When my father turned seventy years old, he was fired from the company he had worked for for many years. He was not ready to stop working and his physical and mental decline after that was rapid and heartbreaking.
In his mid-life, he was robust and energetic, whistling as he got ready to start the day. He would appear at the breakfast table with great enthusiasm, clean shaven and all dressed in a crisp shirt, suit, tie and polished leather shoes. Each day he would proclaim how he loved his work as he walked through the front door.
My father was a traveling salesman, in the true sense of the word, and his car, the vehicle of his freedom, took him to the customers he served. There was no nine-to-five desk job in his world; he got into his Buick every day and chose where he wanted to go. He sold expensive gold jewelry and all the fine jewelry stores throughout California, Nevada and Hawaii knew him as he pulled his sample cases out of the trunk of his alarmed car to display the glittery bracelets, chains, earrings and rings.
As he got older and more vulnerable, he grew more concerned about getting robbed while he was on the road. He had been hearing through the jewelry grapevine that a group of robbers were targeting gold salesmen, following their cars and then trapping them on the road, forcing them to open their trunks and hand over the expensive samples. When it was his turn, the robbers forced him off the freeway and trapped him on a quiet road out of public view. Even with an expensive alarm system in his car, they stole every piece of gold he had and the company he worked for sued him for the loss of the gold samples. By the time the case went to court, my father was deep in the grip of Alzheimer’s and so confused, he couldn’t answer any of the questions his young attorney asked him when she put him on the stand. She wept in frustration and the judge, sympathizing with the situation, dismissed the case.
After that, he and my mother, who became his caregiver, spent their days together. At one point, she was so annoyed with his constant demand for the car keys that she gave them to him and he left the house, slamming the door behind him. He had always driven, so why not now? Regretting what she had done and waiting for hours to hear from him, she finally received a call from a woman who had seen him wondering on the street miles from where they lived. Relieved, my mother picked him up as he waited for her but the car he had taken, the symbol of his life on the road, was lost and never found.
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. . .”
My father loved sugar and by the time he reached forty, he was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes - also known then as “Adult Onset Diabetes”. Until recently, Type 2 Diabetes was only known as a lifestyle condition of adults; these days, we see it in children as well as adults from eating too many sugary cereals, sodas, fruit juice and processed “non-foods” from Trader Joe’s that humans have consumed in excess for the last fifty years.
A precursor to Type 2 Diabetes is a condition called Insulin Resistance. This arises when there is so much glucose roaming through the bloodstream that Insulin stops recognizing it and becomes “resistant” to the one substance - glucose - it is supposed to bind to, pulling it out of the bloodstream to be used for energy. According to Dale Bredesen, M.D., everyone that he tested over the forty years of research he did for his book, “The End of Alzheimer’s”, was Insulin Resistant. This is important because too much Insulin in the body creates extra fat and massive, generalized inflammation in the arteries, organs and finally, the brain, leading to dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
There’s one more important thing connecting sugar, Insulin and inflammation, in relation to Alzheimer’s Disease, and that is a substance called: Insulin Degrading Enzyme. (I know I’m nerding out on you, but please bear with me.). This is important because this enzyme is a direct link to Diabetes and Dementia via a pathway that degrades both Insulin and the amyloid plaques that are prominently seen in people with Alzheimer’s Disease. Like all enzymes, this enzyme’s job is to break down a substance; Insulin Degrading Enzyme will choose to degrade Insulin first, before the amyloid plaques, creating more damage to the brain...In other words, the more Insulin you have, the more amyloid plaques...
Isis has Nothing on Our Food System
-Dale Bredesen, M.D.
As I said in my last two newsletters, (here are links, if you missed them) we now know that even if you carry the ApoE4 genes passed down from a parent or two, it is your lifestyle habits that will create either health or dis-ease. It is your choice to get busy about this now, and become the change you have been seeking...
Here is an outline of the protocol:
-Start with a baseline of tests, including the important inflammatory markers, Homocysteine, the Zinc/Copper ratio, the Omega 6/Omega 3 ratio, hormones and all the vitamins.
-Consider doing 23 and Me, or one of the other genetic tests; this is not essential, but good information.
-If you have family members with Alzheimer’s or if you are starting to have symptoms (like forgetting words), consider going on a Ketogenic diet. Dr. Bredesen calls his version the “Ketoflex Diet”. This type of eating is anti-inflammatory, makes the brain happy and, done properly, uses your own fat for fuel, instead of glucose. Purchase a ketone meter.
-Consider Intermittent Fasting - There is a lot of research now on the benefits of fasting on the brain and longevity. Eating in small, daily windows of time is a healthy practice.
-Make sure your sleep hygiene is good, that you are not interrupted by blue light from electronics for at least an hour before bedtime and you do not have Apnea. This is crucial for brain health. The brain goes through major cleansing during the night and you are also fasting during this time.
-Choose a Mindfulness practice that you do every day.
-Choose an aerobic exercise that you do for at least thirty minutes per day and resistance training two or three times per week.
-Connect with your tribe; having community increases health and longevity, along with joy and laughter.
Confused about how to begin?
**Set up a free 15 minute phone consultation to learn more about the Root Causes of dementia and how I can support you and your family to get your brain on track.
***Set up your first appointment and receive a full list of tests to order, along with key information about important lifestyle changes and a step by step schedule to create a personalized program with guidance from Dr. Potters.
“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
I was in my early thirties when I discovered Buddhism. Starting with all the books of Thich Nhat Hahn, then the Dalai Lama, Robert Thurman, Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Salzberg, Jack Cornfield and Jon Kabat Zinn. This was before the internet and Amazon, when book stores and libraries were where you got your books. I would sit in my local book store and clean off the shelves in the Buddhism section until I had read them all. I had found my Spiritual home and become a Jew/Bu.
