12 Tips for Fighting Alzheimerโ€™s

1. Think With Your Heart

Have you ever been told not to think with your heart? Well, think again! Several factors famous for heart health are turning out to be just as important for brain health. High blood pressure, cholesterol and atherosclerosis all increase your risk of Alzheimerโ€™s.

Elevated homocysteine is a known risk factor for heart disease. Less well known is that even moderately raised homocysteine increases your risk of Alzheimerโ€™s. The good news is that lowering your homocysteine with B vitamins slows cognitive decline (J Alzheimers Dis. 2018;62(2):561โ€“570).

A 2021 meta-analysis discovered higher levels of homocysteine and lower levels of folic acid in people with dementia and Alzheimerโ€™s (Front Aging Neurosci May 2021;13). The B vitamins folic acid, B6 and B12 are key to controlling homocysteine. Seniors who get the most folic acid have the lowest rates of Alzheimerโ€™s (Arch Neurol. 2007;64:86-92). Folic acid deficiency increases the risk of Alzheimerโ€™s while sufficient intake of folic acid protects against it (Front Neurosci April 2021;15). One interesting study followed 370 people over the age of 75 for three years. The ones with normal levels of folic acid and B12 were the least likely to develop Alzheimerโ€™s. The ones who were low in both had a higher risk than those who were low in only one (Neurology. 2001;56:188-94).

2. Diabetes & Your Brain

The latest research has discovered a link between diabetes and the risk of dementia and Alzheimerโ€™s. A 2019 systematic review and meta- analysis of 144 studies found that diabetes increases the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia by 25-92 percent. Even prediabetes increased the risk of dementia (Ageing Research Reviews. Nov 2019;55:100944).

So, strategies to reduce blood sugar problems can reduce Alzheimerโ€™s problems. For example, spirulina improves glucose levels, insulin, insulin resistance and insulin sensitivity in people with Alzheimerโ€™s while significantly improving cognition scores (Phytother Res. 2023 Mar 2;doi:10.1002/ ptr.7791). And dietary cinnamon, a great blood sugar herb, significantly improved working memory in prediabetics (Nutr Res 2016;36:305-310).

3. Alzheimerโ€™s & Antioxidants

People with Alzheimerโ€™s have significantly lower antioxidant activity. Vitamin E may be the standout antioxidant for Alzheimerโ€™s. A landmark study of people with Alzheimerโ€™s found that those taking vitamin E lived longer. Those who were given an Alzheimerโ€™s drug outlived the placebo group by 215 days. But those given vitamin E outlived them by 230. While 39 percent of the placebo group and 33 percent of the drug group had to be institutionalized, only 26 percent of the vitamin E group did (NEJM. 1997;336:1216-22).

A large and long-lasting study found that 2,000IU vitamin E a day significantly slows functional decline in people with Alzheimerโ€™s. Vitamin E was able to delay clinical progression by 19 percent a year: something the comparison drug could not do (JAMA. 2014 Jan 1;311(1):33-44).

4. Ginkgo biloba

For preventing and treating Alzheimerโ€™s, ginkgo is still No. 1. All kinds of studies show that ginkgo helps prevent Alzheimerโ€™s. As many as 42 percent of seniors are affected by mild cognitive impairment (MCI). One type of MCI, known as amnestic MCI, is associated with a risk of dementia. Ginkgo significantly improves amnestic MCI (Int J Geriatr Psychiatry 2014;29:1087-95; CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets 2021;20(4):378-384).

A systematic review and meta-analysis of nine double-blind studies of people with Alzheimerโ€™s, dementia or MCI concluded that 160-240 mg of ginkgo significantly improves cognition (J Alzheimers Dis 2015;43(2):589- 603).

The best news is that ginkgo works as well as drugs while being safer (J Drug Dev Clin Pract 1996). And it may even work better. More people respond to ginkgo, and respond better, than to the cholinesterase inhibitor tacrine (Psychopharmacol Bul 1998). Ginkgo is better than the cholinesterase inhibitor tacrine and comparable to donepezil (Phytomed 2000). Research continues to show that ginkgo is as good as donepezil while being better tolerated (Euro J Neurol 2006; Aging Mental Health 2009).

The latest research put ginkgo up against donepezil in people with Alzheimerโ€™s or MCI. The double-blind study compared 150 mg of Ginkgo biloba extract three times a day to donepezil or a combination of both. All groups responded the same on the Mini Mental State Exam (MMSE), except that the ginkgo worked significantly faster. All groups had significant improvement on the MMSE and on the Alzheimerโ€™s Assessment Cognitive subscale. Activities of Daily Living improved significantly only in the ginkgo group and in the group that got both. Neuropsychiatric Inventory scores improved in both the ginkgo and the donepezil group. More people withdrew from the donepezil group (Front Pharmacol. August 3, 2021;12:721216).

