The Better for America Podcast

What Does Alzheimer’s Do to the Human Brain? (And How to Prevent It!)

Posted on Friday, June 7, 2024
by Rebecca Weber
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Better For America Ep 288 | Edward S. Park, Ph.D., M.S.

In this insightful episode, Rebecca Weber interviews Dr. Edward Park, founder and president of Neuro Reserve, about brain health, cognitive decline, and Alzheimer’s disease. Discover key insights on the differences between normal cognitive aging and Alzheimer’s, the impact of lifestyle and genetics, and practical prevention strategies. Learn about the Mediterranean and MIND diets, and find out how to support brain health effectively. Tune in for crucial information that can help you and your loved ones maintain a healthy brain as you age.

Please leave any questions or suggestions for future BFA episodes in the comments below!


Rebecca Weber: Hello, everyone. We have a fantastic episode coming right up. We’re going to be talking about brain health, your brain health, cognitive decline, what to look out for Alzheimer’s disease. Joining me shortly is Dr. Edward Park. He is the founder and president of Neuro Reserve. We’ll be back in just a moment.

So stay tuned. Dr. Edward Park. I’m thrilled to have you with me here today. Thank you so much for joining the show.

Edward S. Park: Hey, thank you so much for, for having me here and, thank you so much for, for focusing on this area of brain health that we’re going to be speaking about today. It’s very important for Americans and, and it’s very timely also, because, next month is Alzheimer’s and brain awareness month, very important topic to cover.

So thank you. And it’s wonderful to speak with you, Rebecca.

Rebecca Weber: this is really terrific because, just over the last two evenings, I was doing my own research a little bit into brain health, specifically around how AMAC members can save. 40 percent when they order this particular product.

We’ll talk more about that later. But the information on brain health, I think there’s a lot of confusion out there and a lot of, there’s a lot of fear when it comes to, to brain health. A lot of confusion, but also, a lot of families, a lot of our own AMAC members are dealing with a loved one who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

So I do want to talk a little bit about brain health overall and Alzheimer’s disease. It is so important, as you say. It’s important, I think, all the time, especially as we’re aging. and like I said, when people think about diseases of the brain, we do tend to think about Alzheimer’s disease. And I was shocked to learn that one in nine people over the age of 65 suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.

Now, as we age, we do expect some cognitive decline, but how does Alzheimer’s disease differ from normal cognitive aging?

Edward S. Park: Yeah, that’s a great question and I think the first thing people should think about when it comes to brain health as they age is that some people think that there’s nothing we can do about it.

But yet, there are. There are many things we can do about it, so that’s good news. and the other thing is that some people might think, the brain doesn’t really age. It’s like behind my skull, right? It’s protected there, right? But it does age, actually. Very much just like any other organ in the body, and just like our joints and muscles.

it’s just a little bit harder to feel. But we do, we can get a hint of brain aging, as we, as we get older. And some examples of, what we would call normal brain aging, would be, in situations where, let’s say, a person maybe misplaces an item and has to retrace their steps to find it, perhaps a key, another object.

Maybe they have a couple of instances here or there where they have difficulty finding the right word. that they want to use in a conversation. And then other cases where, they, they just might forget, what day of the week is it this week? Oh, and I thought it was Wednesday. It’s actually Thursday or something like that.

Now, when it comes to abnormal brain aging and symptoms or, I should say, evidence of that, one type of abnormal, I in general, the abnormal brain aging comes down to the familiar, I should say. And let’s say a person has a recipe that they’ve made many times over, year over year, for family get togethers.

And they start to have trouble remembering what the recipe is or the sequence of events that takes place to put together that recipe. That’s abnormal brain aging. Another familiar circumstance could be a person who’s driven to the same location hundreds, maybe thousands of times to work or for other reasons.

And all of a sudden, they’re lost one day, right? They’re going there and they find out that they don’t know how to get there. Those are symptoms of abnormal brain aging, brain impairment, and possibly disease. In this case, Alzheimer’s disease. there are some different ways we can get hints about whether or not it’s abnormal brain aging or whether or not it’s more normal brain aging.

Rebecca Weber: Yeah, and we should all be tuning in and listening because it does seem, and correct me if I’m wrong, that Alzheimer’s disease has increased, or there are more people diagnosed today with Alzheimer’s disease. Has there really been a sharp increase in the number of people suffering from this disease? Or was it maybe just undiagnosed or under recognized in decades past?

