Alzheimer’s Disease and Protecting Your Brain

As our species continues to live longer, our elderly population grows exponentially year after year. While the population worldwide continues to age, the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease is predicted to grow with it. But why? Thus far, the cause seems to be unknown. Most of the studies believe it is due to environmental and genetic factors. Recent research paves the way for other emerging topics including preserving brain function and brain blood flow as strategies for approaching the inevitable process of age.

Alzheimer’s is an irreversible and progressive brain disorder with the most common symptom being memory loss. It is also known as the most common cause of dementia. As the disease progresses, cognitive function like thinking and reasoning as well as behavioral abilities and overall independence decline. The characteristic findings of Alzheimer’s are biomarkers called amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles found in and around the brain. It can destroy a life long before it passes and is extremely heartbreaking for families to endure.

Lifestyle Risk Factors

Many of the factors that put an aging individual at a higher risk for Alzheimer’s are lifestyle choices. Research has shown that things like smoking, diabetes, obesity, and vascular disease have been found to increase the risk. Something as simple as throwing out the pack of squares for good, or adding 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day can reduce that risk. Cognitive stimulating activities like reading or strategy games also show long term benefits for the brain and memory. An interesting correlation between vascular health, cholesterol, and Alzheimer’s Disease lays the groundwork for the possibilities of prevention.

How Alzheimer’s Changes the Brain

The pathophysiological changes that occur in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s Disease can lead us in a new direction for health care. As this disease progresses, the brain begins to breakdown by means of atrophy (or shrinking), inflammation, an increase in free radicals, and mitochondrial dysfunction. Free radicals are formed when there is a disruption in the balance between anti-oxidants and biological stress. This is why it is important to maintain a diet high in anti-oxidant rich foods. Plant-based foods like fruits and green cruciferous vegetables are a great place to start. That large stuffed crust pizza just isn’t cutting it in the fight against free radicals.

 Alzheimer’s Disease and Protecting Your Brain 2
Cholesterol does not build up in the arteries from too much cholesterol. Plaques build up in the lining of the artery wall from an immune reaction to inflammation.

Cholesterol plays an important role in brain and nerve function. The brain contains 23% of all the cholesterol in the body. It is what makes up the phospholipid bilayer or membrane surrounding every cell in your body. It also makes up the protective covering known as the myelin sheath that surrounds all nerve and brain tissue. It is an essential component of nervous system health and therefor simply lowering total cholesterol is not a logical means of preventing disease processes that occur in the brain with Alzheimer’s. In fact, cholesterol in the blood cannot even reach the brain due to something called the blood brain barrier, and instead is made locally in the brain. The key lies in the defects of cholesterol metabolism. The goal instead should be put on maintaining a healthier ratio of cholesterol with higher levels of HDL (high-density lipoproteins) and lower levels of LDL (low-density). This can be done by replacing vegetable oils with coconut and olive oil, reducing carbs and increasing essential fats (ketogenic) in the diet, and regular exercise. A high-quality fish oil intake of about 1–2g of EPA/DHA a day has also been shown to not only benefit HDL levels, but promotes brain protection and regeneration by decreasing inflammation and oxidative stress in the CNS.

Brain Fluid Mechanics

As mentioned previously, atrophy and inflammation are hallmark findings in people with Alzheimer’s Disease. Recent evidence is shining a light on a decrease in blood flow and cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) in and out of the brain as a potential cause of brain atrophy in the elderly. Adequate blood flow into the brain is needed to supply it with oxygen and nutrients. CSF provides the brain and spinal cord with a liquid cushion during movement. It has also been linked to the brain’s immune system otherwise known as the glymphatic system. Too little CSF inside the skull and the brain stem sinks into the hole at the bottom of the skull, the foramen magnum, causing something called Arnold Chiari. Too much and something called hydrocephalus occurs. Chronic hydrocephalus causes edema and compression to the brain tissue resulting in the ventricles of the brain enlarging and an inflammatory reaction. A decrease in blood flow into the brain overtime causes chronic ischemia, (lack of oxygen) and may play a critical role in brain atrophy.

 Alzheimer’s Disease and Protecting Your Brain 1

One of the most likely places for a blockage of CSF and blood flow to occur is where the vessels pass through the junction between the skull and the upper cervical spinal canal. Acquired shifts, congenital malformations, and degenerative conditions of that delicate bony passageway may affect necessary fluid dynamics in and out of the brain and lead to neurodegenerative changes that are also seen in Alzheimer’s disease. Seeking out a cranio-cervical junction specific chiropractor to identify the presence of shifts in this area and addressing it through precision structural corrections may be the missing link to preserving brain health and avoiding the tragedy that is Alzheimer’s disease.

