In an earlier blog post, I reviewed a bestselling book by Dr. Dale Bredesen called The End of Alzheimer's. Intrigued, I embarked on my own journey to see where I stand on the risk spectrum for developing Alzheimer's later in life. It turns out that at only thirty-eight years of age, I am well on my way down that road and I am willing to bet that you are, too.
"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." - Aldous Huxley
By some estimates, half of the people alive in the United States today can expect to develop Alzheimer's within their lifetime. In the past twenty years, the number of women in America living with Alzheimer's disease has increased by 228%. Alzheimer's is the only leading cause of death in this country that cannot be prevented, cured or effectively treated.
But what if it's not a disease at all? Perhaps the cure is not in a pill but rather, in knowledge and individual choice. People living with Alzheimer's have experienced complete reversal of their symptoms, as evidenced by multiple studies.
Some scientists belive that by addressing and eliminating "neurothreats", cognitive decline can be prevented and effectively treated. Unfortunately, some of these same scientists are developing proprietary protocols to offer these therapeutic programs to the general public for extensive amounts of money.
I think that is a crock. If you can save the world, do it for free.
I worked with my doctor to get an extensive wellness exam, or "cognoscopy". You can read more about the detailed lab work in my previous blog post. The goal was to identify risk factors in three main categories: chronic inflammation, suboptimal hormones and trophic factors, and exposure to environmental toxins.
23andme provided my initial genetic health and wellness reports, some of which are useful for assessing Alzheimer's risk. In particular, the APOE gene. Since 23andme does not provide all relevant reports to satiate my curiosity, such as methylation risk factors, I uploaded my raw genetic data to a couple of outside processing services.
The bill came in recently for my lab testing. It is, without question, the best hundred bucks I've ever spent. If you're interested in getting a cognoscopy and you want to know how to make this an affordable endeavor, please contact me. I am happy to share!
The good news is that I do not seem to have issues with chronic inflammation, which is the first of three categories of "neurothreats" in Dr. Bredesen's book.
The not-so-good news is that my body doesn't properly produce or utilize all hormones and trophic factors. Trophic factors are those things that make our cells function, live and die properly such as vitamins and minerals. I've also been exposed to toxic substances. So, dings in two out of three categories.
Oddly enough, I feel pretty good and I look pretty good. I'm five feet eight inches, weigh 135 pounds. I work out, eat well and do a decent job of managing my stress. I pass my annual physicals (when I go!) with flying colors. By all accounts, I am the picture of health and I would have just gone on believing that and so would my doctor.
And I would probably develop Alzheimer's.
The good news is that I can fix every single one of these problems by making simple changes to my lifestyle. Most of it can be addressed by changing up my diet and adding some daily supplements, like Vitamin D.
While I can't change the fact that I have genetic risks for Alzheimer's and other conditions, I can change the way that my genes express by making simple lifestyle changes. A good example is the MTHFR gene. I (like an estimated 60% of caucasians) have one mutated copy of this gene. The MTHFR gene controls what is known as the DNA methylation process and when it does not work properly, it impairs the functioning of every single cell in our bodies. Things that we take for granted like how our bodies make energy from food, our brain chemistry and detoxification are all controlled by the methylation process.
Just having one mutated copy, however, is appparenly not that big of a deal. But I have another mutation on another gene associated with the methylation process and so my risk is higher. My bloodwork shows evidence of impaired methylation in my body and that will get worse and worse as I age. This also increases my risk of developing Alzheimer's.
As much as this bums me out, I've given up alcohol completely until my next round of bloodwork in three months. Alchohol depresses the methylation process, which truly could be a root cause of all the symptoms I am experiencing and many of the suboptimal results in my bloodwork.
I must also stop vaping. I tested positive for arsenic...quite a bit of it, in fact. The coils in vaping devices apparently release arsenic and lead into the body.
So the plan is simple: eat the right stuff, take the right supplements and stop poisoning myself. When I go back for follow-up bloodwork in three months, I fully expect to have eliminated all neurothreats that pave the way to Alzheimer's.
I'm changing directions. I'm getting the hell off this road to cognitive decline and onto the highway of purposeful aging.
Even if Dr. Bredesen is wrong about preventing and reversing Alzheimer's, the worst case scenario is I reduce my chances of getting cancer, heart disease, diabetes and all other chronic degenerative conditions.
What's your plan?Do you want to remain social, active and independent as you age or passively slip into cognitive and physical decline, burdening your family and society and missing out on so much of this great gift we call LIFE?
We can't control everything. But what we can control, we must.