Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is one of the most feared chronic medical problems that we may face as we get older. Not being able to remember things, even simple things, or other people is disappointing to everyone, including the loved ones that the AD patient has known for years. This is stressful and frustrating to both the patient with AD and the loved one.
However, there’s a lot you can do to decrease your risk of developing this terrible chronic illness. Inflammation has been thought to be the root cause of AD, and now, a recent study in Neurology, called the ARIC study (1), has confirmed this association.
The ARIC study evaluated 1,633 participants (with an average age of 53) over 24 years. They followed inflammatory markers in the participant’s blood (fibrinogen, albumin, white blood cell count, von Willebrand factor, and Factor VIII) over time and compared this to the brain volume changes that occurred over the course of the study.
The results of the study were significant. Elevations in 3 or more markers had, on average, 5% smaller parts of the brain that are typically associated with AD (the hippocampus and other AD-associated areas of the brain). The authors concluded that finding elevated inflammatory markers in the brain in midlife are significant signs and “may be an early contributory role of systemic inflammation in neurodegeneration and cognitive aging.” In other words, cognitive aging may occur.
For you, the short and long conclusion of this study is that you should do everything you can to reduce inflammation in your body early on, especially starting in your 30’s and 40’s. If you have elevated inflammatory markers, be proactive and take action to change your lifestyle to decrease these markers.
But don’t wait for these values to go bad, reduce inflammation TODAY, long before some chronic degenerative condition develops. We fear AD, but other chronic medical conditions such as heart disease and cancer also begin with inflammation and progress. ARIS is an abbreviation for Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities. Thus, inflammation can not only correlate with brain deterioration, but also with cardiovascular problems.
In conclusion, there is clear evidence in this ARIS study and others that suggests elevated markers of inflammation may result in shrinkage of the brain, and you certainly don’t want that! Thus, prevention is the best medicine, so follow the guidelines we offer at TrueMD and you can embrace a healthier lifestyle that can potentially save your brain from shrinking.
1. Walker, KA, Hoogeveen RC, Folsom AR, et al. Midlife systemic inflammatory markers are associated with late-life brain volume. The ARIC study. Neurology Nov 2017, 89 (22) 2262-2270; DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000004688