You Can’t Catch Alzheimer’s But You Can Prevent It

couple drinking water after exercising
April 6, 2016
Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D.

The media threw a scare into a lot of people recently by hyping a UK study suggesting that Alzheimer’s might be contagious.

Imagine the worry among the loved ones and caregivers who deal intimately with Alzheimer’s patients. Imagine the tragedy of those millions of patients losing that care on account of unfounded fear.

Fortunately, here’s the current bottom line:

You can’t catch Alzheimer’s like you can catch a flu or a cold. Period. It cannot be transmitted from one person to another.

There’s always plenty of research into who gets Alzheimer’s and how. What doesn’t need research is that Alzheimer’s remains a deadly threat.

But it’s not inevitable.

Living the anti-Alzheimer’s life

Your lifestyle and behavior choices have a profound impact on the likelihood that you’ll develop Alzheimer’s.

The essential, foundational requirements for brain health are the same as for overall health.

You need at least minimum amounts of these five essentials:

  1. Clean water
  2. Physical activity
  3. Adequate sleep
  4. Proper nutrition
  5. Social interaction

Without these basics, you can’t compete with the health threats we battle every day—environmental pollutants and toxins, stress, internal and external pathogens, rogue bacteria, and more.

Add to these basics some key nutrients specifically for brain health, and you’ll reduce your risks of Alzheimer’s substantially.

One class of nutrients that’s essential to brain health is the omega-3 essential fatty acids. These provide the energy needed to create new tissue in the brain. Salmon, tuna, halibut, sardines, herring, and mackerel are rich in omega-3s, as are certain algae, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, olive oil, nuts, and avocados.

The recommended omega-3 dosage is 1,250 and 1,500 milligrams per day of EPA and DHA—omega-3’s amazing active ingredients. Note, however, that 1,500 milligrams of an omega-3-rich fish oil is NOT the same as 1,500 milligrams of EPA and DHA. Read your omega-3 supplement label carefully.

Curcumin’s remarkable health benefits include a special ability to cross the blood-brain barrier to control inflammation directly in the brain. It’s present as about five percent of the turmeric root, which is dried, ground into a beautiful yellow-orange powder, and used to flavor all sorts of foods, best known of which are curries, whether Indian, Asian, or Caribbean.

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Chronic Inflammation Decoded

Research shows that 500 mg, twice (and up to four times) per day is useful for treating all sorts of conditions, including cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s.

Among the several B vitamins, B-6, B-12, and folic acid are the most effective for maintaining brain health and preventing Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, B vitamin deficiencies are all too common among Americans, thanks in part to the synthetic forms in processed foods and nutrition-stripping Big Agro products.

B-12 levels, in particular, are dangerously low. Especially among vegetarians and vegans, since naturally-occurring, dietary B12 can only be found in animal meats and eggs.

If you have severe B-12 deficiency, I recommend B-12 injections of the vitamin, which the body absorbs very rapidly. Most doctors administer these quick and easy shots right in their office.

For everyone else—especially vegetarians, vegans, and if you’re 50 and older—I recommend an oral B-12 supplement every day. Take 500 mg, 2–4 times a day and I’ll bet you’ll notice a great difference in energy level and mental sharpness over time.

Note that the methylated form of B12 (methylcobalamin) is best, but isn’t commonly available. Look for this formulation in your local health food store or online.

Beans, molasses, meat, potatoes, lentils, and chili peppers are all good dietary sources of the B vitamins. There are good supplements that contain the entire B complex in a balanced formula.

A recent study showed for the first time that vitamin D deficiency seems to play a significant role in cognitive decline, generally, and Alzheimer’s, specifically. In one study, people with low levels of vitamin D lost major thinking skills 2.5 times sooner than people with adequate D levels.

Best vitamin D source? Sunlight on skin tells your body to produce it, hence the term “sunshine vitamin.” But keep it safe at 20 minutes/day of direct exposure. After that, it’s sunscreen, shade, or covering up with light, loose-fitting clothes.

The list of vitamin D-rich foods is topped by wild-caught fish—salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines. But limit those to once a week. Even wild-caught fish can be pollution-contaminated. Free-range meats are also a good source, as are egg yolks and canned fish.

A vitamin D supplement can ensure you’re getting enough. Start with 1,000 IU daily. If there’s no improvement after a week, up the amount to 4,000 IU, which I consider the safe maximum.

As with any significant dietary, supplement, or behavior change, get your doctor’s signoff before you begin.

And as far as “catching” Alzheimer’s from someone else goes, don’t worry about it.

Just take good care—and reduce the chance of giving it to yourself.

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