Cognitive Decline; Why Does it Happen? When Does it Start?
Alzheimer’s is one of the worlds’ leading causes of death and it has become shocking and devastating because most of the families don’t know how to prevent it in an early stage. Statistically, it is found that it will affect 50% of people over 85 years old. In this episode, host Dr. Trish Murray talks about cognitive decline, why it happens, and when does it start. She shares a program to prevent and reverse the cognitive decline of dementia that can benefit your family.
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Cognitive Decline; Why Does it Happen? When Does it Start?
Our topic is about cognitive decline, why does it happen and when does it start? This topic is near and dear to my heart because my mom passed away at 86 years old from Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline. She had six children after getting married at the age of 30. I was number five. When I was in my twenties, mom was in her late 50s to early 60s, at that relatively young age, she started to develop memory loss and she went on to develop Alzheimer’s. We lost her long before she ever passed away at the age of 86, basically a vegetable in the bed. If you know someone who has cognitive decline or Alzheimer’s disease, they lose their own history. They lose their personality. They lose the ability to interact with family and friends.
Some of the statistics around Alzheimer’s disease are becoming shocking and devastating. It will affect 50% of people over 85 years old. It is presently the seventh leading cause of death, which is 10% of people 65 years or older have some form of cognitive decline and 25% in their seventh decade. By 75 years old, one in four have some form of cognitive decline. One out of every two people in their eighth decade, by the time we’re 85, are estimated to have either Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of cognitive decline. This is not right.
Dr. Dale Bredesen’s The End Of Alzheimer’s
I’m going to be focusing on the work by a neuroscientist and a physician by the name of Dr. Dale Bredesen, who’s written a book called The End of Alzheimer’s: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline. Dr. Bredesen has also created a protocol. He calls the ReCODE Protocol, which I am certified. We do work with people who are interested in the ReCODE Protocol through Discover Health Functional Medicine Center. I also want you to understand that one of the major themes that runs through Dr. Bredesen’s work is that the problem of cognitive decline, it’s not in your head, it’s in your body. It’s caused by many different factors that become unbalanced in us as we go through our lives. It could be due to an imbalance in the gut-brain connection, for example, which means you have an unhealthy gut from possibly diet, stress, disease or infection such as the microbiome and the microbiota of bacteria, viruses, and fungus that many times enter us because of how we eat. Not only because of how we eat but our initiating problems between the gut and the brain.
Another underlying cause of cognitive problems and many other chronic diseases is inflammation. Another is the hormone brain connection, such as many hormones being out of balance, estrogen, testosterone, cortisol, which is your stress hormone, and many others, such as insulin related to someone’s diet and how much sugar we ingest. There are many things that go into the possible underlying cause of the development of cognitive decline. Another one that I would need to not miss mentioning is toxicity such as heavy metals, chronic infection or toxins from the receipts you’re handed at the grocery store because it’s full of certain chemicals that are toxic to us. Problems in your body are still problems, don’t put it off and wait for it to get worse.
The other thing I want to make sure we talk about in this show is that you do not age and get into your fifth-decade, sixth-decade, seventh-decade and eighth-decade and all of a sudden catch cognitive decline. It’s happening for many years before your family, friends or you start to notice that you can’t quite calculate the numbers as much. You can’t remember people’s names. You can’t remember why you walked into this room or that room. You can’t remember how to drive to your office. It didn’t happen overnight. It happens over the decades. That’s the thing we need to understand. If you are suffering from a collection of symptomatology such as depression, anxiety or mood swings, this should be a sign to you that there is something out of balance in your body, your metabolism, and your hormones and your inflammation possibly is too high. It’s causing your brain to show you signals that you’re not functioning optimally. If you’re feeling nervous and emotional more than you think you should. If you’re having brain fog, that is an early sign that there are degenerative processes and inflammatory imbalances or hormone imbalances going on that are affecting the optimal function of your brain.
