Experts have been researching the potential causes of dementia
for quite some time. Like many conditions, it’s believed to result from a
combination of lifestyle, hereditary, and environmental factors. Recently,
however, there’s been one dietary factor catching the attention of researchers:
excess salt. Discover the connection between table salt and dementia risk
Dietary Salt & Cognitive Impairment
According to research published
in October 2019 in Nature Neuroscience,
a link has been established between excessive salt intake and elevated dementia
risk. While experts have long associated poor cerebrovascular function with high
salt diets, this new study suggests high sodium levels don’t just restrict
blood flow to the brain; they can actually affect tau protein levels in the
Tau supports neurons under normal circumstances. It does so
by stabilizing microtubules, the structures which carry nutrients to neurons.
When tau becomes unstable, it can build up in the brain. The buildup
of tau is a hallmark characteristic of Alzheimer’s.
In the rodent study, scientists used nitric oxide to
stabilize the tau, which in turn led to normal cognitive function – even though
blood flow to the brain was still restricted. This suggests that the tau
buildup caused by salt – and not the restricted blood flow – is the true
causative agent behind dementia.
Reducing Salt Intake
Based on these findings, experts are now urging individuals to be mindful of their salt intake. Although further research needs to be completed to confirm the connection between sodium and dementia in humans, reducing salt consumption is a good idea anyhow. Excess sodium can accumulate in the blood when the kidneys can no longer keep up with it, which causes the body to hold onto excess water. This, in turn, increases fluid and blood volume, which puts added pressure on the heart and blood vessels. As a result, the risk for blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke increases.
American Heart Association recommends adults take in no more than 2,300 mg
of salt per day, but suggests aiming for an ideal limit of 1,500 mg. The
majority of sodium comes from packaged and prepared foods, so making your own
meals at home with whole ingredients such as fresh vegetables, whole grains,
and lean protein is one of the best ways to reduce salt intake.
When it comes to chronic conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, experts are consistently exploring new research which could shed light on causative factors. The disease, as with many other serious illnesses, is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors that impact the brain over time. Yet, researchers have recently discovered new findings involving gum bacteria and its potential role in Alzheimer’s, among other conditions.
The Brain-Mouth Connection
According to an article published in Experimental Biology, bacteria involved in gum disease is suspected to have the ability to travel throughout the body. The bacterium, Porphyromonas gingivalis, is the key agent behind periodontitis and is believed to exude toxins connected to Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and aspiration pneumonia. Samples of these bacteria were found in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s, and researchers used animal studies to demonstrate how the bacterium can make its way from the mouth to the brain.
The bacteria were more common in the brain samples of Alzheimer’s patients compared to people without the disease of roughly the same age. Its key toxins, called gingipains, were present in these individuals. Based on animal studies, it appears that the migration of the bacteria from the mouth to the brain can be stopped with chemicals that interact with gingipains.
The Critical Importance of Oral Care
Dentists have long urged patients to take caution against periodontitis, the most serious form of gum disease. Left unaddressed, it can lead to tooth loss and can damage the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth. Yet, experts now believe that it can also have body-wide effects. Previous research has suggested that it the bacteria that causes the disease could travel through the bloodstream and cause other conditions, such as coronary artery disease or stroke. These newest findings suggest that proper dental care is especially important for individuals with genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease or Rheumatoid Arthritis.
While gum disease is common, it’s often preventable. Although genetic factors may play a role in a person’s likelihood for developing periodontitis, there are many controllable factors which can also be addressed. Avoiding or quitting smoking, brushing and flossing regularly, and having dental cleanings at least once per year are some of the most effective strategies for avoiding gum disease and its potential complications.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, and though its prevalence is growing, there are currently no medical interventions that are able to reverse or slow the disease. Most current therapies address the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease rather than the underlying cause of the disease.
Stem cells appear to offer a promising opportunity for treating Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders, and a recent review published in Current Alzheimer Research has covered research into the ways stem cells can be applied to these disorders. Specifically, the authors of the review discuss the stem cell sources that may offer the potential to treat neurodegenerative diseases and the mechanisms by which these stem cells may confer benefits to this set of patients.
According to data collected so far, stem cells may be both safe and effective in treating neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, but the mechanism by which they produce benefits for those with these disorders is not entirely clear. There are some data that show that the replacement of degenerated tissue with new proliferative stem cells accounts for stem cell benefits in models of neurodegenerative disorders, while other data show that stem cells can lead to advantageous enhancements in the expression of synaptic proteins.
Evidence from other studies, however, suggest that stem cells help with neurodegenerative disease through the release of neurotrophic factors that lead to paracrine benefits. Additional studies point to modulation of the immune system as the way that stem cells may help those with neurodegenerative disorders.
Future research will help to elucidate the specific mechanisms by which stem cells can provide effective therapy for people with neurodegenerative disorders. It may be the case that a variety of stem cell types used in multiple ways can be helpful for neurodegenerative disease therapy, and research will help to delineate the different ways stem cells can be used and inform the therapies that are developed.
Reference: Bali, P, et al. (2017). Potential for stem cells therapy in Alzheimer’s disease: Do neurotrophic factors play a critical role? Current Alzheimer Research, 14(2), 208-220.
Alzheimer’s disease causes patients to have difficulty recalling memories and performing tasks. Alzheimer’s disease is progressive, which means it gets worse over time. Once Alzheimer’s disease begins, patients either stay the same or get worse. Most people notice symptoms getting worse over a period of 10 years. However, some people with Alzheimer’s disease will get worse very rapidly, over the course of a few years.
