What is Alzheimer's Disease?

by Amylee Amos MS, RDN

Alzheimer’s disease is the 3rd leading cause of death in the United States (1). It kills more people per year than breast cancer and prostate combined. By 2050, it is projected that 14 million Americans will be living with Alzheimer’s (2). This disease has the potential to fully bankrupt our healthcare system, not to mention shatter lives on an even more monumental scale than it already does. It’s an epidemic that must be addressed. And yet very few actually know what the root cause of Alzheimer’s is. In fact, the etiology is largely disputed among doctors and researchers.

What we are calling Alzheimer’s disease is a collection of signs and symptoms. Among other things, it is characterized by memory loss and other cognitive and behavioral changes that generally worsen over time, as well as characteristic beta amyloid plaques and tau tangles that accumulate in brain tissue. It is these things that doctors use to make a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. But simply identifying the name of this disease does little to help the individual and family suffering from it. We need to ask why the disease has taken hold. Finding this answer allows the disease to be treated.

In this video clip, we discuss this topic with Dr. Dale Bredesen. He compares a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease from a doctor to taking you broken car to a mechanic and being told that it has ‘car not working syndrome.’ For many people, being told that they or their family member has Alzheimer’s disease is less than shocking. By that point, the individual has been suffering from cognitive decline for years, maybe even decades. The diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is as obvious as being told that the broken car is not working. But, again, why is the system not working?

As Dr. Bredesen states, “there are dozens of things that lead to the same imbalance that we refer to as Alzheimer’s disease.” An individual suffering from cognitive decline or Alzheimer’s disease requires advanced personalized testing and lifestyle assessment to determine what the individual metabolic imbalances are that have lead to this programmatic downsizing. This is what is done in the Bredesen Protocol. The Bredesen Protocol identifies the root cause of the disease, rather than attempting to mask the symptoms.

There is a molecular switch that we can turn one way or another based on our environment. This switch can push toward disease or support memory and cognitive health. If we are inflamed, have toxic exposure, insulin resistance, lack of trophic support, etc, we push toward downsizing the cognitive system. When we have adequate trophic support and a healthy internal environment, we move toward the other, supportive end of the spectrum. This is great news, because it means that, in a big way, we are responsible for which way the switch is flipped. We are largely in control of our environment. We control what we eat, whether we engage in regular exercise, the quality and duration of our sleep, and the way we manage our stress level. These factors make up our environment and they are incredibly powerful. It’s up to you to decide the future of your brain health.

To view the full interview, click here.

References:

  1. James, B.D. (2014). Contribution of Alzheimer’s disease to mortality in the United States. Neurology, 82: 1045-1050.
  2. Alzheimer’s Association, 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/facts-figures
  3. Bredesen, D.E. _The End of Alzheimer’s: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline._New York: Avery, 2017.