The good news is, YES! Read on
Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Stroke, Traumatic Brain Injury, “Old Age”… the numerous possible causes of dementia can be difficult to determine, diagnose and treat, but are there some universal strategies for preventing dementia as we age?
There are certain factors that seem to influence the development and progression of age-related cognitive decline, regardless of the diagnosis – and things we can do in ‘middle-age’ to mitigate some risk-factors and keep our brains healthy for the long-haul.
While research continues into the underlying cause of Alzheimer’s Disease and other conditions that impact brain health, one thing we know is that proper circulation in the brain is critical to long term overall health.
Experts interviewed for a New York Times article about Alzheimer’s said,
“…the precipitating factor is diminished blood flow to the brain. Alzheimer’s disease is a vascular disease,” said Dr. Albert Hofman, chairman of the epidemiology department at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Dr. Seth Love, professor of pathology at the University of Bristol in England, noted that a core feature of Alzheimer’s is a reduction in blood flow through the cerebrum of the brain.
Four pathological processes of Alzheimer’s have been identified in recent research:
Vascular hypoperfusion of the brain (and disturbed microcirculation) with associated mitochondrial dysfunction
Destructive protein inclusions (intracellular neurofibrillary tangles–phosphorylated and aggregated tau protein), and extracellular amyloid plaques
Uncontrolled oxidative stress
Proinflammatory immune processes secondary to microglial and astrocytic dysfunction in the brain.
Even television’s Dr. Oz weighs in with his ‘Disease Detectives’ series.
It is believed that changes in the brain begin 20 – 30 years before the symptoms of Alzheimer’s are apparent and ‘diagnosable’ through current methods.
So what can you do now – whatever your age – to protect your brain from dementia later in life?
A heart-healthy diet is vital to dementia prevention, of course. Avoiding environmental toxins – smoking, heavy metals, pollution and contaminants – is important, too. Learning new things and staying socially active keep the brain stimulated and improve quality of life.
One of the easiest ways to improve circulation is no surprise – physical exercise! Studies show the benefits of exercise can counteract the added risk of genetic predisposition for those with theApoE4 gene.
“…there may be certain things we are born with, and certain things that we can’t change ]when it comes to Alzheimer’s risk], but a behavior like physical exercise might help us to modify that,” says Heather Snyder, vice president of medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association.
Another preventive measure to consider is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy*. HBOT is known to produce quicker and more thorough absorption of oxygen, which can assist in healing of brain and muscle injuries. It is a safe, non-invasive treatment for health care issues that involve too little blood flow to a part of the body.
HBOT targets all four of the pathological processes of AD by: affecting the microcirculation mitochondrial dysfunction and biogenesis, reducing amyloid burden and tau phosphorylation, controlling oxidative stress, and reducing inflammation.
*Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves exposing patients to pure oxygen inside a pressurized chamber, and is commonly used to treat carbon monoxide poisoning, wound issues, skin grafts, heat burns, crush injuries and other acute conditions. HBOT can repair vascular damage caused by injury or illness and increase blood-flow and oxygenation in the brain – and throughout the body.