
As we already have discovered, Alzheimer's currently affects one in 10 people over age 65 and nearly half of those individuals over 85. As you can imagine, these figures could increase substantially if the early stage, or MCI, is added to the calculations.
In fact, "the number of people with Alzheimer's disease could double if you included all the people with mild cognitive impairment," said Dr. Ronald Petersen, director of Mayo Clinic's Alzheimer's Disease Research Center and spokesman for the Chicago-based Alzheimer's Association.
With such an outlook, it's imperative that you begin protecting yourself and your loved ones right now. Prevention is absolutely within your grasp and a powerful tool you can use for your benefit.
Helping Yourself - Prevention Is Key
Recent studies have found that some people appear to be able to protect themselves against memory loss, even though their brains show significant damage from Alzheimer's disease. In addition, many people live into their 80s and beyond with their memory intact, suggesting that Alzheimer's disease is not a normal part of aging.
How are these people avoiding the negative impacts of Alzheimer's? New studies suggest that because they have kept themselves mentally engaged and physically active, they're building a strong protection against the disease. As the Alzheimer's Research and Prevention Foundation has long championed, the finding supports the growing notion that people who remain mentally active may actually build more connections between their brain cells, which may provide a reserve of "brain power" against the ravages of Alzheimer's.
Scientists call this process plasticity, in which the brain builds more synaptic connections between neurons in response to new learning. New synaptic formation is critical in the development of children's brains, and it is a process that continues throughout life. In fact, the evidence can virtually be seen: people who keep mentally active are believed to have a denser network of connections than those who do not. "It may be that there are more connections between nerve cells in the brain so that even though you have a loss, you can compensate for that," said Neil Buckholtz of the National Institute on Aging.
Now we know that this process can be instrumental in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's.
Get Moving - Exercise Your Right to Good Brain Health
The Alzheimer's Research and Prevention Foundation has long contended that physical activity can help prevent Alzheimer's disease. Now his theory is supported by a recent Finnish study that shows middle-age people taking regular exercise at least twice a week could reduce their risk of developing Alzheimer's disease by 50 percent as they age.
"An active lifestyle, both physical, mental and social, is preventive. It's never too early to start to prevent Alzheimer's disease," shared Dr. Miia Kivipelto, a neurologist and Alzheimer's disease specialist at Stockholm's Gerontology Research Center at a recent Amsterdam conference on old age organized by Britain's Royal College of Psychiatrists. Regular exercise and a healthy diet can go a long way toward reducing your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, she said. Kivipelto added that studies indicate that people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity all could have a greater risk of Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia than those with a more active, healthy lifestyle.
The take-away is easy: Kivipelto suggests reducing your risk of Alzheimer's by getting regular check-ups to monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol and weight. As just one more component to consider when evaluating your risk factors, exercise is definitely one important element of The 4 Pillars of Alzheimer's Prevention, an holistic medical approach to prevention and treatment.
A Holistic Medical Approach Is the Only Answer
Discover more about each pillar in The 4 Pillars of Alzheimer's Prevention.