Several scientists and doctors are now talking about reversing cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. The best known being surely Dr. Dale Bredesen who created the “Bredesen” protocol also called RECODE which aims at reversing the disease or PRECODE which aims at prevention. Dr. Bredesen is an American neurologist with 30 years of research in nerve degeneration.
It is called reversal because the symptoms of the early stages can be reversed. Dr. Bredesen is not the only one to say this. Another author, physician and researcher, Dr. Michael Nehls, comes to the same conclusion with much the same recommendations. He even states that “These spectacular results provide proof that certain combined non-drug prescriptions (lifestyle, diet, detox, sleep, sport, etc.) not only prevent the progression of the disease, but suppress the symptoms that have already appeared. Someday more and more patients will say, I used to have Alzheimer’s.” (Meanwhile, being fully capable of remembering that they did).
Prevention is better than cure
Many people think that the disease is genetic and that nothing can be done about it. Be aware that there are a large number of genetic factors that can increase your risk, but their expression and impact depend on your overall lifestyle habits. We could group the risks under three main groups: genetics (involved more strongly in about 30% of cases), lifestyle (particularly those that influence blood pressure and insulin resistance), and the use of certain medication (which would explain up to 10% of cases; sleeping pills and severe anticholinergics). These risks are of course linked to the functioning of the brain.
The brain consumes 20 to 25% of our calories. Energy production also increases the production of oxidant molecules and the need for antioxidants. It is therefore highly vascularized. What happens if these blood vessels are damaged?
Brain cells are particularly sensitive to lack of oxygen and die quickly. Therefore, after 5 minutes the cells already lack oxygen and after about 10 minutes there is already irreparable damage. So, if these blood vessels break or become blocked, the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease increases. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that you reduce or eliminate the following bad habits:
- Tobacco use,
- Physical inactivity,
- Oxidized cholesterol (atherosclerosis),
- Obesity (related to cardiovascular health and insulin resistance), and
- High blood pressure.
This is also valid for shocks to the brain such as concussions. These shocks will damage or break certain blood vessels, which will increase the risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease in the medium to long term timespans.
Repair damaged cells
Lifestyle habits that promote the conservation of cognitive capacities act both on the reduction of the risks mentioned above and on the brain’s capacity to produce new nerve connections and/or to repair damaged sectors. We have long believed that nerve cells stop growing in adulthood. This is not the case, or at least they retain the capacity to do so if they have access to the necessary resources, if their environment is conducive, and if the need arises. This is called neurogenesis; it can be stimulated through diet, lifestyle habits and supplementation.
The MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet is believed to help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by 54%. This diet prioritizes foods of high nutritional quality such as leafy green vegetables, whole grains, nuts, berries, legumes, fish and poultry. Also, according to this diet, it is recommended to consume as little as possible red meat, butter, margarine, cheese, desserts or any other processed foods.
Since brain cells have a great need for energy, they are particularly sensitive to insulin resistance. Thus, approaches such as intermittent fasting or the ketogenic diet make it possible to improve their functioning either by reducing insulin resistance, if this is the case, but also, by giving access to another source of energy: ketone bodies. This is a very important aspect of symptom reversal protocols. Metabolic flexibility is said to be a very important aspect for both prevention and treatment.
A food not to be overlooked; eggs. Indeed, these would have a positive impact on the reduction of the risks of dementia by their composition in Vitamin B12, in lutein and in choline.
Here, all you have to do is stay active on a daily basis and promote demanding activities that will make your brain work by activating several systems at the same time: coordination of movements, balance, speech, feeling, etc. Here are a few examples: playing tennis; eye-movement, dance; rhythm-movement and quality social life. To have a healthy brain, you have to use it to its full potential.
By being active daily, you will also improve your blood circulation, the health of your mitochondria (your small energy powerhouses) and increase the volume of your hippocampus: the seat of memory. That’s not all! That same day, the benefits of physical activity will impact your memory. Physical activity alone could reduce the risk of dementia by 50%.
Sleep & stress
You won’t be surprised to read that poor quality sleep promotes the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s. One study showed an increased risk in people who did not get more than 5 hours of sleep per night. Be careful, the use of chemical sleeping pills could increase the risks. Natural supplements to help sleep are of course to be favored, if you need them. Likewise, there is no doubt that reducing stress would be an effective approach to lower the risk of the disease. The quality of sleep and the management of stress are of course linked. Other lifestyle habits have a significant impact on stress management, as much for diet and physical activity, as is for the quality of social life.
Quality social life
A study from Harvard University found, after observing 10,228 people over a 28-year period, that people over the age of 60 who saw their friends everyday lowered their risk of dementia by 12%. Everything suggests that this percentage tends to increase if the quality of social life increases. The quality of social life depends very much on the personality. In a previous article (The Personality to Live 100 Years), I mentioned that centenarians in Japan, Sweden, the United States, and Europe share common personality traits. These same personality traits, linked to shorter or longer longevity, are also linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. A recent study demonstrated that an increased amount of amyloid plaques and tau protein tangles (which characterize Alzheimer’s disease) was observed in participants who had a higher score in neuroticism and lower in “conscientiousness” (Terracciano et al., 2021). To put it simply, for prevention, we must be fundamentally positive, pleasant, and have a great capability in expressing our emotions.
The facets of health that can be improved by supplements, in relation to the risks and prevention of Alzheimer’s are mainly:
- Insulin resistance,
- The intake of antioxidants,
- The health of blood vessels,
- Deficiencies that can reduce the capacity of neurogenesis,
- Improving blood circulation,
- Stimulation of autophagy,
- Reducing inflammation of the brain, and
- Reducing stress as well as improving sleep.
Since the brain is rather impermeable to molecules in the bloodstream, not all supplements recognized for these applications may necessarily be helpful. Note that a recent discovery has confirmed an important hypothesis that dates back several years. Carriers of APO-E4, a genetic mutation that alters the transport of lipids in the blood, would need to consume a much larger amount of omega-3 to allow the brain to get enough. This is one of the mutations known to further increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Thus, taking a supplement or consuming foods very high in omega-3s could help reduce the risks associated with this mutation.
Among the vitamins, vitamin B12 and vitamin D3 are probably the most important. Selenium, zinc and lithium deficiencies could also be involved (eating seafood and nuts is a very good habit to have). For plant extracts, ginkgo biloba probably has the most evidence related to improving blood circulation (avoid taking anticoagulants). A recent systematic review looked specifically at supplements for autophagy and neuroinflammation related to Alzheimer’s disease (Gruendler et al., 2020). The authors stressed the importance of EGCG (tea), fisetin (strawberries), and spermidine (pineapple, capers, nuts, legumes, chestnuts, etc.). These molecules also have known impacts on the mechanisms of aging (which I pointed out in a chapter of my 2nd book: Live Young Two Times Longer – available only in French).
Among the most interesting natural molecules for the brain, Petrella and colleagues (2021) presented two of the most important polyphenols in the Mediterranean diet: olive polyphenols and resveratrol. They both reduce inflammation, reduce insulin resistance, stimulate autophagy, reduce oxidation, and stimulate several repair mechanisms. These researchers proposed their use for both nerve degeneration and neuromuscular degeneration applications.
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments!
Originally published in Vitalité QC magazine: https://vitalitequebec-magazine.com/
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