Brain Aging & Alzheimer’s Disease – Preventing Loss of Self

By Dr. Michael Wald914-242-8844 www.intmedny.com/www.bloodetective.com

This article appeared in the Baby Boomer Publication of Westchester

If you are part of the baby boomer generation, then you face a unique problem; namely, the very real potential exists that you will loose your memory slowly over the later part of your life.  Here are a few facts that you need to know:

  • As you age your risk of memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease rises
  • Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of the aging process.  The incidence of the disease doubles every five years beyond the age of 65.
  • As the number of people over age 65 doubles between 2010 and 20560 to approximately 88.5 million (or to about 20% of the population), those over the age of 85 will increase three-fold…and the incidence of memory issues, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease increases too.
  • A half million Americans younger than the age of 65 suffer from some form of dementia (memory loss) including Alzheimer’s disease.

Nutritional science offers some important options for the treatment and prevention of all stages of memory loss. If you think that you are suffering from memory loss first visit your doctor. Then seek out a trained clinical nutritionist to perform a detailed nutritional-health consultation and appropriate nutritional lab work.  Here are a few things you might consider in the meantime:

Fatty acid levels analyzed in patients with Alzheimer's disease and cognitive impairment

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid found in salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, and shellfish that is essential for proper brain functioning. Lack of sufficient DHA may be associated with impaired visual functioning, depression, as well as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children.

According to Dr. Julie Conquer and colleagues in Lipids, low levels of omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA, may be a risk factor for cognitive impairment and/or dementia.  A recent study sought to determine the concentration of DHA in a group of patients with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias compared to a group of elderly control subjects with normal cognitive functioning.  For each participant, blood was collected and tested for DHA concentration. Results demonstrated that the concentration of DHA was 48% less in patients with Alzheimer's disease and 21% less in patients with other forms of dementia, compared to the elderly control subjects with normal cognitive function.

Dr. Conquer and colleagues stated that "a decreased level of plasma DHA was not limited to the [Alzheimer's disease] patients but appears to be common in cognitive impairment with aging."  More studies are needed to investigate whether DHA supplementation can reduce the occurrence or symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. (Lipids 2000;35(12):1305-12.).

I have observed DHA deficiency in my clinical practice over the last 22 years.  It’s my judgment that it is safe and worth adding as a nutritional supplement to a balanced diet.  See: www.blooddetective.com for Krill Oil and Vegetarian Omega 3 Fatty Acid.

Acetyl-L-carnitine may prevent Alzheimer's disease

Carnitine is a vitamin-like substance that is responsible for the transport of fatty acids into and out of the mitochondria. Evidence suggests that carnitine may protect neurologic tissue due to its antioxidant and energy producing activity, and its role in neurotransmitter function.

While there are many forms of carnitine, acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) appears to have better activity in the central nervous system, including brain tissue.ALC administration in patients with primary degenerative dementia showed therapeutic efficacy in clinical, behavioral, and neuropsychological evaluations.  A series of controlled studies suggests that ALC may slow the natural course of Alzheimer's disease." In particular, persons with dementia given 1.5 to 3 grams ALC daily for 3 or 6 months have shown improvement in numerous clinical measures of cognitive function.  In addition, "safety and tolerability of ALC [are] remarkably good," further demonstrating the potential use of ALC in a number of progressive neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease. Go to: www.blooddetective.com for L-Carnitine.

B vitamins, homocysteine, and neurological function in the elderly

Folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12 are critical to many body processes, including the health of the nervous system, blood, and cells. In addition, these B-group vitamins have been shown to protect against depression, dementia, Alzheimer's disease, peripheral neuropathy, and seizures.  According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, "the status of these vitamins is frequently inadequate in the elderly and recent studies have shown associations between loss of cognitive function or Alzheimer's disease and inadequate B vitamin status."

Research has shown that an inadequate B vitamin status may result in neurocognitive dysfunction through elevated homocysteine concentrations in the blood, or hyperhomocysteinemia. Homocysteine is an amino acid that is produced in the human body. Prevalent in the elderly population, hyperhomocysteinemia is largely attributed to insufficient levels of folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12.

The association between cognitive dysfunction and hyperhomocysteinemia has been demonstrated in numerous studies. For instance, Dr. Selhub and colleagues reported that "patients with Alzheimer's disease had higher total plasma homocysteine concentrations than did age-matched healthy controls," while "elderly patients with depression who had lower cognitive screening test scores had significantly higher homocysteine concentrations than did patients with normal cognitive screening tests."  Because folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12 are often deficient among many elderly patients, the importance of these vitamins in the prevention of hyperhomocysteinemia and neurocognitive dysfunction cannot be overlooked.  Be sure and use the active forms of folic acid (L-5-methyltetrahydrofolic acid), B12 (methylcobalamine and pyridoxyl-5-phosphate.

Prevention is the key! Be proactive as most regular physicians have no nutritional training and are not up on the latest scientific nutritional literature and advances.

Posted on September 26, 2012 and filed under Baby Boomer Magazine, Editorial by Dr- Wald, Media.