For decades, scientists have been trying to figure out what sets off the brain changes that lead to the devastating memory loss of Alzheimer’s disease.
And over the years, various studies have pointed to everything from shortages of neurotransmitters… to deposits of amyloid protein… to inflammation raging in your gray matter.
Yet without a definitive “smoking gun,” it’s been impossible to develop effective treatments or recommend surefire ways to prevent the disease from hijacking your brain.
But stop the presses — because a new study may have discovered the first “domino” in all of these brain changes.
And it turns out that the “brain drain” of Alzheimer’s may actually begin with a “plumbing problem” in your blood vessels!
You see, your brain is filled with tiny vessels that deliver nourishing blood to all parts of your brain, and these delicate “pipes” are normally covered with protective cells called “pericytes.”
In the study, University of Southern California researchers found that the brains of people who’d died from Alzheimer’s disease had 50 per cent fewer pericytes than the brains of healthy folks.
Investigating further, the researchers then compared the brains of mice lacking pericytes to a control group using MRI brain imaging — and it turned out that a shortage of pericytes led to a cascade of damaging events.
Compared to the controls, the mice without pericytes developed 50 per cent more blood vessel leakage, which allowed toxins to sneak into their brains and begin building up.
And all of these changes caused “white matter” (nerve fibers) in their brains to die!
Now, in humans, the death of white matter can interfere with your ability to learn or remember new things… slow your thinking… and cause balance issues… ALL of which are symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
That means that a breakdown in your brain’s blood-vessel (“vascular”) system may be the very thing that gets the ball rolling on Alzheimer’s disease!
In fact, the researchers wagered that half of all dementias may start with compromised pericytes.
And though the study didn’t determine exactly how these cells get damaged in the first place, we do know that once it happens, “Blood flow in the brain reduces like a drain that is slowly getting clogged,” as one of the study’s authors put it.
And that suggests that finding ways to increase all-important blood flow in your brain may buffer it from Alzheimer’s path of destruction.
You can do so by upping your intake of something called nitrate, which is found in foods like beets, blueberries, carrots, and leafy greens like spinach.
Your body converts nitrate into nitric oxide (NO), which relaxes your blood vessels… makes them more flexible… and allows the blood to gush through unobstructed.
Of course, exercise also gets your blood pumping and increases no levels, which may be part of why physical activity has been shown to protect against cognitive decline.
Wishing you the best of health,
Dr. Glenn S. Rothfeld
Nutrition & Healing
Half of all dementias, including Alzheimer’s, start with damaged ‘gatekeeper cells’, published online, usc.edu/135765/half-of-all-dementias-start-with-damaged-gatekeeper-cells/