If you are not sleeping well, if you have insomnia, if you have hair loss or hair thinning or if you feel fatigued, tired and have lost your mojo, these are all signs. If you have bowel difficulties, irritable bowel syndrome with a mixture of either diarrhea or constipation and you never feel like you empty, if you have bloating. You’ve got to try and find a way to figure out why that’s happening to you. You need to figure it out as soon as possible so that you can find an underlying cause, solve the problem, and avoid future problems that are going to affect your brain more. Cold hands and cold feet, night sweats, chronic pain, weight problems, all of these things are signs. If you’re putting on weight but you feel like you’re eating like a bird, something is out of balance that’s not related to how much you’re eating.
These are the things that if you read that list of many different types of problems and symptoms and you are realizing that you have numerous of the things I listed off, then you have to understand that you and many of us have become hypersensitive to our environment. The unhappy, chaotic, disorganized, disengaged, forgetful brain is an imbalanced, inflamed, toxic brain. You need to understand that these problems are a problem. Don’t put it off and wait and say, “I’ll figure that out when I’m retired.” That’s too late. You need to think about it now because symptoms begin in the brain, years if not decades, before the diagnosis of cognitive decline or Alzheimer’s disease is ever diagnosed.
Why Does Cognitive Decline Happen?
Let’s talk about why does it happen and what’s happening physiologically in the brain when we start to have brain fog and cognitive decline and why is there an imbalance?
First of all, we have to talk about the fact that the brain is like a computer. The brain has billions and billions of nerves or neurons. Those neurons have synapses with each other. Synapse means that one nerve is communicating chemically through little branches that are near each other. They send chemicals across the branches through the synapses, these areas where the chemicals are communicating from neuron to neuron and nerve to nerve. We need healthy synapses. If the synapses break down and the nerve dies because it’s inflamed or toxic, then we are not going to have as many synapses. There is a concept in science and in medicine around these two words, a blastic cell or a clastic concept. If we use the word synapse, when we talk about a synaptoblastic situation, that means synaptoblasts are growing more synapses. They’re healthy cells and they’re growing more branches to go talk with more nerves. More communicating wires are being blasticly grown in order to communicate and make our computer better.
Synaptoclastic is the opposite. It means you’re breaking down the wires. The wires are not working and they’re dying off because they’re not functioning normally. All of life, it’s normal to have the appropriate balance between a building up of cells and getting rid of old and dysfunctional cells. You need to have a good balance between synaptoblastic situations where you’re growing more and synaptoclastic where you’re getting rid of the old. This is normal. For example, let’s talk about bones. People are familiar with the concept of osteoporosis where people lose more bone than they’re growing. We are born and by the time we’re 30, approximately in our first three decades, we grow bone more than we break bone down or degenerate bone or lose bone. We have more osteoblastic cells that are creating bone than we do osteoclastic cells that are degenerating and breaking down bone.
When we turn in our third decade, we start to reach our peak of bone development, we start to lose bone. In our 50s, 60s, 70s, there are more osteoclasts breaking down bone than there is osteoblast building bone. Some people, unless we’re doing something that causes our body to produce more bone and create more osteoblasts to make more bone, then there’s more osteoclasts out of balance and breaking the bones down. That’s what leads to osteoporosis. Osteopenia first and then possibly osteoporosis. That’s an example in your bone system.
We’re not talking about our bones. We’re talking about our brain cells, our neurons, and our nervous system, but the same concept applies. If you have more synaptoblastic production, then you’re growing more synapses, you’re growing more cells and your brain is going to remain healthy. If you have an imbalance and you’re breaking down and you’re having too much synaptoclastic behavior, the nerve endings in the nerve synapses are depleting, degenerating, breaking down and the neurons are dying. This is the basic concept of cognitive decline, which is that there’s an imbalance. You’re having too much synaptoclastic behavior where the synapses are breaking down, dying and creating a synapse or a neuron can commit suicide. My old cells, if they’re not functioning properly, are supposed to get a message to die off, commit suicide and go away because they’re in the way, and healthier cells are supposed to be taking their place. That’s normal physiology.
