The Increasing Incidence of Alzheimer’s
The incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease is growing- and growing fast. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s Disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. In 2013, 84,000 Americans died from Alzheimer’s Disease while in 2016 it is estimated over 700,000 Americans died from Alzheimer’s Disease. In 2016, it was estimated that 5.4 million Americans had Alzheimer’s Disease. 5.2 million were 65 and older. As our population ages and the Baby Boomer generation reaches the 65 and older category, the incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease is expected to continue to significantly increase. One out of nine seniors has Alzheimer’s Disease, while one out of three seniors die with Alzheimer’s Disease or another type of dementia. Unfortunately there is no cure or way of stopping Alzheimer’s Disease once symptoms arise. Research has shown there are certain lifestyle factors that can reduce the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s Disease such as regular exercise, both physical and mental; successful stress management strategies including prayer, meditation, and deep breathing exercises; maintaining healthy blood sugar levels to avoid insulin resistance; getting adequate sleep; and eating a healthy diet, especially getting plenty of brain healthy fats. In fact, researchers at Tufts University studied the relationship between levels of Omega 3 fats in the blood stream and the development of dementia and/or Alzheimer’s Disease in 900 healthy men and women, with an average age of 76 years old. Those people with the highest levels of Omega 3 fats (specifically DHA) had a 47 percent lower risk of developing dementia than those with lower levels.1
Your Brain Is The Fattest Organ In Your Body
Your brain is made up of 60-70 percent fat and up to 90 percent of that fat is DHA, a type of Omega-3 fatty acid. DHA is an essential fatty acid, meaning that your body, especially your brain must have it to function properly. Our bodies are unable to make DHA, so it is essential that we get this through the foods we eat or through nutritional supplements. DHA is animal-based, mainly found in marine animals. Nutritional sources of DHA include fatty fish (anchovies, sardines, salmon, mackerel and herring), fish oil supplements and cod liver oil.
DHA is primarily used in the membranes of your brain cells. Due to its unique structure, DHA allows the cell membranes to be more fluid, which allows for more efficient communication between the neurons as well as improved transport of neurotransmitters and hormones in and out of the cells.2 When inadequate levels of DHA are available to build these cell membranes, other fatty acids are used, including trans fats, which make these cell membranes more rigid, impairing communication between the cells as well as decreasing the transport of hormones and neurotransmitters in and out of the cells.
There are two other two types of Omega-3 essential fatty acids– EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). EPA is also mainly found in marine animals, but does not have the same brain-health promoting effects as DHA. The most well known benefit of EPA is reducing cellular inflammation commonly fueled by Omega-6 fatty acids found in cakes, cookies, salad dressings, chips, and non-grass-fed meats. This reduction in cellular inflammation is linked with a decrease risk of cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and joint and muscle pain. ALA is the type of Omega-3 fat found in plant-based sources such as flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts. The body can convert ALA into DHA, but the rate is very inefficient, ranging from 1 to 4 percent. ALA is thought to support your cardiovascular system by helping to maintain normal heart rhythm and heart pumping. ALA may also help to reduce blood clots, but does not have a significant effect on cholesterol levels.
How Do You Know If You Are Getting Enough Healthy Fats For Your Brain?
Most Americans eat a diet very low and inadequate in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory. On the contrary, Omega-6 fatty acids are consumed over-abundantly promoting systemic inflammation and accelerated cognitive decline. Ideally your ratio of Omega-6: Omega-3 should be as close to 1 : 1 as possible to help significantly reduce your chances of developing dementia, cognitive decline, mental disorders such as depression, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Optimizing these fatty acid ratios will not only promote healthy brain function, but will also help to:
maintain optimal cardiovascular health
enhance mental and emotional health
promote digestive health
support hormone balance
improve joint and muscle health
reduce the risk of cancer
How do you know if you are in the sweet spot? The most effective way is to measure these fatty acids in your blood. Test kits are now available to test these fatty acid levels and ratios at home. The test also includes an inflammation index and trans fatty acid levels.