There was a small group of us sitting around a table the other night having a light dessert and sharing conversation. The topic turned to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. My wife works in a program that helps afflicted elderly learn new skills that have been shown to help them regain some cognitive function.
Someone at the table mentioned how terrible these diseases are since they can strike anyone regardless of their education or status in life, and that we seem to be seeing so much more of it than ever before. Another said that the reason might be because people are living so much longer than they used to. With medical care being able to extend life, we are essentially “out-living” our brains. At this point I chimed in and said that I totally disagree.
While it may be true that more people overall are living longer, there have always been people who had very long lives without suffering from Alzheimer’s. I had great-great grandparents who lived to be 104, and they were born in the 19th century. Living longer has nothing to do with the onset of the disease as The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America states that “the disease is not a normal part of aging even though the risk increases as we age.” The question that begs to be asked is, “Why is the development of Alzheimer’s increasing so rapidly, if it has nothing to do with age?” Currently it affects 1 in 8 people, yet in the next 20 years it’s expected to affect 1 in 4.
I don’t pretend to know the answers, but I have a few ideas of factors that may be contributing to this tragic disease. It’s important to keep in mind that none of these factors existed when my great-great grandparents lived, but are extremely prevalent today:
- Vaccinations – Today, people are receiving more vaccinations than ever before. The elderly especially are targeted to get an annual flu shot, along with a pneumonia shot, and one for shingles. The flu shot has mercury and aluminum in it – both being known neurotoxins. The amount of mercury in a flu shot is 50,000 parts per billion (ppb). The EPA classifies 200ppb as hazardous waste, and the limit for drinking water is 2ppb. Clearly, the more flu shots one gets, the more mercury toxicity he/she is exposed to.
- MSG – Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is used in prepared foods as a taste enhancer. Just about all prepared foods, from soups to casseroles, have MSG added because prepared foods are so overcooked, they have very little flavor. MSG is added to make the food taste good, but is a neurotoxin. Buying pre-made foods at the grocery store is easy for the elderly, as well as everyone, because they don’t have to put the effort into cooking. Also, it should be noted that MSG is found in the flu shot.
- Aspartame – Diet foods, especially soda pop, are sweetened with NutraSweet, which is also a neurotoxin. Diabetes is also an age related disease, so the elderly consume more of these products to get the sweet taste, yet they are consuming a product that has been shown to destroy brain nerve tissue.
- Statin Drugs – Cholesterol lowering drugs, or statins, are probably the most widely prescribed drugs for the elderly. Yet the brain is dependent upon cholesterol for its health, and there is a clear relationship between low cholesterol and decreased brain function – specifically: learning ability, memory, attention and concentration, and abstract reasoning. In fact, a recent article in the journal, Neurology, published a report showing that elderly folks with the highest cholesterol levels have a 70% reduced risk for developing dementia.
As you can see, people are exposed to more and more assaults on their nerve systems as they age by products that have come into existence in the last 40 years. This is also the timeframe that has shown the explosion of Alzheimer’s disease.
Correlation? You be the judge.