Balance Vs. Imbalance: Neurological System Of The Brain
The whole concept is about balance. Is this imbalance or is it out of balance? In Dr. Bredesen’s book, The End of Alzheimer’s, he gets into some detail about explaining this concept in the neurological system of the brain. I want to take a few minutes and go into the process he explains. First of all, amyloid-beta. You may have heard of amyloid-beta in the cognitive decline world and that it’s been thought for a long time. Amyloid-beta causes the plaques that cause Alzheimer’s disease and plaques to build up in the brain. These plaques cause the breakdown of nerves, breakdown of the synapses, breakdown of memories and breakdown of the function of the computer and the cognitive decline that comes with it. What Dr. Bredesen has determined in his lab through many decades of research that there is a receptor. In science, all cells have receptors. The problem of cognitive decline is it is not in your head, it’s in your body.
That’s another way, one cell will communicate with another cell or where molecules that are floating around in our interstitial fluid will communicate with a cell and bind to a receptor. There is this big receptor called an amyloid precursor protein. It’s a very large receptor in the brain on neurons, nerve cells. It has as many as 695 amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Receptors are proteins. They’re structural pieces to a cell. A nerve has these big receptors on it called amyloid precursor protein. It is that’s receptors’ job to have molecules bind with it and to either nurture it and feed it or to give it a signal to start to degenerate and die. What Dr. Bredesen has explained is that the amyloid precursor protein receptors on nerve endings or neurons, based on the molecules that bind with it, get messages.
If certain molecules bind to that receptor, it may break it and cause that receptor to be cut by another chemical called a protease. It is an enzyme that will cause the protein to be broken into different fragments. The amyloid precursor protein can be broken into multiple different fragments based on the signal it gets from molecules in our bloodstream, in our connective tissue or in the interstitial fluid that surrounds the cell. For example, if a certain molecule called the netrin-1 molecule binds to the amyloid precursor protein, then that molecule will send an anti-Alzheimer’s message and growth and nutritional message to the neuron. The protein receptor will be broken in one place and break into two different fragments. Those two fragments are called a soluble amyloid precursor protein alpha and an alpha-CTF.
You’ll notice that it is broken into two pieces. These two pieces nourished the neuron for growth and health and it blocks the message for the neuron to commit suicide, meaning it stays alive and it stays healthy. However, if a different molecule or amyloid-beta, which is a much smaller protein and it’s a piece of the amyloid precursor protein receptor. It’s a small fragment of the receptor itself that if the piece is broken off from amyloid precursor protein, then it goes back and binds to another amyloid precursor protein receptor. That receptor will be cut and fragmented in three different places creating four fragments. Those four fragments are called soluble amyloid precursor protein beta, a Jcasp, a C31, and the big problem, a fragment of amyloid-beta.
If you break the amyloid precursor protein receptor, it gets the message for amyloid-beta to break into four different fragments. This leads to a message to the neuron that causes a loss of the synapses that neuron is having with other nerves. Therefore, it causes a shriveling up of the part of the neuron that extends out to connect to other neurons. It also activates the neuron’s suicide programming. You have this receptor and it’s going to get messages from the world around, its environment. If the messages are positive and give a message to cause increased growth, then the receptor will be cut in one place and will have two fragments. If amyloid beta has already been produced by the environment and that receptor has been getting a message to cut itself in three places, causing four fragments and one of those fragments is amyloid-beta, that’s going to cause a synaptoclastic behavior that’s pro-Alzheimer’s. You’re going to produce more amyloid-beta. The more amyloid-beta exists, the more amyloid beta is going to bind to the receptor and cause its own suicide as a vicious cycle of degeneration.
Dr. Bredesen says that this is called a prionic loop where there’s a vicious cycle where a piece of the receptor itself breaks off, it goes in and binds to other receptors, causes them to break down into the wrong pathway. It is a synaptoclastic pathway where you’re degenerative and breaking down synapses rather than growing more synapses. If you’re following this concept, the bottom line is how do we promote netrin-1? How do we promote the molecules in our brains and in our environment of fluids around our brains? How do we promote the synaptoblastic growth of our synapses and keep our computer healthy rather than allow the computer to have cells that are breaking down and becoming synaptoclastic fragmenting in the four pieces, creating the amyloid-beta and causing more of this vicious cycle?
