I am not a doctor nor am I responsible for your health! Yes, dementia prevention testing matters, but please consult a physician before implementing any of the blood or other testing suggested below. If you are already having symptoms of memory loss you should seek professional advice. Click here to contact Dr. Bredesen. A good start is to scroll down the page to “Contact” in order 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.
Part Three: Cholesterol, Vitamins E and B1 and Cyrex Array Testing
I highly recommend reading Parts One and Two of Blood Testing Matters before continuing here with Part Three. We’re going to pick up the testing protocol from Dr. Dale Bredesen which he calls the “cognoscopy.” He strongly recommends that everyone over the age of forty get a cognoscopy. (But it’s never too late!) It’s the reason that the first destination on our journey to a bright mind for life is the lab. I will give a description of each substance or process, its importance, the Bredesen optimal levels and recommended remediations if levels are sub-optimal.
As Dr. David Perlmutter says, “Cholesterol is vitally important for brain function.” This article from Psychology Today written by a Harvard-trained psychiatrist and nutritionist aptly describes how and why cholesterol is critical to a well-tuned brain. For one thing, as the author states, “Although the brain represents only 2% of total body weight, it contains 20% of the body’s cholesterol.” Secondly, according to the article, cholesterol performs hundreds of functions critical to brain health. For example:
Cholesterol contributes structural firmness to membranes and keeps them from falling apart. Membranes are not simply protective cell wrappers; they are dynamic, highly intelligent structures that participate in cellular signaling and the transport of substances into and out of cells.Georgia Ede, MD is a Harvard-trained, board-certified psychiatrist specializing in nutrition-focused counseling and consulting services for individuals and fellow clinicians.
Cholesterol is essential for life. In fact, the body produces more of it each day (about 1 g) than most consume in their daily diet (typically 200–300 mg). It is used to make cell walls, insulate nerves, carry fats in the blood, make steroidal hormones, make vitamin D, make bile salts, repair injured tissues—the list is long.Dr. Joseph Pizzomo from The Journal of Integrative Medicine, June 2014; 13(3): 8-14
It’s high oxidized LDL that’s the problem, not high total cholesterol
Blood testing matters because according to Dr. Bredesen, and contrary to popular belief, “… low rather than high [total] cholesterol is associated with cognitive decline.” As science is progressing, we are learning that it is damaged cholesterol, or oxidized LDL cholesterol that is the bad guy. Again, from Dr. Joseph Pizzomo, “A person with high levels of LDL-cholesterol but low levels of hs-CRP [a marker of inflammation discussed in the blogpost, “Blood Testing Matters for Dementia Prevention: Part One”] has a lower risk of a heart attack than a person with low levels of LDL-cholesterol but high levels of hs-CRP. ” This is because LDL-cholesterol is so easily oxidized and the by-products of oxidized LDL commonly lead to atherosclerosis of arteries. As Dr. Bredesen has shown, heart health (or disease) is brain health (or disease).
Let’s get technical because specific blood testing matters!
As we read above, blood testing matters for discerning levels of both LDL and HDL cholesterol. In fact, Dr. Bredesen recommends having LDL-p (LDL particle number) OR sdLDL (small dense LDL), OR oxidized LDL tested as well as getting a value for total cholesterol. Here are his optimal levels. (Remember that the values that traditional medicine subscribes to are often not high or low enough to meet the levels appropriate for dementia prevention). LDL-p = 700-1000; sdLDL <20mg/dL or <20% of LDL; oxidized LDL<60U/l and total cholesterol >150 (that’s right, greater than 150).
If your numbers don’t look this great, check out this article for remediation actions you can take. Please note, however, that many functional medicine practitioners do not recommend the use of statins for lowering cholesterol as this article suggests. Please talk with your doctor and do the research before undertaking that step. Here’s one article you can start with. There are literally hundreds more, if you are retired and so inclined!
Blood testing matters for Vitamin E
What we call “Vitamin E” is actually a set of compounds, with names like tocopherols and tocotrienols. These interact with the fatty cell membranes, protecting them from damage by scavenging free radicals. It is one of the very few molecules that has been shown in a clinical trial, as a monotherapy, to slow cognitive decline, albeit modestly, in Alzheimer’s disease. (Find that study here).From The End of Alzheimer’s by Dr. Dale Bredesen
Dr. Bredesen recommends getting the blood test for alpha-tocopherol. The optimal level = 12-20 mcg/ml. The remediation if levels are too low is to take Vitamin E as mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols at a dose of 400-800 IU’s. If your level is only moderately low, you might take the DIY approach and add Vitamin E-rich foods to your diet. Check out this wonderful guide for help. As always, have levels rechecked in six months.
Why check your Vitamin B1, aka Thiamine?
Every system in our bodies requires energy to run. Without thiamine our bodies would not be able to convert glucose from carbohydrates into energy. Vitamin B1 is especially critical for brain and nervous system function. For example, “B1’s coenzyme form is important for the synthesis of acetylcholine, which is critical in preventing memory loss and nerve inflammation. ” From flourish (a blog by Pharmaca). Find the full article about Vitamin B1 here. Dr. Bredesen tells us simply that thiamine–Vitamin B1–is critical for memory formation. Blood testing matters! (Let’s not take any chances that we might be deficient.)