5. Saffron

Like ginkgo, this powerful herb is as effective as, and safer than, donepezil for Alzheimerโ€™s and dementia (Psychopharmacology 2010;207(4):637-643). 30 mg a day of saffron extract is significantly more effective than placebo in people with probable Alzheimerโ€™s (J Clin Pharm Ther 2010;35(5):581-588).

6. Vitamin D

A 2019 meta-analysis of eight studies found that insufficient vitamin D was associated with a 9 percent greater risk of dementia and a 19 percent greater risk of Alzheimerโ€™s. Vitamin D deficiency was associated with a 33 percent greater risk of dementia and a 31 percent greater risk of Alzheimerโ€™s (Nutr Neurosci. 2019 Nov;22(11):750-759).

An innovative study has confirmed that low vitamin D is associated with increased risk of dementia. People with vitamin D levels of 25 nmol/L (deficient) had 54 percent higher odds of dementia compared to people with levels of 50 nmol/L (optimal). The researchers say that means that up to 17 percent of dementias could be prevented by increasing vitamin D (Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2022;nqac107).

7. Mint & Your Mind

Research now shows that help could come from an unexpected place: mint. Several members of the mint family are turning out to be promising herbs for memory and Alzheimerโ€™s, including sage extract (J Clin Pharm Ther 2003;28:53- 59; Psyschopharmacology 2008;198(1):127-39), rosemary leaf powder (J Med Food 2012;15:10โ€“17), lemon balm extract (J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2003;74:863-66; Neuropsychopharmacology 2003;28(10):1871-81; Arch Gerontol Geriatr 2018;75:146-150;) and spearmint extract (ACM 2018;doi.org/10.1089/acm.2016.0379).

8. Acetyl L-Carnitine

Acetyl L-carnitine delays the progression of Alzheimerโ€™s (Neurobiol Aging. 1995 Jan-Feb;16(1):1-4; Arch Neurol. 1992 Nov;49(11):1137-41) and improves mental performance (Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther Toxicol. 1986 Sep;24(9):511-6). A double-blind study found that acetyl L-carnitine slowed the rate of decline in 13 of 14 outcomes measured (Neurology. 1991 Nov;41(11):1726-32), and a meta-analysis demonstrated a benefit for acetyl L-carnitine in people with MCI or mild Alzheimerโ€™s (Int Clin Psychopharmacol. 2003 Mar;18(2):61-71).

9. Phosphatidylserine (PS)

A large double-blind study found PS significantly improves memory, learning, mood and behavior in people with Alzheimerโ€™s (Aging 1993;5:123-33).

10. Teatime for Your Brain

A large study of elderly people found that drinking three to four cups of green tea a day reduces the risk of dementia by 7 percent and five or more reduces it by 32 percent (Am J Geriatr Psychiatry 2016; 24(10):881-889). Regular green tea drinkers can reduce their risk of Alzheimerโ€™s by 86 percent (J Nutr Health Aging 2016; 20(10):1002โ€“9). Other studies have found green tea reduces the risk of dementia by 74 percent (PLoS One 2014; 9:e96013) and that a green tea supplement significantly improves scores of dementia and memory in people with Alzheimerโ€™s, dementia or MCI (Nutrients 2014;6:4032- 42).

11. Genestein

Genestein is a powerful flavonoid found in soy. A double-blind study gave 120 mg of genestein or placebo to people in the stages between the onset of symptoms and full-blown Alzheimerโ€™s. They were tested with a battery of neurocognitive tests. At the end of the one-year study, genestein led to significant improvement on two of the tests and a tendency toward improvement on the rest, suggesting that genestein delays transition from cognitive impairment to Alzheimerโ€™s (Alzheimers Res Ther. 2022 Nov 4;14(1);164).

12. Fenugreek

In what may be the first study of its kind, double-blind research has now found that fenugreek seed significantly improves memory and quality of life in people with Alzheimerโ€™s (Phytother Res. 2023 Jan;37(1):285-294).VR

Linda Woolven is a master herbalist, acupuncturist and solution-focused counsellor with a virtual practice in Toronto, ON, Canada. Woolven and Ted Snider are the authors of several books on natural health. You can see their books at www.thenaturalpathnewsletter.com. They are also the authors of the natural health newsletter The Natural Path. The Natural Path is a natural health newsletter specifically designed to help health food stores increase their sales by educating their customers. The Natural Path contains no advertising and never mentions a brand name. Retailers can provide The Natural Path Newsletter to their customers. For more information, contact Snider at tedsnider@bell.net or (416) 782-8211.

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