One thing to realize is that Dr. Bredesen has also found that there is not just one thing that is going to promote more netrin-1 and less amyloid-beta. He talks about it as if you have a barn as an analogy. You look up with the barn’s roof and you see one hole in the roof. You go up on the ladder to the roof. You close that one hole in the roof. You’re not going to have any more rain leaking in your barn. That’s fine because you only had one hole. The problem with cognitive decline and synaptoblastic versus synaptoclastic balance is that Dr. Bredesen has found in his research that there are many different factors in our daily environment, in our own metabolism and physiology that can tip the person’s balance to a more synaptoclastic breakdown of synapses rather than a synaptoblastic building of synapses.
For example, if you live a lifestyle of the standard American diet that is pro-inflammatory and high sugar. You’re breaking down your gut lining. You’re living a stressful life where you don’t take time to take care of yourself, you don’t take time 5 to 10 minutes a day at the very least to quiet your mind and your being and you don’t exercise. You don’t drink enough water, then you’re developing hormonal imbalances that may include estrogen, testosterone, thyroid, insulin and cortisol. All of these hormones could be out of balance. Each one of them would be a different hole in the roof of the barn.
If you have inflammation in your system because you drink too much sugar, you have too much stress, you take in too much out of balance alcohol or recreational drugs. You don’t get enough sunlight and you’re not producing enough vitamin D, you’re not exercising or like many of us, you’re burning the candle at both ends and you’re not getting enough restful sleep. You’ll notice every single one of these parts of our daily environment and the world we produce for ourselves, represents a different hole if you’re not taking care of it on your roof. He’s talked about as many as 30 different factors in a person’s hormonal, physiological, metabolic life and lifestyle that are different holes in the roof in his analogy.
If all these holes are open, then you’re going to have a flood in your barn. If that’s the case, that’s going to tip an imbalance in the molecules of your brain that are floating around in the cerebral spinal fluid. That is going to bind to the receptor, the amyloid precursor protein. It’s going to give it that wrong message. It’s going to give it a suicide message and tell it to break down. To summarize this analogy, your amyloid precursor proteins are receptors on your nerve cells in your brain. There are billions of them. They act like a different analogy as the chief financial officer of your company. It takes an inventory of the income and the products that are available. The brain is very smart. It’s going to get rid of last hired, first fired in the business world.
If there are no growth-promoting hormones, vitamins, minerals and nutrients to sustain and maintain the existing synapses and form new ones. If there’s no production going on to produce new neurons with good hormones, good vitamins, good minerals in an anti-inflammatory state, then the financial officer, that amyloid precursor protein is going to send out a downsizing memo to initiate the three cuts in itself, rather than the one cut in itself, leading and producing a message for neuronal suicide and degeneration. The other thing that’s important to understand about this message is that the brain is very smart. It’s going to get rid of last hired, first fired. In the business world, that analogy applies here as well. If you’re not promoting an environment of growth and there’s too much inflammation, cortisol, toxins and there’s been trauma and that’s not a productive state, then the brain is going to start and the amyloid precursor protein will send these messages in the four fragments. The amyloid-beta is going to be growing and it’s going to be last hired, first fired.
What that means is that recent memories go first, older ones go next and the oldest memories go last. If you are familiar with someone in your family or friends that have had cognitive decline, this is why we can’t remember what we had for breakfast, but we remembered what we did when we were 25 years old. We’ve always remembered our children, but we don’t remember who we met before because recent memories go first. The brain is smart. It doesn’t feel it needs to hold on to what you ate for breakfast, but it does need to remember how to walk around the house you live in. This is groundbreaking information. Dr. Dale Bredesen is on the cutting edge of this. He has developed a program that he calls the ReCODE Protocol. You can google that and Dr. Dale Bredesen, or you could go to my website, DiscoverHealthFMC.com. We have information about the ReCODE Protocol. The fact that I am a certified provider within it, this is near and dear to my heart. I am doing, walking the walk, and learning everything I can to avoid developing what my mom has suffered. I hope this has helped. I’ll talk to you in the next episode.