Can Eating Well Prevent Alzheimer’s?

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Today is National Memory Screening Day and November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. Alzheimer’s is a scary disease in addition to one the medical and science professions have not yet figured out. When I think about people loosing their memories, I think that they have lost who they truly are. Many diseases or disabilities handicap a person, under it all they are often the same relative, friend or co-worker you have always known. Alzheimer’s is different. When you know someone with the disease, you are reminded every day of what has been lost. Memories are at the very core of how we relate to people. It must be unimaginably difficult to care for an Alzheimer’s patient; especially if it is someone you have known and loved for years before they became ill.

I have read that there may be a hereditary aspect to the disease. That is comforting if you have a family history of relatives that live until a ripe old age and did not develop Alzheimer’s. I fall into this category, but I have also read enough about it to see that Alzheimer’s often does seem to strike out of the blue. So I think about it as I age and as people I know age. I read that 1 in 10 over 65 and almost 50% of those over 85 are afflicted. I am a person with ancestors that tend to live to a ripe old age. My maternal grandmother is one of 11 sisters, all either dying in their late 80’s to early 100’s or still alive at those ages. With few exceptions, in my biological family, everyone makes it to their very late 80’s and most well into their 90’s or more. Even though these relatives generally remain very healthy and active right up to the end, this makes me think about the challenges of very old age more than most people might.

What has interested me for a while is what environmental or dietary factors might contribute to or discourage the onset of Alzheimer’s. Many things have been written about factors such as the use of aluminum pots or the effect of certain foods. I don’t know if eating well can discourage Alzheimer’s, but who hasn’t heard of the possible benefits of the spice, curry? In the remaining 2-1/2 weeks of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, I will take a look at diet and its relationship to Alzheimer’s and try to post some articles and links for people to read and form their own opinion. In the mean time, if you have any knowledge or links to research on the subject diet and Alzheimer’s, post a comment and I will incorporate that into what I discover.

In the meantime, encourage anyone you know that is of a certain age and has concerns about their memory to discuss it with their doctor. Screening has become much better recently. An early diagnosis has typically been seen as scary and unnecessary as nothing could be done to stem the advance of the disease. But I think this is starting to change. Not only is more research being done on ways to slow the disease, much more is being done to ease the transition for patients, loved ones and caregivers.

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Will Sig
1 Anna

Hi Will, believe or not where I grew up we used aluminum pots and pans a lot. My mom even brought with her to Canada in the luggage, and I have one hidden somewhere just as a souvenir. We never had any one with Alzheimer in family, but this can change.

I really don’t have much knowledge in this area, but what I know is that Japan is big on preventing Alzheimer, and what they do is: – they enforce elderly to exercise their mind. Did you know that Nintendo DS is quite popular with games like Brain Age, Sudoku etc. I have one also, not for that reason, I just like mind games.

Thanks for the useful information and research, it is appreciated. Anna 🙂

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2 Bob

Thats why I have a PS3 and an Xbox 360, keep the mind going. I’m lucky I don’t have any family history of alzheimers but thanks to this post, gonna up my juice and mediterranean meal intake, plus I guess I’ll have to keep playing video games.

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3 Will

Hi Anna! Did you look into digg yet? I don’t see it on your site. Hope the links I gave you help.

I don’t know if the aluminum link can be proven, but most of the things that are recommended now are things that would be healthy changes for people to make anyway.

And to both you and Bob: Funny that you both bring this up. My 13 y.o. daughter just got herself a new Nintendo and gave me her old one with a game or two to “keep your mind sharp”. LOL! I wonder if that is a hint or if she is just being nice? I do crosswords a bit and that is supposed to help. I think one of the best things these past 11 years has been homeschooling my children and having to get back up to speed on the algebra and history!

-Will

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4 Anna

Hey Bob, wow, you better equiped than my husband. We have PS2 currently in use, and I been asking him to upgrade, but there is that one game ‘Black’ he is almost at the end, but getting killed. Believe or not we still have the original Nintendo, and Nintendo64 which I got for my bridal shower. However, I mainly use my DS just so simple to power up.