My mother, not so much. As she started to get older, I recommended we read the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying together, an amazing and scholarly book on the transitions humans make from life to death, but she would have no part of it. The Torah was more her thing.
Buddhists prepare for death early in life; death and meditation are close companions and current research using Buddhist monks who have meditated during their entire lives shows that meditation keeps the memory centers of the brain strong - so strong that the monk brains don’t look anything like brains that have never meditated. Encouraged by some friends, she and my father had learned Transcendental Meditation and been given their own Mantras early in their adulthood, but didn’t practice regularly.
Plaques and Tangles
The brain is a miracle, an intricate and complicated computer, allowing us humans to think, speak, create, express sensations and emotions. The Buddhist concept of Mindfulness teaches us to be more present and to manage our busy minds. When we notice its racing thoughts, even for a short time, Sharon Salzburg calls this, “The magic moment”. This moment when we catch the brain in action, strengthens areas of the brain that store memories. Meditation practice also shifts us into the parasympathetic part of the nervous system, creating relaxation and stress reduction. It is not a failure when the mind races; its a natural process. Instead, what is a Miracle is the moment when we stop, notice the Monkey Mind and come into the grace that is our lives. Meditation is one of the strategies to avoid Alzheimer’s Disease.
The damage that occurs in all three types of Alzheimer’s dementia does not allow for those moments of presence; as the brain becomes more damaged, it uses its precious energy to remember only its oldest memories - not its current ones. This is the reason that those victims of the disease can remember their early childhood, but have no idea what they ate for breakfast.
“This research has delivered one more big dividend. It has shown that Alzheimer’s disease is not a single disease but is actually three distinguishable syndromes.”
-from “The End of Alzheimer’s”
Those of us who have followed any reporting on Alzheimer’s Disease have come across research on a substance found in the brains of all people diagnosed with the condition: Amyloid-beta. At first, it was thought that this substance that formed sticky “plagues and tangles” in the brain was damaging and pharmaceutical companies tried to create a drug that would remove it. In digging deeper, Bredesen and his team discovered that, rather than being destructive, the creation of amyloid-beta is a reaction to brain insults and removing it would create significantly more problems.
The first step, therefore, is finding which subtype of the disease you or a loved one may have.
Type 1 - Inflammatory (hot): It turns out that when humans transitioned from chimpanzees, we all had two copies (one from each parent) of the ApoE4 gene - a gene associated with Alzheimer’s Disease and inflammation. Why would we need inflammation - a symptom that causes all the chronic conditions of our time and that we are all trying to avoid? Apparently, when we came out of the trees, walking the savanna, inflammation was handy, telling us when we needed to pay attention to traumatic injuries and pathogens from eating raw meat. I remember studying inflammation in medical school; it’s an important reaction to acute insults. The real problems come when inflammation becomes chronic, seeping into the body’s most vulnerable areas and festering until it turns into disease that is hard to fix. At one point, it saves lives; at another, it creates chronic conditions that are deadly.
Currently, about 25 per cent of Americans carry a single copy of the ApoE4 gene, giving them an Alzheimer’s risk of about 30 percent; these folks will see symptoms in the late fifties or sixties. About 7 million people carry both copies of the gene, giving them a risk of above 50 percent; those people will see symptoms in the late forties to fifties. If you carry the gene from both parents, it is likely that it is the inflammatory sub-type.
This type is identified by laboratory markers that assess inflammation and, most especially, by hormonal abnormalities like Insulin Resistance. This type is most responsive to the ReCODE protocol, which I will go into in the next newsletter.
Type 2 - Atrophic (cold): In this subtype, there is no evidence of inflammation; instead, hormonal support needed for brain synapses and function is not there or very weak. These people will begin to see symptoms about a decade later than the Inflammatory type. Hormone levels that include Thyroid, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, pregnenolone and cortisol are low; Vitamin D (considered a hormone) is reduced; Insulin Resistance is almost always present; homocysteine, an important amino acid, may be increased.
Type 1 and 2 combination - glycotoxic (sweet): This combination creates chronically high Glucose levels, the reason it is characterized as “sweet”; and, Insulin Resistance, resulting from high Glucose. In this type, there is an imbalance in the production and destruction of brain synapses, similar to the imbalance in production and resorption of bone cells in Osteoporosis. Note that in both types 1 and 2, there are problems with Insulin Resistance and Glucose levels.
Type 3 - toxic (vile): About 220,000 years ago, there were mutations in our genes, turning the ApoE4 allele, into the ApoE3 gene. This Alzheimer’s toxic sub-type carries copies of the ApoE3 gene and typically, Alzheimer’s Disease is not seen in these families, unless diagnosed at a very late age. This type begins showing symptoms in the late forties to late sixties - earlier than the other types. The symptoms of cognitive decline - not memory loss - are generally followed by a stressful event. They have problems calculating numbers, spelling or reading and have psychiatric problems, like depression or ADD.
One thing to think about, especially in this toxic form of the disease is the idea of dementogens - toxic substances similar to the idea of carcinogens - that could cause the damage seen in this type. People diagnosed with type-3 have been exposed to toxic levels of things like mycotoxins (mold) and Mercury, found in amalgam fillings (an important reason to get them removed by a biologic dentist). They also have abnormal levels of hormones and a high ratio of copper to zinc.
After witnessing the suffering of my father, who ended his life in a haze, not speaking and eventually forgetting how to breathe, I didn’t want to know whether I carried the ApoE4 gene. I assumed it was likely, but since my lifestyle habits as an adult have been very good and I follow the ReCODE program, I have decided to get tested. In the meantime, the next blog will go through the ReCODE protocol so that you will know what to do to avoid the ravages of this disease and live a long and healthy life.