Alzheimer’s Disease is a form of Dementia that is more specifically diagnosed by the presence of beta amyloid plaques within the brain. They especially like to target the Hippocampus, which is where our memories are stored. This contributes to short and long term memory loss in individuals who are diagnosed.
Recent and more in depth research has concluded that Alzheimer’s especially, as well as other forms of Dementia presenting in a similar manner, are indeed vascular in nature. This means that a dysfunction or disease in the blood vessels of the body is strongly correlated with the presence of symptoms and diagnosis. More specifically, findings have concluded that the specific amyloid protein “Medin” might be the major cause and source of vascular pathology.
Medin Promotes Blood Vessel Disease!
Dr. Neher’s team analyzed mouse models with Alzheimer’s and discovered Medin accumulates even more greatly in the brain’s blood vessels if amyloid beta deposits are also present. This was further confirmed in people when they reviewed brain tissue from organ donors with Alzheimer's disease.
In this study, when mice were genetically modified to block Medin formation, drastically fewer amyloid beta deposits developed, and therefore, LESS BLOOD VESSEL DAMAGE!
This team’s extensive research concluded that Medin actually promotes vascular pathology in Alzheimer’s participants and therefore indicates it is one of the CAUSES of Alzheimer’s disease. This is promising for future therapeutic interventions that might now in light of this research aim to target Medin in order to address the cognitive decline and preserve brain functioning in aging and Alzheimer’s disease.
Unfortunately, the aforementioned research is still in the very early stages and will take time to reveal natural strategies to prevent the build-up of Medin in the brain. However, a multitude of studies have already confirmed that we ARE able to stop the accumulation of harmful proteins such as tau and amyloid through DIET, LIFESTYLE, and NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENT
Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and fish oil, such as DHA, can help reduce amyloid beta plaques and prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease. One nutrient you might be less aware of is coffee berry extract. This small red berry is potent in powerful antioxidant polyphenols that increase levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a memory-enhancing protein, throughout the brain.
In general, it is crucial to eat a variety of antioxidant flavonoids which can be found in green leafy vegetables and brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Steering clear of highly processed, sugar-packed foods and beverages is also best practice.
Some studies have also shown that caffeine may actually reduce amyloid beta deposits in the brain. Coffee as well as certain teas, such as green tea, contain both caffeine and those memory-boosting antioxidant flavonoids.
Lastly, and most importantly, get your body moving with exercise! Research shows that those who regularly exercise and maintain a healthy weight are less likely to experience many diseases associated with aging, including Alzheimer’s disease.
While aerobic exercise has already been shown to boost BDNF in the brain, recent studies have specifically highlighted the dramatic effects of high intensity interval training. Short, but intense bursts of physical activity showed to have an amazing impact on the brain, increasing the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF), and is associated with overall better cognition and memory function.
Other research has also shown that intermittent fasting boosts BDNF and increases hippocampal neurogenesis (creation of new brain cells in the area of the brain that controls our memory).
A New Zealand study aimed to analyze the highest BDNF producing modality when comparing each high intensity 6 minute exercise bursts, vs 90 minute low intensity exercise, vs fasting for 20 hours, as well as mixing fasting and exercise together.
The team discovered that by far, high intensity exercise was the best way to increase BDNF in the brain, with results showing 4-5 times the amount of BDNF when compared to low-intensity cycling!
I personally am not a huge fan of the prolonged 20 hour fasts described in this study, but I am definitely a high proponent of intermittent fasting (short, regular fasts), and physical activity of all types for brain health. Spice up your next indoor workout on the stationary bike or treadmill by changing your settings to short intense bouts, followed by a period of rest. I also like to incorporate this principle when walking outside. I will walk for 2 minutes at a normal pace, followed by 30 seconds of sprinting or walking at my fastest tolerated pace. Fun fact, this is not only great for the brain, but also for your adrenal glands! High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) classes are also becoming more popular in studio settings or at your local gym. Regardless of which type of HIIT modality you choose, your brain LOVES exercise so get out there and get moving to prevent Alzheimer’s today!
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Author: Dr. Sarah Kingsley PT, DPT, RYT
This information is generalized and intended for educational purposes only. Due to potential individual contraindications, please see your primary care provider before implementing any strategies in these posts.