Edward S. Park: I’d say it’s a combination of both. And what makes brain aging and Alzheimer’s disease so unique, is amongst other diseases, are a couple of things. the first is that it can run undetected and therefore undiagnosed for a very long time. In the sense that it builds up in our brains first, before the clinical or cognitive symptoms become clear.

And when I say it builds up in the brain, what I mean by that is that most people with Alzheimer’s have a build up. of certain substances in the brain that are evidence of, unhealthy brain aging. And one of them is what we call amyloid beta. It’s called an amyloid plaque, if you will. And those are plaques that appear or emerge and accumulate between the neurons in our brain.

So they take up that space between neurons. And another thing that builds up That’s a protein called tau. And what they do is they become tangled within the neurons. So you have problems happening within our neurons and we have problems happening between our neurons. And that builds up over time but the cognitive symptoms don’t appear until much later.

And that undetected nature of Alzheimer’s is a very big problem. And the reason for that is because there aren’t good biomarkers as we call them to follow it And a really good example of a really simple biomarker out there is LDL cholesterol. For heart disease, people go to the doctor and they check their LDL.

And if it’s high, oh, they know I could be in trouble. Another one is A1C. People who are going into or going near diabetes will track their A1C to make sure that they’re not getting too high, right? Alzheimer’s has nothing like that. We hope so in the future, but not right now. And that’s why it can run undetected and people can’t do anything about it or don’t know to do anything about it.

The next thing is that there aren’t very good drugs for it, and we can speak about drugs a little bit later, but the drugs that are available now and that have been developed are actually very modest and incremental in their effects. So it’s going to take a while for good drugs to come out. And possibly it could take a very, long time.

So, that’s another thing that makes Alzheimer’s and brain diseases in general, with aging very unique. And so we have cancer, we have heart disease, we have diabetes, we have these major diseases of aging in our country. And all of those we have pretty good drugs, we have pretty good detection for them.

even cancer, we have some very nice drugs coming out. But when it comes to Alzheimer’s, what we’ve seen is a 150 percent increase in Alzheimer’s cause of death over the past 20 years. And these other ones that I just mentioned are actually flat or maybe even going down in their rates. So that makes it very special, very unique, and very important for us to speak about and to get a handle on.

and as you mentioned, 1 in 9 seniors has, has Alzheimer’s. And 1 in 3. We’ll die from Alzheimer’s or related dementia. So unless we do something about it, and we could talk about that.

Rebecca Weber: so I guess that our listeners must be thinking what I’m thinking and that is, what causes this? and then of course, how do we prevent it?

But what plays a bigger role in brain health? Is it genetics, lifestyles, or is it both? And, do we really know, what causes one person to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease versus someone else who. Has no cognitive issues in their 90s.

Edward S. Park: Oh, that’s, they’ve done, and it’s really great research is happening right now comparing the oldest of old who are very cognitively healthy and people who are very young and become cognitively unhealthy, right?

and go into disease and, you’re bringing up something that’s really neat and really important for people to know and, learn about, I’d say, and that is the genetics versus lifestyle aspect. And, it’s not all genetics. everyone out there, who might be concerned about it, you’re not locked in.

it’s, you’re not, there are only very, there are rare cases of Alzheimer’s that are dominantly genetic. There are rare cases, but most cases, like the vast majority, we’re talking 95 percent plus, cases of Alzheimer’s or what we call sporadic Alzheimer’s disease. Those are not dominantly genetic.

There are certain genes that might predispose people to Alzheimer’s and they’re called susceptibility genes. And one of them people may want to look up and learn a little bit more about, and we can discuss here briefly is APOE4. And APOE 4, everybody gets two copies of APOE, and they’re different numbers, 1, 2, 3, and 4, and you might get a 2, 3, or a 2, 2, or you might get a 3, 3, and you might get a 4.

or a 4 and a 2, but if you have one of those that’s APOE4, or if you have two of them, APOE4, then your risk for Alzheimer’s may go up. Now, the good news is that if people have those particular genes, they are pliable, meaning that lifestyle can affect how much that gene can affect. comes into play.