Because Alzheimer’s disease is discussed frequently in popular media, many people know that part of the disease process is the accumulation of abnormal proteins in the brain, namely beta-amyloid plaques and tau neurofibrillary tangles. One less well-known effect of Alzheimer’s disease is that it interferes with blood flow in the brain. This decreased blood flow is so common, in fact, that doctors can detect low brain activity using positron emission tomography (PET), which can help make the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
Between 2002 and 2012, researchers tested 244 treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, and only one medication was approved by the FDA. After all this time, there is still no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, the drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s disease are mostly ineffective. At best, they slow the progression of the disease for several months to a few years.
This lack of success has prompted several research groups to focus on other treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. One experimental treatment for Alzheimer’s disease is hyperbaric oxygen therapy. In hyperbaric oxygen therapy, patients rest in a specialized chamber while they experience oxygen at a slightly higher pressure than they would in the outside world.
Researchers wanted to determine whether hyperbaric oxygen therapy could improve the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, but also whether they could see those brain changes using PET. To do this, Drs. Harch and Fogarty enrolled a woman with rapidly deteriorating Alzheimer’s disease in their clinical study. She was exhibiting the characteristic signs of Alzheimer’s disease and reduced brain activity and blood flow in her brain. They treated her with a series of hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatments (1.15 atmospheres, 40 minutes, 5 days per week over 66 days).
After 21 treatments, the woman had increased energy, her mood was better, she was better able to perform activities of daily living, and she was actually performing crossword puzzles. After 40 hyperbaric oxygen treatments, she had better memory and concentration, she was sleeping better, her appetite had improved, she was able to hold conversations and able to use a computer.
Interestingly, when the researchers performed follow-up PET study after hyperbaric oxygen therapy, blood flow and brain activity improved as much as 38% compared to the PET study before treatment.
Additional clinical studies with larger groups of Alzheimer’s disease patients are needed to determine how effective hyperbaric oxygen therapy is, what pressure to use, and how many treatments are needed, etc. Nonetheless, the impressive changes reported in this case study are promising, and should spark additional clinical research.
Contact a Stemedix Care Coordinator for more information on Regenerative Medince Therapy combined with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) for Alzheimer’s Disease.
Reference: Harch et al. (2019). Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for Alzheimer’s dementia with positron emission tomography imaging: a case report. Medical Gas Research. 2019 Jan 9;8(4):181-184.
For years, medical experts have warned of the medical concerns associated with opioids, including depression, weakened immune system, and digestive issues. Now, however, new research shows that they could be particularly dangerous for dementia patients.
The Dangers of Painkillers for Dementia Patients
According to research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, opioid-based painkillers can triple the side effects of dementia. Individuals taking the drugs experienced more pronounced personality changes, significant increases in confusion and sedation, and lower activity levels throughout the day.
In another study, researchers focused exclusively on known as “Z drugs,” which are currently given to hundreds of thousands of patients with dementia to promote sleep. Drugs under this category included zolpidem, zopiclone, and zaleplon. Findings revealed that patients on these drugs faced an increased risk of bone fracture, which contributes to an increased risk of death in people with dementia.
A Widespread Problem
Alzheimer’s, which is the most common form of dementia, currently affects an estimated 5.7 million Americans. Roughly half of the people living in care homes and suffering from this or another form of dementia experience pain to some degree, which can result from unrelated medical conditions such as arthritis. Unfortunately, as dementia patients face compounding communication challenges, treating their pain can become more difficult.
The study has prompted experts to explore other, non-pharmaceutical means of treating pain and sleep disorders in dementia patients. Alzheimer’s research group leaders believe that the solution lies in finding nondrug interventions to help manage pain and promote quality of life while minimizing serious side effects like those revealed by the study findings. Regenerative therapy may be an option to consider for those battling Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Alzheimer’s and dementia are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but there are actually key differences among them. While the former refers to a condition, the latter is an all-encompassing term used to describe a series of symptoms. Here, we take a closer look at the differences between Alzheimer’s disease and dementia to cultivate a better understanding of the terms.
Dementia: A Series of Symptoms
Dementia is often referred to as an “umbrella term” which refers to a number of different symptoms. In broad terms, these symptoms affect an individual’s ability to perform daily tasks independently. More specifically, the symptoms can include behavioral changes, declining memory, altered thinking or reasoning skills, and reduced focus.
Alzheimer’s is one condition which contributes to dementia, but it is not the only condition linked to this set of symptoms. In fact, it’s possible for people to suffer from more than one type of dementia, and more than 47 million people are affected by it worldwide. There are other types and causes of dementia, such as Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
Alzheimer’s: A Specific Condition
One of the simplest ways to remember the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia is to think of Alzheimer’s as a condition, while dementia is a syndrome. Alzheimer’s is responsible for between 60-80% of all dementia cases, making it the most common form of dementia.
Alzheimer’s is progressive, meaning it worsens over time. It destroys the memory as well as other critical mental functions, which is why patients often experience significant personality changes over time. A decline in social and intellectual skills also impacts the condition’s sufferers. While the majority of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease are 65 and older, an estimated 200,000 Americans are younger than 65 and suffer from early-onset Alzheimer’s.
Although there is currently no known cure for this condition, it is still possible for individuals who have been diagnosed to enjoy a high quality of life. Implementing lifestyle changes and enlisting the help of specialists are among the best ways to proactively manage Alzheimer’s or any other form of dementia.