Alzheimer's disease is now at epidemic proportions. With 5.2 million Americans and 1 in 8 people 65 and over currently living with the condition, Alzheimer's disease is also the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. In 2013, Alzheimer's will cost the nation $203 billion. This number is expected to rise to $1.2 trillion by 2050.
Despite all that money being spent, there's no accepted cure and no sustainably effective pharmaceutical drug. It is paramount that we realize that with chronic disease as a whole, and specifically with brain conditions like Alzheimer's, that prevention is the best medicine. That's what functional medicine really offers. We clinically uncover these root cause mechanisms that give rise to chronic degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease.
Breaking Your Genetic Code
When it comes to family history and genetics, I hear many people say, "Well my mom had this disease, or my dad had that disease," and they're unconsciously waiting for the day when the inevitable day comes when they too will be diagnosed with the same disease as their parents. This is an old, outdated view of genetics and one many still believe. This antiquated view that says our genetics are immutable, you are predestined to get whatever disease is in your family history, and there is nothing you can do about it.
The science of today takes into account the field of epigenetics, the environmental factors that turn off and turn on your genetic expression. The foods you eat, the nutrients you take, your stress levels, your exercise levels, they are constantly and dynamically instructing your genes what to do.
Research like the Danish Twin Study has shown that over 90% of how long we live is determined by the choices we make. not our genetics. Sure, people can have a genetic predisposition for a disease, or a specific gene for a disease, but that gene can never expressed if it's not triggered by these controllable lifestyle factors. This is a revolutionary message of health empowerment and responsibility.
So what should you do now to assess your risk and potentially change how you're living your life? Here are the three kinds of tests that everyone should have done to know their risk factors for Alzheimer's disease that I run on my patients around the world:
1. Fasting blood sugar and hemoglobin A1C
In the research, Alzheimer's has been referred to as type 3 diabetes. The higher your insulin resistance and blood sugar levels are, the more degeneration there is at your brain's memory center, the hippocampus. Type 1 and type 2 diabetics are twice as likely to get Alzheimer's because of this reality. When I coach people in reversing their diabetes, their memory inevitably gets sharper, and their brain fog is eliminated.
2. Homocysteine and inflammatory tests
This test is to measure oxidative stress and inflammation in your body. High homocysteine levels are also linked to a deficiency of B vitamins, which can lead to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.
3. Immunological tests
Even though Alzheimer's is classified as a degenerative disease, the immune system plays a significant role in the disease process. There's an exciting field of research in health called the cytokine model of cognitive function, a scientific way of saying how inflammation and your body's immune response are linked to brain conditions. One source of inflammation of the brain has been linked to the foods we eat. Inflammation from foods like grains and certain dairy proteins have been shown to cause brain inflammation and autoimmune responses in the body.
These tests are just a starting point, and they certainly are not the only factor that can help you prevent Alzheimer's disease and lead a healthier life. Once you begin making healthier lifestyle choices, you may find that your well-being improves drastically.