And so that’s what, when we come into the lifestyle aspect. And, the Cleveland Clinic has a really great framework for people who want to take care of their brains over their life. And lifestyle can play at least 50 percent or more, of, of, our risk and Alzheimer’s. So we really have to pay attention to it.

And that framework that Cleveland Clinic has, they call it the six pillars of brain health. and the first is diet and nutrition. we’ll talk a little bit more about that. It’s a big lever that people can pull. Physical activity is the second one. Sleep management and energy is the third one. and maintaining relationships with people.

Staying socially connected, is the fourth. And, Making sure that we manage heart disease and diabetes, actually, both of which are risk factors for Alzheimer’s is another. And finally, Staying cognitively fit, just making sure that we’re stimulated and learning throughout our lives, and that’s another thing.

So there are six things that people can do as they continue to do these things. They will actually reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s. And that is some pretty new information. Quite frankly, it’s only come out in the past ten years and really solidified. And in medicine, 10 years is like yesterday, medicine moves slow,

Rebecca Weber: so, I want to talk more about the diet piece.

I, I want to get into that a little bit and have you tell us a little bit more about how a controlled diet or paying attention to what you eat or don’t eat can have, play a major role in your cognitive development. fitness, but I’m curious, a couple of quick questions. what are some basic things that you would say to avoid?

Is there anything out there that’s bad for the brain? for example, smoking, salt. I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m not a doctor, but I ask you, are there, any, specific foods to avoid or specific habits to avoid that actually do or are known to increase the chance of cognitive decline or perhaps lead to Alzheimer’s.

Edward S. Park: Yes. So a couple of key things in lifestyle that could lead towards a, definitely increase a person’s risk, is being sedentary. we want to stay active physically. That’s a very big component. there’s lots of great research out there and controlled clinical studies that are, beginning to uncover the fact that physical activity is very important.

And, really neat science behind that. the next is sleep. Making sure that we get enough sleep, believe it or not. I know, some people pride themselves on, I’ve, worked really hard. I only slept four hours last night. I’m cranking away today, but you really, we really need to take care of ourselves when it comes to sleep, for diet and nutrition.

Now there’s a lot, there’s a lot there and I’m going to, there’s a couple of things you should not do. Okay. should not be indulging or, making a regular habit of, having processed foods. So when I say processed foods, I’m thinking about the foods that are on the inner part of a grocery store. the outer part of a grocery store, the periphery of a grocery store tends to have your produce, right?

You walk in the door, you got the produce in the backside, you got your meats and dairies and things like that. And then, but in the middle there, there’s all these boxes of stuff, right? and that’s usually, food that’s tends to be processed to some extent or another, some very processed foods, so we want to try and minimize, the processed foods that we eat.

The second thing is saturated fats. Now, saturated fats are those fats that tend to turn into solids, when, they’re at room temperature, butters, margarines, some, coconut oils, things like that, they end up becoming solid, at room temperature, and that’s, those are, that’s a sign for saturated fats.

So we want to avoid, too much in saturated fats, and also, finally, excess sugar. And I know that’s tough for a lot of people, but excess sugar, especially liquid, sugar drinks, those can absorb very quickly into the body. we’re talking sodas, right? A lot of our standard sodas out there. excess sweets is another thing that we definitely need to avoid so.

Rebecca Weber: Really interesting. all of this is just really Is there any, you mentioned the, talking about, LDL, the cholesterol, the bad cholesterol, that we all look for in our annual blood work, is there any correlation with having increased LDL and, greater risk for, brain disease?

Edward S. Park: Yes. when it comes to cardiovascular health in general, actually, if a person say has hypertension. they’ve got the high blood pressure going on, they are at higher risk, significantly higher risk of Alzheimer’s or vascular dementia, which is another type and related dementia. And the reason why is because the brain needs blood to flow to it.

And if a person has, diseases or conditions related to blood vessels, that could interfere with the ability. blood to get to the brain and nourish the brain and keep it running and also alive. the brain is extremely resource intensive. It’s extremely energy intensive. So, when, we think about the brain, we think of it as maybe 2 or 3 percent of our body weight.

But then when it comes to the amount of energy it uses 25 percent of our body’s energy. It just punches way above its weight, literally, when it comes to the energy needs that it has. And therefore, it’s nourishment and nutrient needs as well. another thing to look for is, is the diabetes factor.

