WARNING: you might find the following information to be DRY, however, keeping our minds bright for life is very, very juicy, so we’ll do what it takes, right? This applies to testing too. In case you’re still debating about whether or not to invest in testing, remember, this first destination is THE most important on our way to a bright mind for life. We need to know our starting point before we can map out a route that gets us there in the most cost-effective way. While most of the information gathered is from blood testing, you might decide that certain genetic and other tests are also warranted. DIY NOTE: If you have had blood testing done in the past year you might already have values for some of these items. Check your records so you don’t pay for a test you don’t need! But first…
I am not a doctor nor am I responsible for your health! Please consult a physician before implementing any of the suggestions below. If you are already having symptoms of memory loss you should seek professional advice. Email Dr. Bredesen at email@example.com to find out if there is a Bredesen-trained functional medicine practitioner near you. Most traditional Western medical doctors are not yet familiar with dementia-prevention protocols and may just tell you there is nothing they can do.
Critical Substances for Brain Health
Our brains are unimaginably complex and many substances form the jigsaw puzzle that is Alzheimer’s disease. That’s why I’ve divided the list and put this information into a four-part article; it’s also why I created a convenient spreadsheet for entering your values for each substance. If you already have current values as mentioned above you can enter them and get a headstart on this jigsaw puzzle process. Let’s look, then, at the first group of items on Dr. Bredesen’s extensive list of critical substances to measure for dementia prevention. I’ll give a nutshell explanation of each item’s importance, optimal levels, and suggested remediation based on Dr. Bredesen’s decades-long research.
“High levels of homocysteine–an amino acid–are important contributors to Alzheimer’s disease.” The End of Alzheimer’s, p. 119. Early in this book, Dr. Bredesen describes the three types of Alzheimer’s or three basic explanations of why synapse-destroying signals in the brain could, over time, come to outnumber synapse-creating signals. These are: chronic inflammation, loss of trophic or nutritional support, and toxins. He has found that high homocysteine levels cause damage to blood vessels and to the brain and cause hippocampus size to decrease. (The hippocampus is a critical memory-storing part of the brain). As such, the first two types of Alzheimer’s can be associated with high homocysteine levels.
Digging underneath the high homocysteine level, we find that nutritionally, another amino acid called methionine–found in nuts, meat, eggs, poultry, fish, soybeans and dairy foods converts to homocysteine when levels of vitamin B12, B6 and folate are low.
Optimal homocysteine: less than 7 micromolar. Bredesen’s remediation if your homocysteine is elevated: consider reducing intake of methionine-containing foods and start an activated Vitamin B complex supplement. Two choices that my naturopath recommends are Innate CoEnzyme B Complex and Homocysteine Supreme. (I receive no financial benefit from including these.) Get retested six months after beginning supplementation.
The level of homocysteine in the plasma is increasingly being recognized as a risk factor for disease and seen as a predictor of potential health problems such as cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s.From “Food for the Brain” website.
Vitamins B6, B12 and Folate
As we saw above, the B complex vitamins play an integral role in keeping homocysteine levels low. The B complex vitamins are also essential for fighting infections, maintaining energy levels, contributing to cell metabolism and supporting brain function, among many other jobs.
Optimal: B12 =500-1500 pg/ml, B6 = 60-100 mcg/L., folate = 10-25 ng/ml. The remediation if levels are too low: begin an activated Vitamin B complex supplement as described above. Get retested six months after beginning supplementation.
Without this hormone our bodies wouldn’t be able to convert the sugar from our foods into the glucose that cells rely on for energy. Insulin oversees the distribution of glucose through the bloodstream into our muscles and cells, keeping the levels steady throughout the day. Eating a diet of high sugar and refined carbohydrate foods can cause the insulin receptor cells to close and insulin-resistance to develop. If any of the values listed below are too high, according to Dr. Bredesen you may already have insulin resistance, which, he writes “… is, arguably the single most important metabolic contributor to Alzheimer’s disease development and progression.” From The End of Alzheimer’s, p. 177.
Optimal: fasting insulin less than 4.5 microIU/ml, fasting glucose = 70- 90 mg/dL, and A1C less than 5.6% . The remediation: get on a plan asap to address diet, exercise, sleep and stress reduction and get retested six months after beginning this plan. Details on lifestyle changes are coming soon in new posts!
C-reactive Protein and Other Inflammatory Markers
C-reactive protein (hs, or high sensitivity), albumen/globulin ratio, omega-6/omega-3 ratio, and interlukein-6 are all measures of inflammation which, as we learned above, is one of the major enemies of a bright mind. If you can only get one of these measured choose the hsCRP.
Optimal: hsCRP less than .9mg/dL, albumen/globulin ratio greater than 1.8, omega 6:omega 3 ratio = .5 – 3.0, IL6 less than 3 pg/ml. If your level(s) is high, the three-step remediation is: 1) determine the cause(s) of inflammation and remove them. These could be a diet high in processed foods, or chronic infections such as Lyme disease and/or herpes, extended exposure to molds, or to oral bacteria. 2) inhibit new inflammation by taking anti-inflammatories like omega-3 DHA from fish oil and curcumin. Eat lots of green leafy vegetables, beets and broccoli. 3) Remove all sources of potential new inflammation such as those described above. Get retested six months after beginning supplementation and/or lifestyle changes.
Vitamin D3 is critical for multiple metabolic processes. For Alzheimer’s prevention we’ll focus on the work that D3 does in the cells’ nuclei to activate more than 900 genes, some that are necessary for creating and maintaining brain synapses. From The End of Alzheimer’s, p. 126.
Optimal: vit. D3 (25-hydroxycholecaliferol form) = 50-80 ng/ml. The remediation: if your level is low get outside more often and begin taking a supplement. My primary care physician prescribed 4000 IU/day as my level was only 23 (yikes!). Get retested six months after beginning supplementation and/or lifestyle changes.
Too Much Information!
I know all this testing info seems terribly complex and that’s why I’ve created a handy (and free) spreadsheet that will put it all at your fingertips. Find it here.
Have you had blood testing done for homocysteine, vitamins B6, B12, or folate, insulin or vitamin D? If so, you can start filling in the spreadsheet and just keep adding to it as you complete more of the testing. Let us know how you were able to get a doctor to recommend the testing. I had to educate mine first and, fortunately she was open-minded about the Bredesen protocol even though she had not heard of it.
Stay tuned for “Testing Matters,” Parts Two, Three and Four.