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Brain Health: The Role of Nutrition in Dementia

brain health

Dementia affects approximately 50 million people worldwide, with a new case of dementia occurring somewhere in the world every three seconds. Dementia can also affect individuals under the age of 65 (young-onset dementia). Greater awareness and understanding of dementia is essential to challenge the myths and misconceptions that surround the condition. There is currently no cure for most types of dementia, but treatment and support are available.

Dementia is a collective name for progressive brain syndromes that affect memory, thinking, behavior, and emotion. Dementia is the leading cause of disability and dependency among the elderly. Although each person will experience dementia in their own way, eventually, those affected cannot care for themselves and need help with activities of daily living (ADL). There are more than one hundred forms of dementia. The most well-known is Alzheimer’s dementia, which accounts for 50-60% of all cases. Symptoms may include loss of memory, difficulty finding the right words, or understanding what people are saying.

Types of Dementia

Many underlying conditions cause the symptoms of dementia as a result of changes that happen in the brain and the ultimate loss of nerve cells (neurons). The most common causes are (1) Alzheimer’s disease, (2) Vascular dementia, (3) Lewy bodies dementia, (4) Frontotemporal dementia. The boundaries between the different types are not necessarily distinct. Alzheimer’s disease and Vascular dementia are responsible for up to 90% of the cases of dementia. It is becoming more evident that a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is more fearful than any other medical diagnosis, including cancer. This is basically for two reasons: first of all, it is the only one of the nation’s ten most common causes of death for which there has been no effective treatment, and secondly, it robs its victims of their lives long before they are gone.

Alzheimer’s Disease- The Most Common Form of Dementia

As stated, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, or decline in intellectual function. It afflicts 10 percent of Americans over 65 and as many as 50 percent of those over 85. Unfortunately, we see Alzheimer’s disease diagnosed in much younger people, even as young as early forties. Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by progressive mental deterioration to such a degree that it interferes with one’s ability to function socially and at work. Memory and abstract thought processes are impaired. Alzheimer’s disease is, again, an irreversible, progressive disorder. Deterioration in critical areas of the brain may precede symptoms by as much as twenty to forty years. As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, there is severe memory loss, particularly in short-term memory or recall of recent events. The person may recall events far in the past, but not remember the events in the last two minutes. Since the behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease result from changes in the brain, the person neither intends nor can control this behavior.

Physiological Brain Changes of Alzheimer’s Disease

Once considered to be a psychological phenomenon, Alzheimer’s disease is now known to be a degenerative disorder that is characterized by a specific set of physiological changes in the brain. Nerve fibers surrounding the brain’s memory center become tangled, and information is no longer carried properly to or from the brain. New memories cannot be formed, and memories formed earlier cannot be retrieved. Characteristic plaques accumulate in the brain as well. These plaques are composed mainly of a protein-containing substance called beta-amyloid. Scientists and doctors believe that the plaques accumulate in the brain and damage nerve cells leading to the downward spiral of mental decline.

Other Causes of Dementia

There are many factors to consider when trying to understand the direct cause and effect of the most common dementias. The following have been associated directly or indirectly as a contributing factor or possible cause of dementia:

  1.  polypharmacy-taking multiple prescription or over-the-counter drugs
  2. drug reactions or drug interactions
  3. a nutrient-poor diet with too many empty calories, excess sugar, and processed foods
  4. chronic stress
  5. genetics or positive family history in immediate family members

Nutritional Deficiencies and Dementias

It is important to note that lifestyle factors can play a significant role in brain health. The precise cause or causes of Alzheimer’s dementia are still virtually unknown, but research by some leading neuroscientists and doctors reveals several interesting clues. Many of them point to nutritional deficiencies. For example, people with Alzheimer’s tend to have low levels of vitamin B12 and zinc in their bodies. The B vitamins are essential in cognitive functioning, and it is well known that the processed foods constituting so much of the modern standard American diet (SAD) have stripped these essential nutrients. The development of the neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques in the brain that are characteristic of the disease have been associated or linked to a zinc deficiency. We are learning more today as functional medicine has identified the connection between the gut and brain pathway and that 90 percent of our neurotransmitters are located in the gut sending signals back and forth to the brain. Also, common antioxidants like vitamins A, C, E are typically low in people with Alzheimer’s dementia. Other common nutrients like CoQ10, potassium, and selenium are generally lacking or in short supply.

Boosting Brain Health With Nutrition

The human brain is the most astonishing structure in the universe. Brainpower should definitely last and not be affected by aging!  Let me be clear. Memory loss and decreased brain health are not inevitable as we age. Steps can be taken to not only stop memory loss and mental decline but also many times to reverse it. Brain cells are the most complex, long-living, and nutritionally demanding cells in the body. There are plenty of scientific studies that confirm intelligence, memory, focus, and concentration are all influenced by the quality of brain nutrition. In other words, feeding the brain the right fats, complex carbohydrates, and protein, plus the addition of targeted nutritional supplements to increase blood flow and activate key neurotransmitters, can keep your mind sharp and active. There is, without question, a direct correlation between higher nutritional status and a higher level of mental function. If you show signs of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), you must act now and be very aggressive in your diet, lifestyle, and supplement strategies.

Here are well-researched supplement recommendations for optimal brain health:

  1. High potency multivitamin/mineral complex 1 daily
  2. Vitamin C 1,000-2,000mg daily
  3. Vitamin D3 5,000IU daily
  4. Omega-3 fish oil 2,000-3,000mg daily
  5. CoQ10 100mg twice daily
  6. Turmeric (curcumin) 1,000-2,000mg daily
  7. Ortho Molecular Products Cardio B -vitamin B6, B12, folate, and betaine- daily
  8. Memory Plus -a proprietary blend of l-carnitine, phosphatidylserine, nattokinase, bacopa monnieri, DMAE, ginkgo biloba, alpha-lipoic acid, and huperzine- twice daily
  9. Brain Health Support – a proprietary blend of ginkgo biloba, phosphatidylserine, DHA, choline, and inositol – twice daily
  10. Selenium 200mcg daily
  11. CBD oil softgels or liquid tincture

It is always recommended that you discuss your nutritional supplement protocol and dosages with a qualified healthcare professional, your doctor, or pharmacist, especially if you are also taking prescription medications. Remember, it is important to only select high-quality supplements from trusted sources. Learn more here: https://cypresspharmacy.blog/2020/09/10/are-your-supplements-toxic/

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About Dr. Stan Headley

Stan Headley graduated with a Doctor of Medicine in 1991 from Spartan Health Sciences University. Dr. Stan continues to update his knowledge by attending continuing education conferences as a member of the American Naturopathic Medical Association, the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, and the Age Management Medicine Group. As a Natural Health Consultant, his entire focus is on getting to the underlying root cause of your symptoms and helping you to determine why you are not well or at risk of chronic disease. He does not diagnose or treat but educates patients on how to make the necessary lifestyle and behavioral changes that will lead to the long-term goal of preventing illness and promoting optimal health.

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