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How to Avoid Alzheimer’s Disease

The cognitive decline of an Alzheimer’s disease sufferer is heart-rending to family and friends. This disease is debilitating and as yet, has no certain cure. Although there is also no concrete way of predicting how Alzheimer’s will progress, recent studies show that lifestyle changes may play a significant role in deterring the disease. Preventing the onset of the disease requires therapeutic lifestyle modification early in life thereby reducing risk factors associated with the disease?

The Research

Several studies have been made in which it was concluded that lifestyle changes and social enhancement do indeed play a role in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. The Finnish Geriatric Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER) conducted one such study with astounding results. All the participants selected for the study were at risk for developing Alzheimer’s due to factors like age and heart health not being optimal. Participants were given basic healthcare across the board.

Only half of the participants were given a complete lifestyle make-over and a social support system that included cognitive training, control of risk factors and social activities. When the study ended after two years, these participants were in much better health than their peers who did not benefit from an improved lifestyle and social support. These individuals not only made significant improvement in their chances of avoiding Alzheimer’s disease but also drastically enhanced their quality of life – a win-win situation.

How to Start Making Changes

Try to adapt your lifestyle to make as many of the following changes as possible:
• Decide on a daily exercise regime: Consult a physician to ensure that it is suitable to your current health status.
• Eat healthy: In recent years the so-called Mediterranean diet has become associated with optimum health and considerably lower risk of cognitive decline. It consists of fresh ingredients like vegetables, fish and uses olive oil as the main source of fat. Avoid processed foods, excessive sugar, salt and saturated fats.
• If you smoke, stop. Damaging the brain vessels in any way increases inflammation and the risk of Alzheimer’s as well as many other serious health threats.
• Get enough sleep: Sleep is good for learning and memory and lack of it can seriously impact on your mental functions.
• Take supplements, but not to excess: Deficiencies in Folate and Vitamin B12 have been proven to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. However, nothing has been conclusively proven in studies conducted on the effects of other vitamins, minerals and fatty acids.
• Finally, avoid impact to your head if possible: It is a known fact that Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) increases the likelihood of Alzheimer’s. Accidents happen but taking precautions like wearing protective headgear when engaging in sports and investing in anti-slip mats around the home is an excellent practice.

While we cannot as yet cure the disease, it is possible to lower the risk with a lifestyle overhaul. Remember the sooner you adopt a healthier lifestyle, the more likely it is to be an effective preventative measure. Programs like Sci-Brain  that is developed to primarily address an objective way to optimize cognitive outcome based on reducing risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s disease based on Research at the Roskamp Institute.

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A Fascinating Alzheimer’s Research – Sleep and Glymphatic System / Dr. Michael Mullan

images (4)What does the new study on the role of sleep in the removal of toxic waste from the brain show?

The new study from scientists at the University of Rochester has shown that sleep has a different effect on the removal of potentially toxic waste products from our brain compared to the waking state. In the rest of the body, a system called the lymphatic system removes waste accumulated from most cell types. This system, which consists of an interconnected network of tubes and lymph nodes, allows the passage of toxins in lymph back into the blood circulation. From here, most toxins from metabolic processes are destroyed in the liver or are otherwise disposed of by the body. However, the brain lacks a lymphatic system that is separate from the vasculature. Instead, cerebrospinal fluid passes from the large stores in the brain (ventricles) where it is made and passes around the arteries which provide blood to the whole brain. Much of the waste produced in the brain mixes with this cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and passes around the outside of veins which leave the brain allowing the waste product to pass out of the brain also. This system has been called the glymphatic system and using new techniques, has now come under intense scrutiny from neuroscientists.

What is the main finding from the new study?

The new study suggests that during sleep, a much larger volume of CSF passes around the arteries and that consequently, there is a greater movement of waste products out of the brain. The researchers saw a very dramatic decrease in the influx of CSF around the arteries and into the brain when a mouse was awoken from a sleep state. Interestingly, researchers saw something similar when mice were anesthetized and therefore, unconscious. Again, there was a much greater influx of CSF around blood vessels and into the brain when the mice were unconscious. Interestingly, in order to explain why there was more CSF in the brain during sleep, the researchers showed that there was more space available to be occupied by CSF in the sleeping state. There seemed to be as much as a 60% increase in the space between brain cells during sleep allowing, the researchers suggest, more CSF to enter the brain during that time.

What is the significance of these findings for Alzheimer’s disease?

Previous studies have shown that the accumulation of the small protein amyloid in the brain is associated with damage to neurons if its accumulation goes unchecked. Previous studies have also shown that amyloid is cleared by the glymphatic system. In other words, neurons in the brain make amyloid but, these are normally taken out of the brain along the veins and harmlessly dealt with outside of the brain. The researchers showed that amyloid is cleared much more efficiently from the brain during sleep which is consistent with their findings of increased glymphatic flow during sleep. Essentially, the same finding was found during anesthesia that amyloid was cleared more rapidly from the brain. The scientists went on to show that certain brain neurotransmitters, particularly adrenaline [or norepinephrine (NE)] was responsible for reducing the amount of space available to CSF influx. They showed that by blocking receptors for adrenaline or NE, they could mimic in waking animals the increased clearance of CSF that was observed in the sleeping state.

What are the broad implications for this research for our understanding of sleep?

The reasons why all higher organisms have a need for sleep has been much debated over the centuries. It is well known that humans or animals deprived of sleep will eventually die. Fatal familial insomnia, an inherited disease caused by mutations in the prion gene leads to delirium, hallucinations, and subsequently death. Sleep may have many functions including the requirement for integration of new information acquired during the waking state. These new findings, however, suggest a more basic need for sleep (as even advanced Alzheimer cases who acquire no new memories still require sleep). The suggestion is that sleep is linked to the ability of the brain to allow additional high levels of CSF to enter and bathe the neurons and other cells in  fluid which can absorb many toxic substances including, importantly, amyloid. Future studies may look at ways to artificially manipulate the system to increase the clearance of amyloid from the brain, thus preventing its accumulation and toxic damage to neurons.

Read more about Alzheimer’s research by Michael Mullan

Ten tips to avoid Alzheimer’s Disease – part 7

Putting it all together.

More than any one particular activity it seems that a lifestyle that encompasses all of the above aspects is required to combat a slip into Alzheimer’s Disease. When looked at together the above recommendations look like a big change in lifestyle for some of us. One important point is that people who incorporate some of all of these aspects into their lives do much better in staving of Alzheimer’s Disease than those that that just adhere to one of them. So the message from the scientific studies is that we should adapt our lifestyles as much as we can in each of these areas to be lower our risk for Alzheimer’s Disease. That can be both challenging and fun especially when undertaken with family or friends. A positive outlook on our ability to defeat Alzheimer’s Disease by our own efforts puts us back in control of our lives and lets us not see ourselves as victims of this disease. The scientific literature more and more suggests there are many ways we can defy Alzheimer’s Disease and the more we do in each of the areas above the more successful we will be. So start now and push back the cognitive clock. Enjoy your new regimen!