When you go for Vitamin B1 testing make sure to specify that you want the thiamine pyrophosphate (TPP) in your red blood cells tested. Optimal levels according to Dr. Bredesen are 100-150 ng/ml of packed cells, or if you level was measured in blood serum you want to be at 20-30 nmol/l. The remediation if your level is too low is to supplement with 50 mg/day of B1. For you DIYers the article from flourish referenced in the previous paragraph also suggests B1-rich foods and how to prepare them.
Cyrex Array testing matters
Cyrex Array tests check for numerous bodily systems problems that can interfere with cognitive health. These are: gastro-intestinal permeability (“Leaky Gut”), blood-brain barrier permeability, gluten and related sensitivities and autoantibodies. Let’s examine each, in turn.
As Dr. Bredesen explains, in our digestive systems, healthy cells maintain a sealed barrier. This insures that what is supposed to stay inside the intestinal tract (food) stays in and only what is supposed to go through the intestinal walls (micro nutrients, the simplest sugar molecules, and small fragments of amino acids to name just a few) goes through. In the presence of a leaky gut, larger fragments pass through, signaling the presence of invaders which then triggers the body’s exquisite defense system, aka inflammation. If left untreated the defense system stays on high alert and inflammation becomes chronic. This can contribute to Alzheimer’s disease and a host of other problems.
DIY leaky gut testing
Although some doctors of the Western medical tradition, still don’t acknowledge the existence of gastro-intestinal permeability many other traditions have been talking about it for centuries. Here are some of the signs of leaky gut: constipation, bloating, gas, diarrhea, brain “fog,” fatigue, poor immune system, memory loss and more. Click that link also to find strategies for correcting leaky gut. If the symptoms continue after six months of your remediation course, you might consider having the Cyrex Array test 2. You want to get a result of “negative.”
Having a leaky gut is a miserable experience, aside from its potential negative impact on cognitive health. I know. It took over a year to heal mine but it was well worth the effort (and continues to be worth the effort). I still feel 100% better ten years later.
Blood-brain barrier testing
It is only recently that medical scientists have begun to understand the intimate interrelationship among all our bodies’ systems. In doing decades of research on Alzheimer’s disease Dr. Bredesen has seen that numerous microbes (previously thought to be contained in specified locations of the body) can enter the brain. In examining hundreds of brains from post-mortem Alzheimer’s patients he has found bacterium from such conditions as gingivalis and other oral maladies, herpes, Lyme disease and other fungi, viruses and microbes. Ordinarily, the blood-brain barrier stops these invaders. However, there are other entrance routes such as the sinuses, up from the gut, and through the eyes.
Cyrex Array Test 20
If you have been exposed to any of the above conditions it would be a wise investment to have the Blood-Brain Permeability test done. This is Cyrex Array 20 and you want to get a negative result.
Almost like a video that has gone viral, the topic of gluten sensitivities has become all the rage. Yet, instead of trivializing or making jokes about it, Dr. Bredesen would have us seriously examine our bodies and how they react to the intake of foods that contain gluten. For those who aren’t familiar with gluten, let me explain… gluten is the product of two proteins found in cereal grains like wheat, rye, barley, oats and sometimes rice. It’s gluten that gives baked goods their leavened structure and chewy texture. Though only 1% of us are technically allergic to gluten (celiac’s disease) many of us are gluten-sensitive. Unfortunately, if folks with gluten sensitivities consume glutinous foods the body may react even in the absence of celiac’s disease. We know from reading about leaky gut above that danger lies ahead for brain health when the gut is leaking invaders into the bloodstream.
Testing matters for gluten sensitivities
If you are experiencing symptoms as described under “leaky gut” it would be good to officially assess your situation. Have the Cyrex Array tests 3 and 4 done and look for negative results for each.
According to Dr. Bredesen, we need to pay attention to how our immune systems might be “waging war” on our brains. What does this mean? As we talked about above when bad diets, chronic stress, and viral and other infections cause the gut and brain barriers to break down, the body’s defense system goes into overdrive. Some brain researchers are studying why and how these autoantibodies attack brain proteins and what the consequences might be. If you’re into the technical side of this here’s an article to sink your teeth into.
Testing matters for autoantibodies
For the rest of us, it’s simple. Don’t take chances. Get the Cyrex Array 5 test done and look for a negative result.
Testing matters for charting our dementia prevention course
They say that information is power and I have experienced that. Just having the numbers for many of the blood tests and getting genetic information has helped me map out my strategies for dementia prevention. No kidding…. it’s a lot harder to get where we want to go if we don’t have a map (or GPS), right?!
Have you had any of these tests done?
What’s your experience? What’s your plan?
You can comment or email me anonymously if you want to talk about your situation. I’m not a doctor, but I can be a listener.
Stay tuned for Part Four of Testing Matters.