3 Overlooked Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s and Dementia – And How to Reduce Your Risk

Dr. Frank Shallenberger, MD

June 17, 2019



Recently, I saw an ad on TV asking for donations toward a cure for Alzheimer’s. The ad said, “Somewhere out there is the first person to be cured from Alzheimer’s.” I thought to myself, how sad that our minds have been so trained to wait for the disease to develop and then find a cure for it. Why not just prevent it from happening in the first place? The various factors causing Alzheimer’s are already known. I have discussed them in this newsletter for years. And I can tell you for sure that right now there are thousands of people out there who are already preventing the disease.

In recent months, there’s been even more research coming out pointing to ways to prevent Alzheimer’s. Here are three major risk factors and what you can do to lower your risk for the disease.

Risk Factor #1

Compromised circulation: When we think of vascular disease, we typically associate it with the heart. But vascular function is vital to the brain as well. So even in healthy individuals, it seems that modest declines in vascular health can have big implications. But the latest research in this area could actually have good news for people worried about cognitive decline.

Synergy typically has positive connotations, but unfortunately that’s not the case here. It seems that having a compromised circulation works synergistically with amyloid-beta protein. You probably know that this protein is the basis of sticky plaques that form in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. It seems that cognitive decline occurs more quickly in people with risk factors known to compromise their circulation and high brain amyloid levels, than it would if any of these two factors existed independently.

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) determined this by looking at data from 223 people who took part in the Harvard Aging Brain Study. This study was of people between the ages of 50 and 90 who had cognitively normal brains. The participants received PET scans to check for amyloid deposits. The researchers also recorded hypertension, body mass index, diabetes history, and smoking habits. These all contribute to risk of compromised circulation.

The MGH researchers found that amyloid plaques contributed to cognitive decline. So did compromised circulation risk factors. But when both were present, the rate of decline was even greater.

So what’s the good news? While we still don’t know a lot about removing beta amyloid, we do know a lot about how to maintain healthy circulation even in advanced years. Eliminating the risk factors mentioned above and having a regular aerobic exercise routine will slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s even in those who already have it. More importantly, doing this will also work to prevent the disease in the first place.

Risk Factor #2

High Blood Pressure: We all know that high blood pressure is bad. But not everyone understands why it’s bad. Chronic high blood pressure damages your organs. And it doesn’t just hurt your heart. This study indicates that hypertension harms the brain as well.

Once you start noticing cognitive decline, it may be too late to reverse the damage. So it’s important to have an early warning. Researchers in Italy have found that high blood pressure can be a clue that the brain needs help.

The researchers looked at the brains of people ranging in age from 40 to 65 using MRI scans. None of the participants had received a dementia diagnosis. Nor did they show any signs of structural damage in their brains.

The researchers used the MRI scans to look at changes in the white matter of the brains. Previous studies have linked these changes to cognitive impairment.

Sure enough, the patients with hypertension had significant changes in three specific areas of white matter. They also had decreased performances in executive functioning, processing speed, memory, and learning. The damaged white matter fibers connect all of these areas.

Conventional neuroimaging wouldn’t capture these changes. And the patients didn’t have any symptoms – yet. So this study provides important information for doctors and patients. We’ll need further studies, but it may become routine for people with high blood pressure to have MRIs to check their brains.

Personally, I think you can skip the scan and go right to prevention strategies. We know that hypertension is dangerous. Getting your blood pressure under control will help your heart, your brain, and your other organs. 

Besides the obvious combination of right diet, weight control, and aerobic exercise, one of the best ways to do this is with CircO2. It supports healthy nitric oxide production throughout the body. This will make sure your blood is circulating properly, delivering oxygen and nutrients to all your organs. 

CircO2 contains additional nutrients like hawthorn berry extract and beet root powder that support normal blood pressure. It will also help give you more energy, which will enable you to make the other healthy changes you might be needing.

Risk Factor #3

Excess Alcohol Consumption: Sometimes advice about how to prevent Alzheimer’s disease is conflicting. Alcohol has been one such gray area. Now, new research is investigating a way that alcohol may affect your gray matter. And it’s worth taking note of if you’re hoping to avoid Alzheimer’s

In the past, I’ve shown you how light to moderate alcohol intake can protect your brain. But this study focused on people who drank more than moderate amounts of alcohol. This might be the key.

As we already discussed, amyloid beta is the sticky protein plaques that can damage nerves. They’re common in Alzheimer’s patients. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago investigated the connection between amyloid beta and alcohol.

The researchers looked at genes in the cells that help the brain protect itself from Alzheimer’s. In particular, they examined microglial cells, which help support the brain’s neural cells. One way they do that is by getting rid of amyloid beta plaques. This process is called phagocytosis.

For their study, the researchers used rat microglial cells. They exposed some of them to alcohol and some to inflammatory cytokines. They also exposed them to both alcohol and cytokines. Then they looked at how gene expression changed.

Exposure to alcohol changed the expression of 312 genes. Cytokine exposure shot the number up to 3,082. And 3,552 genes changed in the presence of both alcohol and cytokines. Many of these genes are involved in phagocytosis.  Then they evaluated whether alcohol affected phagocytosis. Amazingly, they found that after an hour, heavy alcohol exposure significantly suppresses phagocytosis by about 15%. The amount of alcohol the researchers used is comparable to what heavy or binge drinkers would consume.

More Action to Take

If you want to make sure you don’t develop Alzheimer’s or any other form of cognitive decline, read my book, Bursting With Energy, and follow the advice. Also, check out the archives for the many reports I have already written about keeping your brain fully functioning for life. There’s plenty of information on my website about how to take all these steps.

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