According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, “The number of Canadians with dementia is rising sharply. As of today, there are over half a million Canadians living with dementia – plus about 25,000 new cases diagnosed every year.” There are four types of conventional dementia: lewy body, vascular, frontotemporal, and Alzheimer’s, with Alzheimer’s being the most prevalent. Dementias involve a decline in one or more cognitive domains:
- Learning and memory
- Executive function
- Complex attention
- Social cognition
The accumulation of protein plaques, tangles and aggregates in the brain is associated with the development of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Recently new research3,5,6has indicated that such pathologies can potentially be reversed, or that their progression can possibly be slowed at the very least. Much has also been learned about the many factors that are associated with an increased risk of developing these pathologies, such as:
- Genetics (such as the APOEe4 and APOEe3 single nucleotide polymorphisms, among others)
- Elevated blood sugar (Alzheimer’s is sometimes dubbed “Diabetes Type 3” of the brain)
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Certain medications (such as proton pump inhibitors, statins, Ambien, and others)
- Toxin and heavy metal exposure (e.g. pesticides, pollution, smoking, fungal toxins)
- Nutrient deficiencies (most notably B12, zinc and vitamin D)
- Certain foods (e.g. oxidized oils, refined sugars, gluten and other undetected food sensitivities)
- Hearing loss (leads to decreased neural stimulation)
- Insomnia and poor sleep quality
- Immune and inflammation imbalances
- Gut flora imbalances (e.g. excess or insufficient quantities of certain bacteria)
Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are well equipped to help patients address each of the above risk factors. Your ND will start with a thorough history taking to identify individual contributing factors and areas of concern, then she/he will discuss with you whether any further investigations may be indicated in your case, such as lab testing pertaining to any of the following: blood sugar regulation, inflammation, thyroid, adrenals, sex hormones, neurotransmitters, nutrient status, food sensitivities, or digestive health. Naturopathic doctors can also analyze your genetic data from external genetic testing. Your ND may also advise you with regards to diet, exercise, toxin exposure reduction, detoxification, medications, and optimization of sleep, digestion and stress management. Sometimes even small changes can be of significant benefit when it comes to reducing the risk of dementia.
Some of the factors that are believed to be protective against dementia include1,6:
- Regularly engaging in moderate aerobic exercise suited to your ability
- A diet rich in healthy fats and low in refined carbohydrates, including the Mediterranean diet, and rich in vegetables (especially those of the cruciferous aka brassica family, such as broccoli, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage etc.) and low-glycemic fruits (e.g. pears, apples, berries)
- Addressing hearing loss
- Maintaining social connections and activities throughout the aging process
- Maintaining a healthy weight and blood sugar regulation, which may include intermittent fasting
- Stress reduction in general, and e.g. meditation, music, journaling, gardening, time in nature, emotional counselling etc.
- Supplements and medications that address elevated blood sugar (e.g. berberine, possibly Metformin), cholesterol imbalances (e.g. berberine, plant sterols), and inflammation (e.g. curcumin – an extract of turmeric)
It’s important that you consult your healthcare practitioner before making changes in your diet, lifestyle, medications, or intake of supplements. If you’re interested in dementia risk-reduction or supportive care, make an appointment with one of our licensed naturopathic doctors by calling Sage Clinic: 250-590-7809, or book online.
- Burčul, F et al. Isothiocyanates: cholinesterase inhibiting, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory activity. J Enzyme Inhib Med Chem.2018 Dec;33(1):577-582.
<https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29513045> Accessed January 18, 2019.
- Campbell, JM et al. Metformin use associated with reduced risk of dementia in patients with diabetes: A systemic review and meta-analysis. J Alzheimers Dis.2018;65(4):1225-1236 <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30149446> Accessed January 18, 2019.
- Hu, X et al. BACE1 deletion in the adult mouse reverses preformed amyloid deposition and improves cognitive functions. J Exp Med.2018 Mar 5;215(3):927-940. <http://jem.rupress.org/content/215/3/927> Accessed January 18, 2019.
- Latest Information and Statistics. Alzheimer Society of Canada.
Published June 29, 2018. Accessed January 18, 2019.
- Martini, F et al. A multifunctional compound ebselen reverses memory impairment, apoptosis and oxidative stress in a mouse model of sporadic Alzheimer’s disease. J Psychiatr Res. 2019 Feb;109:107-117. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30521994> Accessed January 18, 2019.
- Wilson, Doni. Intensive on reversing Alzheimer disease and cognitive decline. Presentation at the 2018 British Columbia Naturopathic Association Conference in Vancouver, BC.