To prevent Alzheimer’s disease, think about just improving the health of your heart and you’ll do the same for your brain health. Studies have shown that these two diseases correlate with each: the more you have a healthy heart, the less likely you’ll get Alzheimer’s disease. Those who practice a heart-healthy lifestyle starting in their 40’s is almost 70% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s about keeping your arteries healthy. Arteries feed every organ of your body, including your brain and the heart itself. These are your vascular system, and the heart is the pump that keeps the blood flowing through them. The combination of the two is your cardio (heart) vascular (arteries) system.
The arteries need to be wide open and their lumen should not be narrowed by cholesterol deposits or other obstruction. They need to be flexible, contracting and expanding whenever needed. In order to do this, your arteries are made up of a very complex system of endothelium (the lining of the arteries) and smooth muscles to all work in coordination to keep the blood flow good. Any blockage or disruption of this system can cause cardiovascular disease.
Improve the Endothelium
The endothelium is the inside lining of every one of your arteries. Think of it as a layer of tiny tiles laid side to side within the inside wall of every vessel in your body. Each thin cell (the tile) has lots of functions to make sure the endothelium works properly. They are not just static tiles on a curved wall; they must be functional units so the system works well.
The endothelial cells secrete a substance that acts like a thin lining on top of this layer of cells, which is called the glycocalyx. I have discussed the glycocalyx on another blog article [Link]. The endothelium with its thin glycocalyx do several things as outlined below.
Just think of all the things the endothelium must do to keep itself and your organs healthy. It must:
- Be able to expand and contract in conjunction with the muscles below it.
- Secrete a substance that lets the blood flow along it in a very slick manner
- Somehow repel the blood from scratching, tearing or damaging the endothelial cells themselves
- Secrete some substance that prevents clot formation
- Repair itself if a tear occurs
- Clean up and get rid of any old cells that have been damaged
- Prevent itself from attacks by viruses and bacteria.
- Replace old damaged cells with new cells
- Secrete some substances that tell the muscle around it to relax with the beating of the heart
- Tell the muscles when to contract to push the blood through between beats
This is most likely just a partial list, but it exemplifies the complex process that must occur to give you good arterial health. It’s not just about cholesterol levels. If you want the best heart health, you need to make every artery and capillary in your body as healthy as you can by making sure each of the above functions is working optimally. When you feed every organ well, each organ is better too. Thus, making your cardiovascular system healthy is one of the best ways to decrease your risk of developing all types of chronic medical illnesses, including dementias and even cancers. The better your heart health, the less dementia and the less chance of developing cancers.
Is Cholesterol the Answer?
Doctors always make a big deal about keeping your cholesterol levels low. This stems from the Framingham studies that showed a correlation between high cholesterol levels and heart disease. But the story has gotten a lot more complicated. It’s not the total cholesterol that’s the problem, it’s the type of cholesterol.
To have the best endothelial health, you need to decrease the small “granules” of cholesterol. Those are the ones that can get stuck under the endothelial cells, collect, and cause a plaque formation over time. Then your immune system kicks in to get rid of these and clean up the mess. If inflammation occurs in these plaques, the plaques can become unstable, rupture, and then really cause a problem depending on where the plaque is. For instance, if in the heart the rupture could result in a heart attack.
Thus, making sure your cholesterol numbers are good is a very important idea. If they’re not, there are meds and supplements that you can take that will help this. Things like bergamot (from the bergamot fruit), polyphenols, and red rice yeast are supplements, the numerous statin medications are other options.
What Can You do to Improve Your Heart Health?
So your goal to improve your brain health and decrease your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease is to improve your heart health. Actually, all the actions do both. We at TrueMD are dedicated to these goals. You can improve your health and wellness if are willing to let us help guide you to do the concepts that will help get you there.
Lifestyle changes and having an open mind to new concepts are important. If you want to know what to do, here are the concepts that you can do to improve your heart health and in turn improve your brain and your total body health:
- Lose weight and Eat Right: Maintaining a normal body weight is imperative. All studies confirm that the higher your BMI, the more likely inflammation gets worse in your body, which can then lead to formation of about any type of chronic medical illness you can think of.
- We recommend you get to a BMI of 20 to 25 and maintain it there if you can
- If you can’t, do a weight-loss program. Don’t delay! Remember the damage starts when you’re young so you must take care of your weight problem early for the best results
- The latest recommendations are a ketogenic type of Mediterranean diet, such as what we teach in our office. Studies confirm the beneficial effects of this type of diet
- Exercise your body and your mind:
- Physical exercise has been proven multiple multiple times to improve cardiovascular health. I don’t think we have to belabor this point.
- Also exercise your mind; keep you mind active with conversations, reading, learning new stuff or whatever. These also have been shown to reduce risk of dementias.
- Attack age inducers: Take supplements that help your endothelium
- Compounds that can improve the endothelial lining to repel blood, prevent clotting, make the lining slick, etc. Omega 3’s, vitamin E, are one type of supplement that may help.
- Substances that help in the dilation of the arteries to relax the muscles. They do this by increasing the production of Nitric Oxide (NO) that relaxes the smooth muscles in the walls of the arteries and makes them less “stiff”.
- Antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that prevent damage to the endothelial cells plus prevent the inflammation that can occur once the vessels become inflamed due to internal injuries, e.g. from excess cholesterol damage.
- CoQ10 and other substances that improve mitochondrial function to improve the energy within the endothelial and muscle cells.
- Replenish low hormone levels
- Make sure you maintain good hormone levels. If these levels are low, replenish them to more youthful levels.
- Keeping your hormones at optimal levels when they get low (e.g. menopause and andropause) has been shown to improve your cardiovascular health and your brain health.
- When done correctly (and we usually recommend bioidentical hormone pellet therapy as the best option) you get the benefits while don’t have increased risks.
- Nourish your mind and soul
- Stress reduction – if you can’t reduce the stresses, at least manage your stresses
- Stay social with friends and family – known to keep your mind active and you happy
- Sleep adequately – get enough to replenish the neurotransmitters in your brain
- Stay sexually active, and this has shown to be beneficial for the former three items too.
Some natural food extracts, concentrated nutrients, that do a combination of many of these actions discussed on by blog include blueberry extract and Pomegranate Extract. Other supplements are resveratrol, curcumin, green tea, and quercetin.
 Sabia, S, et al. Association of ideal cardiovascular health at age 50 with incidence of dementia: 25-year follow-up of Whitehall II cohort study. BMJ 2019; 366 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l4414