As far as I’m concerned, the medical dementia research strongly points to an oxidative stress/mitochondrial dysfunction model of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s dementia and Parkinson’s disease. The idea that we really don’t have any idea what causes it is just not true.
The likely reason why mainstream medicine hasn’t accepted this model is because it puts much of the responsibility smack dab in the middle of the patient’s lap. Genetics play a role, but it’s likely a small one. Lifestyle is key to both preventing and causing Alzheimer’s dementia.
Pivotal in prevention is protecting my favorite organelle, the mitochondria. This little factory within each of our cells generate energy in the form of ATP. (Are we dredging up bad memories from high school biology yet?) Since brain cells require extremely high amounts of energy, the mitochondria are critical for your brain cells to function correctly. Not enough energy in the brain cells and they begin to break down and, when things get bad enough, your brain cells commit suicide (a process called apoptosis).
Too many suicidal cells in the neocortex or hippocampal regions of your brain and you begin to develop what we call Alzheimer’s dementia. Unfortunately, by the time symptoms are noticed, the condition has been progressing for decades and a very large chunk of the brain cells in this region are already dead.
So how can we protect our brain from this suicidal pathway?
In two ways.
The first is to stop abusing the mitochondria in our brain cells. The list of items that damage our brain is quite long, but should not drop any jaws. Here are a few of the more dangerous risks:
After you’ve cleaned up the mess, the next thing to focus on is aspects of lifestyle that are well know to protect the brain. The general recommendations that I promote for all chronic diseases remains the same and can be found by clicking here. Besides lifestyle, there are numerous supplements that have some pretty good support for protecting the brain. These include:
However, there is another strong player. Vitamin E.
And not your normal, run of the mill, cheap vitamin E supplement. Vitamin E is actually a combination of 8 different forms–4 tocopherols and 4 tocotrienols. Nature provides us with these multiple forms of tocopherols and tocotrienols. Any good supplemental form of vitamin E is going to have a this mix of all 8 forms. Giving high levels of just one form of vitamin E can actually drive down levels of other forms of vitamin E in the bloodstream.
Vitamin E, as a blend of all 8 forms, is very protective to our body, especially the heart and blood vessels. And if you protect your blood vessels, you’re protecting your brain.
But just how protective is it??
You might want to sit down for this one, or if you’re driving, pull over (actually…you shouldn’t really be driving trying to read this anyway..).
Diagnosing Alzheimer’s using a MRI alone is not without its problems and faults. Currently, it is not used as a sole measure to make the diagnosis. In this particular study, researchers looked at what happened when they added blood levels of these 8 vitamin E forms to an MRI for differentiating Alzheimer’s dementia from cognitive impairment from normal brains. Here’s what they found:
- MRI and plasma vitamin E measures increased accuracy to 98.2% for differentiating Alzheimer’s dementia from normal brains.
- For telling mild cognitive impairment from normal brains, the accuracy was 90.7%.
- In addition, also identified 85% of individuals with cognitive loss who converted to Alzheimer’s dementia at 1 year follow-up (Tweet this).
Basically, the serum levels of the vitamin E family made the MRI diagnosis far more powerful, especially when it came to predicting who was going to progress to full blown Alzheimer’s dementia. Isn’t your brain worth a little vitamin E? Plan on spending $15-20 / month. Do NOT buy the cheap forms with only alpha tocopherol–it may make things worse.