Chronic or traumatic damage to neurons can set the stage for cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers have found amyloid plaques, found in those with Alzheimer’s disease, are a physiological response to infection or inflammation.
There are six known causes of inflammation-linked neuron destruction that lead to cognitive decline. Understanding these origins of disease are critical for both effective prevention and treatment.
1. Inflammation-induced AD
Inflammation is a natural immune reaction to infection and injury and is an essential part of protection and healing. Inflammation revs up to resolve the damage and then calms down so that the body can return to normal functioning. However, when injury or infection is chronic, inflammation is persistent. This inflammatory process not only results in a burdened immune system but also it causes hormonal imbalances and a host of neurological risk factors.
For these reasons, those with chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even poor diet are at higher risk for AD.
2. Deficiency-induced AD
The body requires an abundance of minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients to function optimally. Without sufficient levels of essential nutrients, vital processes slow down or cease altogether.
For instance, vitamin D is essential for countless tasks like absorption of calcium, the function of cardiac muscle, hormone and immune modulation, neuronal function, and more. If a body is deficient in vitamin D, it must prioritize tasks, choosing between functions and leaving others deficient and vulnerable to damage.
Deficient levels of many nutrients and nutrient-derived chemicals are linked to AD.
3. Inflammation AND deficiency induced AD
Unsurprisingly, many of my patients suffer from cognitive impairment caused by a combination of assaults on the brain. If a person is deficient in nutrients that are needed to function optimally, it cannot construct the molecules that manage repair and healing. The standard American diet (SAD) is commonly to blame because it lacks sufficient micronutrients.
An individual’s regular consumption of the SAD can result in increased inflammatory signaling in the brain and other organs. A body that is deficient is also inflamed!
4. Inhalation or toxic exposure induced AD
Increased industrial products mean more toxic byproducts that can make their way into our bodies, storing in fat and other tissues. Toxins connected to neuroinflammation include heavy metals like mercury, lead, aluminum, and cadmium; agricultural pesticides; flame retardants in clothing and furniture; and air pollution from vehicles and industrial sources. Exposure to fungus and mold, bacterial infections, and viruses are also connected to cognitive impairment. There are countless attacks made on our bodies every day by toxins delivered in food, air, water, and contact with skin. At a certain point, the body reaches an overload and can no longer keep up!
5. Cerebrovascular-induced AD
Vascular health is essential for a properly functioning brain. Oxygen and nutrients supplied by the blood must make it past the blood-brain barrier to provide neural tissue with fuel. For this reason, cardiovascular diseases or impairment can easily affect brain function. Cerebrovascular events like stroke also cause damage to brain tissue. Often, patients with Alzheimer’s suffer from amyloid plaques as well as cerebrovascular lesions, indicating a possible relationship. This makes sense when considering the recent understanding that amyloid is, in fact, a protective immune response.
Cognitive impairment due to brain trauma has garnered more attention over recent years due to the increased prevalence of NFL football players experiencing cognitive decline and neurological symptoms after repeated head trauma.
However, it is not just a concussion and blunt force that result in brain damage and amyloid plaque formation.
Researcher’s recently found that people who have undergone brain surgeries early in life had developed the misfolded proteins associated with AD plaques over three decades later.
As you can see, the prevention of cognitive decline is complex, and we must consider each of these factors. To treat and reverse cognitive decline, we must first identify which risks are applicable to the individual suffering from the symptoms. This is the reason that functional medicine is more effective at reversing cognitive decline than any other approach. We pay attention to each unique patient and focus on finding the root cause of his or her disease, not the symptoms alone.