Hey Will, you must have some games at home? Sorry to switch topic on you, lol. Anna 🙂

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5 Anna

Will I guess you last post answers my questions, lol. Anna 🙂

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6 Bob

Hi Anna, Black is an awesome game, use to have a ps1, ps2 use to have a n64, hey I’ve had every system from the atari 2600, and Will good for you for the homeschooling, teacher friends of ours homeschooled their kids, very smart and cool.

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7 Anna

Bob, I wonder what you had before Atari 2600, lol. My husband told me to tell you that he still has the Atari 2600 at his parents place in perfect shape. Wow, anything around atari 2600 this is all Japanese to me, I grew up in the town where only sun light and moon light and one TV channel kept us alive, lol. Wow, you had every game system made on this planet Bob, I hope you take breaks every 45 minutes when playing, and not like my husband can play for 3-4 hours, lol. Anna 🙂

Hey Will I hope you know about the 45 minutes limit, otherwise, seizures may occur, lol.

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8 Anna

Hi Will, I was just at someone elses blog and remembered you asked me about the digg and I forgot to answered, how ironic. Anyway, no I did not try it yet, but I will put this on my task list. I been doing lot of multi-tasking like now, between blogging, laundry and cleaning, lol, all at the same time. I will definitely check it out. Anna 🙂

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9 Linda Prout

Hi Will. I appreciate your well-informed site. I am researching fats and dementia for a new book. Numerous studies show a strong link between low blood cholesterol and poor cognitive performance, including Alzheimer’s. The Framingham study with over 1800 men and women showed a linear relationship between blood cholesterol and cognitive function; the lower the blood cholesterol the more mental decline. Studies show our high intake of omega-6 fats from modern vegetable oils contributes to the inflammation of Alzheimer’s. This is compounded by our low intake of anti-inflammatory omega-3’s. Tufts reported those with the highest levels of omega-3 fats have a 50% reduction in dementia and a 37% reduction in Alzheimer’s. A Chicago study in 2003 reported Alzheimer’s disease is 60% lower in those who consume fatty fish at least once a week. My own experience with clients with Alzheimer’s and dementia is that 1 T. or more of fish oil daily improves well being and memory, sometimes a lot. Linda

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10 Will

Hi Linda! Your site looks great! Lots of good info there that I will have to take the time to go through. I see you also link to the Local Harvest Locator I have in my sidebar. Also that you have a most and least contaminated produce list. Did you see my post on The Dirty Dozen of Food?

I wonder about the low blood cholesterol? Does the ration of good to bad not come into play? Some people like myself have a naturally low overall level. But my ratio is great. I eat a lot of olive oil. I can pretty much drink it if it is good enough quality! I also like sardines, (much to the consternation of my kids!). But my cholesterol level was measured years ago as low as 119. I think it is closer to 140 now, though. I have a very low level of oil intake besides olive. Just some nut oils and sometimes a little flavored wok oil when I use that.

Thanks for your comment! It reminded me that I never did finish the follow up I promised above and now November is over. I will still do it, though. Hope you find the time to come back to offer more insight and keep me accurate!

-Will

By the way – Your book, Live in the Balance, looks very interesting. I have added it to my cart and will get it with my next order.

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11 Linda Prout

Hi Will:
Thanks for your response and kind words. I believe different people do best with different cholesterol levels (and with different foods). That said, I believe yours is too low. Do you ever feel a bit draggy? not real motivated? My observation and most research shows an increase in health problems, reduced cognitive function and depression with cholesterol levels below 180mg/dl, and with low fat diets.

Yes, high HDL is key, and in fact a better indicator of heart health than total cholesterol. You want it above 50. Omega-3 and saturated fats (yes saturated — they are actually necessary) help raise HDL. So keep up the sardines but add some wild salmon and real grass-fed butter to the program.

