The most common cause of senility in North America is Alzheimer’s disease, a horrible condition in which a person loses his capacity to reason, think, recognize and function. Former president Ronald Reagan had Alzheimer’s disease, as do some Nobel Prize winners and some of the most brilliant people who have walked this earth. An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (February 14, 2001) showed that extraordinarily poor people in Ibadan, Nigeria are far less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than their relatives in Indianapolis, further confirming that Alzheimer’s disease is probably not genetic but is linked to something in our North American lifestyles or environment.
Alzheimer’s disease means that the brain is damaged and dying brain cells mix with tangles of the protein beta amyloid. Many years ago, the Kentucky Nuns Study showed that nuns who had the most mini-strokes showed the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, while many with lots of beta amyloid did not have signs of that disease. Anything that increases your chances of developing a stroke or a heart attack also increases your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease, so the risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease include smoking, being overweight, not exercising, eating too many calories, or having high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol levels.
Dr. David Snowden showed in his Kentucky Nuns Study that nuns who were most likely to suffer Alzheimer’s disease had low blood levels of the vitamin folic acid and high levels of the protein building block homocysteine . Not eating enough leafy greens and whole grains can deprive you of the vitamin folic acid, and eating too much meat provides you with too much methionine. The combination of these two factors raises brain levels of homocysteine that can punch holes in arteries and cause plaques to form in them leading to mini-strokes, which damage your brain.
A report from Sweden showed that statin drugs that are commonly used to help prevent heart attacks may also help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease (Alzheimer Disease & Associated Disorders, 2002, Vol 16, Iss 3, pp 131-136). Almost everything that helps to prevent heart attacks also appears to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. The statin drugs used to treat high cholesterol may help to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease by increasing blood flow and decreasing inflammation, independent of their cholesterol-lowering actions.