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Some of you may know that in my family there is dementia and Alzheimer’s disease that started well before the presence of the symptoms of the disorder and the doctor’s diagnosis. After age 40, most of us begin to worry about losing our memories and even worse, becoming demented. This is especially true once we reach our fifties. I started feeling brain fog at age 50 and then going into menopause and getting my second autoimmune disorder (the first was about five years earlier with another skin condition called sarcoidosis; it can also affect the lungs too in its other form) called plaque psoriasis. However, the real reason I am writing this blog to say that do we really need to worry? Yes and no.
Yes, because there has been an increase in the incidence of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Lou Gehrig’s disease over the last two decades. Though medical scientists have no explanation for this increase, there are many strong clues.
No, because there is growing evidence that simple steps can be taken to significantly reduce your risk.
What causes the brain to age? As with most things in the universe, discovery of the secret of aging lies in commonly occurring events in the body, something shared by all cells. This common event is the accumulated damage to vital cellular components by free radicals. Most of us have heard of antioxidants and that they are good for us. Antioxidants are substances that neutralize free radicals.
Basically, free radicals are highly reactive submicroscopic particles that bounce around inside a cell like red-hot BBs, burning everything they touch. Each cell is filled with delicate factories that perform all sorts of vital functions like generating energy, making enzymes and other proteins and storing information, as with DNA. Free radicals chip away at these cell factories the way water dripping on a stone wears the stone away. In the beginning, the damage is so minute that little is harmed, but over time the cell’s function becomes impaired. The effects of this chipping away by free radicals depends on the types of cells affected and how severely they are damaged. We were born with a system to repair much of this damage, but our poor diets and constant exposure to environmental toxins severely impair this repair system.
As a result, diseases are appearing earlier, more often and to a much more severe degree. This is true not only for diseases affecting the brain, but also for most other diseases, including diabetes, autoimmune disorders, many cancers, arthritis, heart disease and strokes. All of these diseases share the same event: massive production of free radicals over a long period of time (inflammation) and a depletion of the body’s antioxidant defenses.
Numerous studies have found that those with neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s Disease have chronic nutrient deficiencies long before the disease presents itself. For example, most individuals with Alzheimer’s disease have low levels of vitamin C, beta-carotene, B1, B6, folate and vitamin B12. The latter three are particularly important since they regulate a special series of metabolic steps in brain cells necessary for forming neurotransmitter chemicals and repairing DNA.
When these nutrients are deficient, a special chemical called homocysteine accumulates. Recent studies have found that a large number of Alzheimer’s disease patients have elevated homocysteine levels. Besides being a sign of impaired metabolism, homocysteine is in a class of special brain cell toxins called excitotoxins. These toxins literally excite certain brain cells to death. They are considered a central mechanism in all of the neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s dementia and Parkinson’s disease. Excitotoxins generate large numbers of free radicals in brain cells and brain cell connections (synapses).
Vitamin E, C, the carotenoids and special antioxidants from plants called flavonoids all act together to protect the brain from free radicals and, hence, excitotoxicity. Several studies have shown that increasing these antioxidants in the diet slows the course of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease and may prevent the disease in some.
This part one of a series of blogs about protecting you from the ravages of Alzheimer’s and other diseases. If you would like to find out how you can decrease your chances of slowing down the inflammation process in your brain functioning, please contact me to take action against these devastating diseases. It has taken years for your body to be depleted of essential nutrients and it will take time to start getting back your energy and living your best life. a
Until the next time, be conscious of your environment inside and outside your bodies.
Peace and Hugs