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What causes Alzheimer's disease?

This week on Instagram a majority of you voted to find out about what causes Alzheimer's disease. This topic is personal to me, and I found the information eye opening, specific and comforting. I hope you do too.

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Every time I go home, my Grandma used to ask me the same questions, and every time I’d answer fondly that I lived in London now and that I was studying or working, to which she’d reply “London! I’ve been there. Have you ever been to Abbey Road?”

Every time I’d reply, “Yes Grandma, I lived around there for a few weeks, it’s lovely isn’t it.”

These days she just says hi and tells me I look great because it’s what she knows she’s supposed to say to people. My Grandma doesn’t recognise me anymore.

My Grandma has Alzheimer's, or dementia, to be honest I’m not sure which one it is, and my other Grandma (Bà Ngoại), who passed away a few years ago, had dementia too.

It made me wonder if I was destined to forget myself, but I looked it up and according to the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom, the genes you inherit from your parents can contribute to your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, but the actual increase in risk is small.

So what makes the risks big?

Women more likely to develop Alzheimer’s in dementia. Possible explanations for this are simply because women tend to live longer, and because we have better immune systems it leads to women having an increased number of amyloids, which is a component of Alzeimer's, in the brain.

I also found several lifestyle factors and conditions associated with cardiovascular disease can increase the risk of Alzheimer's. These include: smoking, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure & high cholesterol, but then I found a really interesting piece of knowledge in line with the above watching the Diary of a CEO podcast with Jessie Inchauspé, a French biochemist and bestselling author.

After breaking her back at 19, Jessie became interested in achieving optimal health and she did this through studying how to control blood sugar levels in the body. In the interview, Jessie got specific about the conditions above, said unstable blood sugar levels (or unstable glucose) is positively correlated development of Alzheimer's disease.

Was Jessie onto something?

I looked it up and the literature shows unstable blood sugar is strongly linked with Alzheimer's disease. It all came together for me when I researched further and found how interlinked blood sugar is to the conditions mentioned before are. Smoking (and drinking too) is linked to unstable blood sugar, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

It seems the way to managing risk here is to manage health as a whole. So how do you go about that? If you smoke, I’m not going to suggest you don’t smoke. If you drink, I’m not going to suggest you don’t drink. There might be another blog in the future where I tell you how people quit if you guys want that, but honestly you’re human, give yourself grace.

Instead, I’m going to focus on something I think is easy and actionable, which is managing blood sugar. The body is just a series of chemical reactions, so of course there are scientists who have come up with blood sugar stabilising hacks. I’ve put five below you can try from Jessie and Harvard Health Publishing. These hacks focus on what you can add to your routines vs. taking your joy away.

Five blood sugar hacks you can use -

  1. Eat vegetables before a meal - the fibre will slow down sugars and carbohydrates in your meal

  2. Eat a savoury breakfasts focused on fats and proteins - this will help stabilise blood sugar levels and keep you full

  3. Drink a tablespoon of vinegar diluted in a glass of water before a meal/ sugary snack - sounds fake, is real because of the acetic acid found in vinegar

  4. Move after a meal for 10 minutes - this can be cleaning your house, a walk, calf-raises, literally anything

  5. Add proteins, fat and fibre to your carbs when possible - add yoghurt to cake, chia seeds to oatmeal, you get the vibe

For more of Jessie’s tips, watch her interview. I found her really charming, smart and not intimidating.

This week was as much about me as it was about you reading this. I’m really glad you guys chose this topic because I don’t feel so afraid anymore. After looking into what actually causes Alzheimer’s, it seems more in my control than I thought it would be.

Enjoyed this post?

Thanks for reading! Tune in next week where we'll explore another question keeping us up at night. If you have any ideas let me know in the contact form on my page!

Questions that keep me up at night - the blog for curious people every Wednesday at 9:00am.

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