When I had my nutrition office in CA I used to see many Dean Ornish patients who felt chronically tired, emotionally off, anxious and had sugar cravings on their low-fat, no- cholesterol diets. They always felt better and craved sugar less when they added traditional fats and animal products. The quality of fats is key; you don’t want most vegetable oils, nor grain-fed animal products. Natural sources of cholesterol can be therapeutic. I am not suggesting a high intake, but the right amount for your needs.

I am living and studying diet in a Turkish village. Although they do eat olive oil and a little bit of fish, the fat intake here is still very low. People eat little or no meat, but a lot of dairy (they even make non-fat cheese) and lots of bread and rice. There is a lot of diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, respiratory problems and in women, obesity — all issues associated with low-fat diets. They do not enjoy the longevity of other Mediterranean people, who consume more meat.

Let me know what happens if you change your diet. Thanks for ordering my book; it is interesting to discover your constitution. I think you will appreciate my next book on Fats.

Best,
Linda
http://www.lindaprout.com

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12 Will

Yeah Linda, at times I probably can’t totally deny having some of your described symptoms. But then probably nobody can?

I don’t think I could get my level up to 180. I don’t really have a low fat diet. I try to eat healthy as you can tell from this site, but I do eat meat, cheese, butter, etc. I am also not too thin. I think my level is just genetic or something. There is not a single person in my family history that I know of that ever had a heart attack or heart failure of any type. Most people live into their 90’s, even a few over 100. Probably the only diet item I am low on is oil other than olive oil. I also do not really eat much traditional, American, commercially prepared food. Most of it is what I call “real” food. Generally my diet is balanced and I don’t really see any way to make much better. Maybe I will after reading your book! 🙂

Where in Turkey are you? Turkey is a country that has always held a mysterious fascination for me. Strange because that is based on no real knowledge and I have never been there.

-Will

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13 Linda Prout

Hi Will:
I always enjoy being reminded everyone is unique and there is no magic cholesterol number nor food for everyone. If you feel good, I wouldn’t change anything. If you feel fatigued, mentally off or depressed more than seems right (your call), or have low testosterone or cortisol levels (saliva test), consider eating more free range eggs, and grass fed meats, butter and cheese. From your site I gather you are plugged into higher quality animal products. Avoid the major vegetable oils. Olive and coconut are great.

You might consider a manganese supplement. A deficiency can cause low cholesterol levels. Other signs of low manganese include fatigue, memory loss, loss of hair or hair pigment loss, allergies or hormone problems. The fact your family members enjoyed longevity is a really good sign. Low cholesterol levels generally lead to other causes of death than heart disease. It would be interesting to know if they also the same low cholesterol levels.

Turkey is mysterious. The people operate under a different paradigm than westerners. There are many superstitions, interesting formalities, and tremendous value put on hospitality. I am looking forward to returning to familiar ground.

Linda

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14 Will

Linda – I had a chuckle at your suggestion:

“Other signs of low manganese include fatigue, memory loss, loss of hair or hair pigment loss, allergies or hormone problems.”

As I read the list, I was thinking, maybe I am not getting older, maybe it is the fault of manganese! Seriously though, I do take a multi vitamin every day that has “175%” manganese. I also eat a LOT of whole grains, almonds and pecans, and leafy green vegetables. I probably have fatigue because of the three kids, memory loss from trying to cram too much in, hair loss thanks to my grandfather, allergies to grass pollen from who knows where, and sometimes I wish my hormones WOULD slow down! LOL!

Now turning off the attempts at humor, I really have nothing to complain about health wise. I feel great most of the time. People are always saying I look 10 years younger than I am and act 20 years younger. (Don’t know if the last one is good or not, but it is definitely true.) The only things that are off are a real intense melancholy for a few seconds when I first wake up in the morning and an intolerance to lactose and certain refined white carbohydrates which I rarely eat anyway.

Thanks again for your comments. I am going to look more closely at your site and try to learn more about the importance of grass fed meat and dairy.

-Will

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15 nintendo

Recent research has shown that Alzheimer’s is a type of insulin resistance in which glucose, the usual fuel for brain cells, is not transported normally into the cells in certain parts of the brain and the neurons begin to die off as much as 10-20 years before symptoms appear.

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