Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive degenerative disorder of the brain that causes memory loss, cognitive decline and personality changes- typically in the elderly. However, Alzheimer’s was in fact first described in a case of early-onset. In 1906 Dr. Alois Alzheimer reported unusual symptoms in a 47 year old female. Her behavior, memory loss and cognitive decline were so bizarre that Dr. Alzheimer decided to closely follow Auguste Deter until her death several years later at age 56. Upon examination, Auguste was recorded as having said “I have lost myself”, over and over. Following her death the bizarre case was largely forgotten. However, decades later in 1996 Auguste’s medical records and brain tissue samples were rediscovered, and a new study was published in The Lancet Neurology. This now-famous study confirmed that Auguste Deter had indeed died of Early Onset Alzheimer’s disease1.
Dementia at 31
Recently, we reported the case of Becky Barletta (title picture). Becky is a 31 year old British lady who is currently living with Frontotemporal dementia, a disease similar to Alzheimer’s. Tragically, Becky was diagnosed shortly after her wedding day in 2016 and has since deteriorated rapidly; she is no longer able to recognize her new husband. Cases such as Becky’s are due to the devastating effects of genetic mutations with 100% penetrance; meaning those people with such mutations are guaranteed to get dementia. Of course, these genetic mutations are incredibly rare. However, scientific reports have also described the presence of Alzheimer’s pathology in young subjects with no such detectable mutations. It is likely that this type of Alzheimer's pathology at a young age will significantly increase the risk of developing full-blown Alzheimer's disease later in life. One research study described the presence of proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease in the brains of extremely young individuals, all of whom had lived in polluted metropolitan areas, suggesting that environmental factors may also play a role in the development of dementia2. Moreover, recent research has found that military veterans and sports players with a history of concussion are at a significantly higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease- by as much as three times the risk of the general population3,4,5.
There is no known cure- yet- but scientific studies suggest that making improvements to diet and sleeping habits, and getting regular exercise, are some ways to help protect yourself from Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias.
Get Restful Sleep: Get 7-8 hours of restful sleep per night. Just one night of sleep deprivation significantly increases the proteins involved in Alzheimer’s disease within your brain and cerebrospinal fluid6.
Exercise Regularly: Aerobic exercise several times per week significantly reduces your risk of Alzheimer’s disease7,8. The protective effect is believed in part to be due to improvements in cardiovascular health.
Fix Your Diet: Science has shown that people who closely follow the Mediterranean diet are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease9. Malnutrition, obesity in mid-life, and processed foods are all associated with an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease10.
Stay tuned for our next blog as we dive deeper into Sleep, Exercise, and the Mediterranean diet.
Eat well, live well.
1- Muller, U., et al. A Presenilin 1 Mutation in the First Case of Alzheimer’s Disease, 2013, The Lancet Neurology.
2- Garciduenas-Calderon, L., et al. Hallmarks of Alzheimer’s Disease are Evolving Relentlessly in Metropolitan Mexico City Infants, Children, and Young Adults. APOE4 Carriers have Higher Suicide Risk and Higher Odds of Reaching NFT Stage V at ≤40 Years of Age, 2018, Environmental Research.
3- Barnes, D., et al. Association of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury With and Without Loss of Consciousness With Dementia in US Military Veterans, 2018, JAMA Neurology.
4- Schaffert, J., et al. Traumatic Brain Injury History is Associated with an Earlier Age of Dementia Onset in Autopsy-Confirmed Alzheimer’s Disease, 2018, Neuropsychology.
5- Mielke, M., et al. Head Trauma and In Vivo Measures of Amyloid and Neurodegeneration in a Population-Based Study, 2018, PLoS One.
6- Shokri-Kojori E., et al. B-Amyloid Accumulation in The Human Brain After One Night of Sleep Deprivation, 2018, PNAS.
7- Panza, G., et al. Can Exercise Improve Cognitive Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease?, 2011, Ann. Neurology.
8- Morris, J.K., et al. Aerobic Exercise for Alzheimer’s Disease: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Trial, 2017, PLoS One.
9- Scarmeas, N., et al. Mediterranean Diet and Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease, 2006, Ann. Neurol.
10- Fitzpatrick AL, et al. Midlife and Late-Life Obesity and the Risk of Dementia: Cardiovascular Health Study. 2009. Archives of Neurology.
11- Nan, H., et al. Nutrition and the Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. 2013. Biomed Res Int.