 

-By Dr. Ernesto Fernandez

 

[1]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3405821/

[2]http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jgs.14663/full

[3]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2841576/

[4]http://embor.embopress.org/content/early/2014/09/15/embr.201439225

[5]http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0166223613001987

[6]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4635245/

[7]http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1526-4610.1995.hed3509557.x/full

[8]https://uprightdoctor.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/midbrain-atrophy-in-parkinsons-alzheimers-and-multiple-sclerosis/

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Dizziness and Balance Problems

Dizziness — More Than Just A Feeling

By Dr. Ernesto Fernandez

A broad spectrum

Dizziness is what is known as a vestibular disorder. A vestibular disorder is a condition that affects your body systems that control your sense of balance and sense of awareness of the environment. Epidemiological studies have reported that dizziness including vertigo affects over 20% of adults yearly and has reached up to 40% in those older than 40.

Different individuals can experience various forms of dizziness. You know, like the feeling after spinning one too many times on the merry-go-round, or after having one too many cocktails and then lying down. Unfortunately, many suffer from dizziness on a regular basis, without having done either of those things. In certain people being dizzy may feel like the world is spinning or rocking. In others it may feel like an inability to concentrate or even light headedness. In more severe cases of vertigo one may experience nausea and vomiting.

Due to the complexity of causes and effects of dizziness, it is important for doctors to not give the same cookie cutter diagnosis to all. Dizziness is not just some insignificant feeling. It can hinder the level of independence in an individual. Something as routine as driving their car becomes a difficult and dangerous task. It can take a toll on the overall quality of life, affecting time with family or favorite hobbies. Imagine trying to return a serve in tennis while the court is spinning around you! More important, it may dramatically increase the risk of falling and becoming seriously injured.

It’s all about the brain

Dizziness can be more accurately diagnosed and treated with a better understanding of the sensory integration between three vital aspects of the body and the brain.

  1. The inner ear (vestibular apparatus)
  2. The eyes
  3. The proprioceptive system (muscle, joint, skin)

Dizziness can manifest as a primary condition such as positional vertigo or Meniere’s disease, or as a secondary condition due to head injuries, medications, and stroke.

The most common form of dizziness diagnosed is caused by problems in the inner ear also known as Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). In brief; this type is caused by a disruption in the sensory organs in the inner ear and its ability to tell the brain where you are in the environment. This is normally due to a trauma, abnormal positional change, or viral infection. This piece of anatomy in the inner ear is called the vestibular apparatus and communicates with the brain through the vestibulocochlear nerve. Who knew the ears were responsible for much more than just hearing. Although, our spouses may believe our anatomy can’t even get that part right.

Other conditions, like a head injury or concussion for example, may affect the way your eyes move, fixate, and track targets in the environment. If your eyes are unable to register the appropriate and accurate information from the environment, your brain receives faulty signals and interprets it as a loss of balance. This creates a sensory mismatch between the eyes and the brain and can result in dizziness.

Furthermore, the proprioceptive system plays a critical role in the diagnosis and treatment of dizziness. The proprioceptive system includes receptors within the joints, muscles, tendons, and skin that communicate with the central nervous system to tell it where it is in space. Areas of the body with the highest concentration of these receptors include the hands, feet, and upper neck. A study done on the density of these receptors in specific muscles found a range of 190–242 muscle spindles per gram of tissue in the suboccipital muscles. These are tiny muscles of the upper neck that attach to the spine and skull. That is a whole lot of information coming from just your neck to tell your brain what position you’re in! Acquired or degenerative conditions of the neck like trauma, muscle spasms, and chronic postural abnormalities can cause structural shifts of the head and neck as well as tension in those joints, ligaments, and muscles. These shifts manifest as postural distortions away from the center of gravity and interferes with the important job those receptors carry. This creates another sensory mismatch between the proprioceptive tissues and the brain.

Dizziness and Balance Problems 1

A thorough investigation of each of these body symptoms should be done by doctors before making an accurate diagnosis of dizziness or vertigo. From there, different treatment strategies can be implemented to address the specific anatomy wreaking havoc in these patients’ lives. In Part II of this dizziness series we will discuss specific treatment strategies that may offer hope to those who continue to suffer from dizziness and can’t seem to find answers.

 

Sources:

[1]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27638063

[1]https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/2149881-overview

[2]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22999306

[3]https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/64bb/b1b73041418d1caefcd9b9a0273501743242.pdf

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