More seniors have Alzheimer’s

One of the first important studies, published in 2002, charted the health of 1,092 elderly people and found those with high blood homocysteine levels had nearly double the risk of Alzheimer’s.

One of the first important studies, published in 2002, charted the health of 1,092 elderly people and found those with high blood homocysteine levels had nearly double the risk of Alzheimer’s.

by Mary Budinger — 

A new report by the Alzheimer’s Association shows that one in three seniors have dementia when they die, and deaths from the disease increased nearly 70 percent between 2000 and 2010.

“It is going to swamp the system,” said Dr. Ronald C. Petersen, chairman of the advisory panel to the federal government’s recently created National Alzheimer’s Plan.

Alzheimer’s is not primarily a genetic disease, but an environmental one. Among the strongest evidence to date is the impact of raised homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is an amino acid, a potentially harmful product of cellular metabolism. A homocysteine level of seven or more is considered high.

One of the first important studies, published in 2002, charted the health of 1,092 elderly people and found those with high blood homocysteine levels had nearly double the risk of Alzheimer’s. There is also evidence that even before a decline in mental function starts to show up in so-called “healthy” elderly individuals, high homocysteine predicts physical degeneration in certain parts of the brain. The researchers concluded that “the possibility that the disease itself, or its primary symptom, could be prevented by folate supplementation.”

Homocysteine can be lowered with B vitamins, especially B12, which is increasingly poorly absorbed with age. Excellent sources of folate — a B complex vitamin — include romaine lettuce, spinach, asparagus, turnip greens, mustard greens, calf’s liver, parsley, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, beets and lentils. One of the key functions of folate is to allow for complete development of red blood cells. These cells help carry oxygen around the body.

Every action of the brain needs lots and lots of B vitamins, every single day. Yet, the average American diet is deficient in them.

Sources: 2013 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. Alzheimer’s Association  and Seshadri S, Beiser A, et al., Plasma homocysteine as a risk factor for dementia and AD. NEJM, 2002 Feb 14;346(7):476-83.

 

Mary Budinger is an Emmy award-winning journalist who writes about integrative medicine. 602-494-1999.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 32, Number 3, June/July 2013.

 

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