Healthy Beginnings

Natural ways to overcome Alzheimer’s, memory loss

According to medical studies, long-term intake of blueberries has been proven to delay brain aging by 2.5 years.

Imagine a day when you’ve had the sharpest memory, when you’ve been able to remember every important date and occasion, retaining virtually everything that you read and listen to. People often come to you to pick your brain about things that they themselves simply cannot recall.

Then imagine from one day to the next you are starting to misplace things more and more, at times forgetting events that recently happened — perhaps accidentally leaving the stove on, eventually forgetting the names and memories of your loved ones, maybe even your own name as well.

This is the scary life of Alzheimer’s disease, when over time your head becomes blank and dark. Let us venture further to understand this disease better and how to beat it.

Formation of plaques and tangles in the brain are what increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Ten percent of 20-year-olds already show signs of these formations, and upon reaching 50 years old, 50 percent of the population is already affected, according to the July 2013 research article, “Therapeutic potential of turmeric in Alzheimer’s disease: curcumin or curcuminoids?” as published in the journal, “Phytotherapy Research.” The common age to be diagnosed with loss of brain function is 40.

As we look at this pattern, early prevention is a valuable approach to avoiding progression.

“Are we all doomed to have memory loss or dementia as we age eventually?” “If it runs in the generations of families, there is undoubtedly a higher chance of developing it!” These types of thoughts can linger in our heads, and can morph into fear of developing the disease as we age. Fortunately, we can prove these misconceptions false! We do have a fighting chance against Alzheimer’s and here’s why:

  1. Brain cells feed on blood flow from healthy arteries and good circulation. If this circulation gets impaired in any way, such as cholesterol buildup leading to blockages (the most common), it will result in decreased oxygen delivery to the brain. Over time, these oxygen-starved areas will begin to die. On autopsy, Alzheimer brains are found to have narrowed or blocked brain arteries, according to a study on the treatment of mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease that was published in the January 2010 edition of “Psychopharmacology” journal, which concluded that treating high cholesterol lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s.
  2. The risk of Alzheimer’s does increase if you carry the APOE gene especially if both parents passed it on to you compared to just one. This gene facilitates the transport of cholesterol to the brain, where it can accumulate and cause blockages. This gene is found to be more prevalent in African Americans, and they are therefore more prone to developing Alzheimer’s when compared to other populations. APOE genes can be considered sleeping giants until cholesterol comes along, according to a 1997 study in the journal, “Neurobiology of Aging.” As cholesterol stimulates it, suddenly the gene starts to attract even more cholesterol to form plaques that will block circulation, leading to damage in the brain.

As you can see the common denominator in these causes is cholesterol. By controlling what we eat, the chance of avoidance is greater.

Even with African Americans having the highest possibility in developing Alzheimer’s genetically, African Americans in Nigeria who consume less animal meat and more grains, roots and tubers have proven to have a low incidence of Alzheimer’s.

People from Africa and Japan originally were noted to have low incidents of Alzheimer’s, until they adopted a Western diet — which is high in cholesterol, saturated fat and animal meat — which increased their risk.

The lowest noted incidences of Alzheimer’s patients are people who live in rural India, for they predominantly consume a plant-based diet with high amounts of grains and beans, per a study published in the July 2012 edition of the journal, “Annals of Neurology.”

Now let us go into the specifics of what food sources we can eat to fight Alzheimer’s:

  1. One teaspoon of turmeric a day has been seen to lessen symptoms of Alzheimer’s especially improving memory capacity. Isolating curcumin from turmeric does not seem to have the same effect. A study published in the August 2003 edition of “Journal of Molecular Neuroscience concludes that other components of turmeric (such as borneol and eugenol) along with curcumin play a major role synergistically in lessening severity of symptoms.
  2. Long-term intake of certain berries, such as blueberries and strawberries, has been proven to delay brain aging by 2.5 years. As we use our brains in mental activities, it consumes 10 percent to 50 percent of the oxygen in our body, leading to free radical formation, which in turn has a high tendency to destroy brain structure. It has been noted — including in the July 2011 edition of “Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association” — some berries (especially blueberries) have anthocyanodins, which act as major antioxidants capable of crossing the blood brain barrier to protect the areas that are responsible for learning and memory (located in the hippocampus).
  3. The spice saffron has been proven to be effective in controlling symptoms of mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s. It was used in a study for 16 weeks with a dose of 30 mg per day. It also showed equal to the drug Aricept, which is given to prevent the progression of Alzheimer’s. By using the spice instead of Aricept, according to a 1999 article in “Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease,” common side effects such as drowsiness and weakness were avoided.

In the fight against this dreaded disease, a natural way of treating its progression is at hand. By properly recognizing them, we can look forward in confidence that we will be able to cherish our past, appreciate the present and look forward to a bright future filled with memories that will last a lifetime.

Melvin Ibarra Nario, M.D., H.M.D., is among the physicians who work at Bio Integrative Health Center International in Reno. Visit bihcireno.com or call 775-827-6696 to learn more.