We all dream of living a long life with both a strong mind and a strong body. Yet statistics are showing that for those over 65 Alzheimer’s (not to mention other types of dementia) is the third leading cause of death. Someone once said that statistically if we live long enough 100% of us will develop Alzheimer’s. I’m not sure I would go quite so far, but there is still a huge possibility for each of us. What are some of the things we may be doing that increase those odds? What are some things we need to remove from our lives in order to prevent being a statistic? What are some known risk factors?
Aluminum – This is a known neurotoxin, and there are numerous sources of it in our world today. Antiperspirant is probably the best known source of aluminum, but we also get it through aluminum foil, aluminum pans used both for cooking and those used for storing and serving foods. Here is a list of other places it can be found.
- Foods such as baking powder, self rising flour, salt, baby formula, coffee creamers, baked goods, and processed foods, coloring, and caking agents
- Drugs, such as antacids, analgesics, anti-diarrheals, and others; additives such as magnesium stearate
- Vaccines—Hepatitis A and B, Hib, DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis), pneumococcal vaccine, Gardasil (HPV), and others
- Cosmetics and personal care products such as antiperspirants, deodorants (including salt crystals, made of alum), lotions, sunscreens, and shampoos
- Aluminum products, including foil, cans, juice pouches, tins, and water bottles
Fluoride – This is another known neurotoxin, yet many areas purposely put it in their drinking water. In addition to water fluoride can be found in some medications, including Cipro as well as in toothpaste, mouthwash and other dental products.
Pesticides – Though not referred to as a neurotoxin it is acknowledged that there is an ‘adverse effect on neurological function and brain health’. Glyphosate is one form of pesticide. It can be found in most processed foods in the Western diet courtesy of GE sugar beets, corn, and soy, and research shows glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of other chemical residues and toxins.
Medications – medications that produce an "anticholinergic" effect, meaning drugs that block the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the central and the peripheral nervous system seem to be an issue. The most commonly used anticholinergics were those used to treat depression, antihistamines for common ailments like hay fever, those to assist in sleeping or otherwise to promote drowsiness, and drugs used to treat urinary incontinence. Almost one-fifth of the drugs were purchased over the counter.
High Blood Sugar – This includes people with diabetes, but also those with only slightly elevated blood sugar. Alzheimer’s has even been referred to as Type 3 Diabetes.
Trans Fats - Trans fats are vegetable oils that have had extra hydrogen atoms artificially added, in order to make them solid at room temperature. They are used primarily to extend the shelf life of food and are most often found in fast food, margarine, baked good, coffee creamers and certain other packaged foods such as refrigerated doughs, snack foods and frozen pizza. The researchers believe that trans fats damage memory, in part, by promoting oxidative damage to cells and DNA, including those in the brains.
Vitamin D deficiency – Seniors heading to warmer climates may have something, as long as they spend their days outside in the sunshine and not inside in the air conditioning. A recent study suggests there’s a threshold level of circulating vitamin D, below which your risk for dementia increases. This threshold was found to be right around 50 nmol/L, or 20 ng/ml. Higher levels were associated with good brain health.
Stress - Women who scored highest on a test for neuroticism were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as women with the lowest scores. Neuroticism is a term used for feeling anxious, fearful, moody, have feelings of envy, jealousy, and loneliness or worrying. The connection between neuroticism and Alzheimer’s isn’t surprising, because this type of personality is a harbinger for chronic stress. Studies have found links between acute and/or chronic stress and a wide variety of health issues, including your brain function. Previous research3 has also linked chronic stress with working memory impairment.
Lack of Sleep - lack of restorative sleep can also wreak havoc on your brain function. Moreover, it can actually lead to loss of brain volume, and may accelerate onset of Alzheimer's disease. The brain uses your sleep time to ‘clean house’. Without this time your neurons will actually begin to degenerate. Unfortunately ‘catching up’ on sleep does not make up for lack of sleep.
Smoking - smokers have a 45 percent higher risk of developing dementia than non-smokers. 14 percent of all Alzheimer's cases worldwide may potentially be attributed to smoking. Smoking is thought to cause dementia by the same biological mechanisms as its contribution to coronary artery disease, cerebrovascular disease, and stroke. Your risks from second hand smoke are almost as high as if you were the primary smoker.
Artificial Sweeteners - Studies are beginning to confirm lingering suspicions that aspartame may play a role in Alzheimer's. Rhesus monkeys fed the chemicals in aspartame developed persistent pathological changes related to the development of Alzheimer's.
Since there is no conventional cure, the issue of prevention is absolutely critical if you want to avoid becoming an Alzheimer's statistic. There are some natural things you can do to slow down and possibly reverse the disease, but prevention is still the best alternative.