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Research shows that stress and depression may cause some forms of memory loss. Prolonged depression or stress leads to elevated levels of plasma cortisol, a "stress" hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Cortisol appears to shrink the hippocampus, the central unit in the brain that is associated with AD. Elevated levels of cortisol during prolonged depression appear to wear down the hippocampus. When depression is treated, cognitive function, including memory, improves. The earlier symptoms are recognized, the more likely the deterioration can be slowed. Much more research is needed, as it is still unclear if all patients with AD have elevated plasma cortisol levels. Phosphatidylserine enhances cortisol-receptor sensitivity and restores hypothalamic sensitivity to cortisol through its membrane stabilization properties, resulting in reduced damage and restoration of healthy, normal cortisol levels.
The average person aged 65 is likely to be taking between 8 and 10 different prescription and / or over-the-counter drugs. Drug interactions, coupled with a nutrient poor diet, often results mental symptomatology in addition to physical problems. Chronic alcohol abuse can lead to symptoms closely resembling AD.
Solutions: Cut down the number of medications as much as possible.
Research has revealed that it is common for people with AD to have high aluminum and mercury levels in their brain. There are many common sources of aluminum. Aluminum is commonly found in cookware (doubling the amount of aluminum we consume), in antacids (like Gaviscon®, Maalox®, Mylanta®), and in anti-diarrhea medications (like Kaopectate® and Pepto-Bismol®). In deodorants, the aluminum chlorhydrate in anti-perspirants is readily absorbed into the brain from the nasal passage. Aluminum is also found in food additives (baking powder contains from 5 - 70 mg of sodium aluminum sulfate per teaspoon). Lead toxicity have also been linked to higher incidence of AD.
Research done at University of Kentucky found that people with AD also have higher levels of mercury than a control group. Metal mercury from dental amalgam surfaces in the mouth has also been linked to people with AD. The AD group also has higher ratios of mercury to selenium and zinc (metals which help protect the body against the toxic effects of mercury).
Women with AD have lower estrogen levels than their healthy counterparts. According to Richard Mayeux who monitored about 1,100 New York city women for up to 5 years for the appearance of AD, postmenopausal women who had taken estrogen for longer than a year showed a risk of developing AD reduced by almost 50%. Recent studies have suggested that estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) may have a protective effect on cognitive function and may reduce the risk of AD. In the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, 116 women who reported that they were receiving ERT during a cognitive assessment were compared to 172 women who had never received ERT. Those receiving ERT had fewer errors on test of short-term visual memory, visual perception, and constructional skills.
Solution: Taking estrogen as a preventive measure for AD is not widely recommended due to the complications of hormone replacement therapy.
People with complex jobs have a lower risk of AD, according to Richard Mayeux, director to the Taub Institute on AD and the Aging Brain at Columbia University.
Solution: Participate in mental exercises like reading, doing puzzles, debates etc. on a daily basis.
People who are aerobically fit tend to suffer less cognitive decline with normal aging and have less chances of developing AD. When Fred Gage of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, allowed mice to run at will - about five kilometers a day, they generated many more neurons in their hippocampus area compared to their sedentary counterparts.
A well-balanced exercise program is the key to optimum mental health. While most people think of exercise as a way to reduce body weight, exercise does much more, including reducing insulin resistance and impotence.
A well-balanced exercise must include three components:
Ideally, about 2000 calories should be burned per week. Working out with 30 minutes of aerobics exercise at moderate intensity 5 times a week plus 15-20 minutes of strength training 3 times a week will accomplish this goal.
2% of Americans have 2 copies of a gene that produces apolipoproetien E4 that transports cholesterol through the bloodstream and changes the form of amyloid in the brain. These people have a 50% chance of getting AD before age 70. The development of a vaccine to spur the body's own immune system to clear the amyloid is in experimental stages. Studies involving twins and family members are underway to look at the correlation of incidence of AD along familial lines. One study showed that relatives have a higher risk, approaching 49% by age 87. The risks were similar among parents and siblings. It is interesting to note that female relatives appear to develop the disease earlier than male.
With the human genome mapping completed, it is just a matter of time before genetically engineered drugs will surface.
Solutions: Keep yourself in good shape while you wait for genetic therapy to arrive, most likely in five to ten years.
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Michael Lam, M.D., M.P.H., A.B.A.A.M., is a western trained physician specializing in nutritional and anti-aging medicine. Dr. Lam received his Bachelor of Science degree from Oregon State University, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from the Loma Linda University School of Medicine in California. He also holds a Master’s degree in Public Health. He is board certified by the American Board of Anti-Aging Medicine where he has also served as a board examiner. Dr. Lam is a pioneer in using nontoxic, natural compounds to promote the healing of many age-related degenerative conditions. He utilizes optimum blends of nutritional supplementation that manipulate food, vitamins, natural hormones, herbs, enzymes, and minerals into specific protocols to rejuvenate cellular function.
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