A1C, right? That’s the risk factor. as people look at their A1C and, they’ve got to keep it underneath 6. 5. That they want to keep. Ideally below six, right? And as they’re creeping up, what happens then is if you get closer to diabetes, we have what we call insulin resistance. And many people who have diabetes or are family members with diabetes understand this concept where so much sugar is put into the body and insulin is needed to carry that sugar into the cells, the insulin gets worn out.

Your pancreas and insulin gets worn out. And on top of that, the cells start to say, no, I don’t want any more sugar. So they don’t let it in. And it keeps circulating in the blood rather than going into our cells. And so that A1C tracks that process. And for the brain, which needs all that energy and needs all that glucose, right?

What it’ll start to say is, I can’t, take it. And then the energy starts to have energy deficits. There’s not enough energy in the brain. and there’s a, lot of. Great research going on in that area, and especially for women who are, going into perimenopause or are penmenopausal.

There are, Glucose processing or the ability to take in glucose and energy into the brain that affect their cognitive function. And that’s why many hot flashes and also, things like that tend to happen for women going into menopause. And I just want to point out that women make up about two thirds of Alzheimer’s cases.

And there’s certain, biological reasons for that as well, that relate to menopause and current menopause. And, that window that takes place. I’m opening up a lot of topics here, Rebecca. I don’t mean to do that.

Rebecca Weber: It’s so interesting though, , this is real important. I think that this is a topic that impacts, personally many people.

And, people are always asking are there any real advancements in treatment or cures, promising future, revelations that say, we’re getting closer and closer to curing this type of disease. there are so many suffering, with this terrible disease.

It’s not just the individual who’s got Alzheimer’s disease, but it impacts everyone that person loves. Thank you have, is there any hope for the future in terms of advancements in treatment or technology?

Edward S. Park: Yes, there’s, some great advancements. And, one comes on the prevention side and the other comes on the treatment side.

And on the prevention side, we spoke about nutrition and diet earlier. Two very important diets that have, emerged as neuroprotective or brain protective as we age are the Mediterranean diet and the Mayan diet. And the MIND diet was developed at Rush University Medical Center. And it’s a modified Mediterranean diet.

It’s like a Mediterranean diet, but it’s very focused on foods for the brain. Focused on dark, leafy green vegetables. Focused on, deeply colored berries. Focused on, obviously, olive oil, which is a big component of the Mediterranean diet. And certain cold water fish. and also whole grains, which is a very, important, source of fiber.

but, the MIND diet and the Mediterranean diet have been shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s in the future by over 50%. if you can take, diet, And reduce risk by 50%. a lot of drugs out there can’t reduce risk by small amounts, so a 50 percent reduction is huge and that’s very new information.

over the past 10 years, that’s been built and corroborated over time. on the so from French inside, that’s important from the drug side, those drugs that I mentioned earlier, that go after amyloid beta, so that start to clear out those plaques that we had spoken about earlier.

those are coming into, medicine, these days. Starting last year, and there are going to be more approvals coming over the next few years as well. And that’s the very first step. of attacking Alzheimer’s because the amyloid plaques that build up in the brain are actually just one component. We spoke about the energy component, right?

And there’s other ways, maybe other treatments can attack Alzheimer’s as well. but ultimately, those take a long time. And on top of that, they, may not be as effective. hitting Alzheimer’s early enough in the process. And that’s why the combination of prevention and treatment is probably the best way to go.

We don’t want to wait, obviously until a person’s diagnosed before we do something about it. We want to do something on the prevention side as well. in the future there’s going to be some really great, ways to tackle the prevention and treatment sides.

Rebecca Weber: that’s very good news and promising.

Dr. Park, is there any, Testing, that, can somebody go in for a test to, see if there’s any of that plaque building or that entanglement, I think you refer to it as, between those neurons in the brain. Is there any kind of testing that, that somebody can undergo to determine whether or not they are, they indeed do have some issue?

Edward S. Park: That’s an area of very, active research and, that speaks also to the future as well. there’s, There’s a future in prevention, there’s a future in treatment, like we mentioned, but there’s also a future in diagnostics as well, right? And being able to see your progress. And being able to have the equivalent of an A1c that diabetes has for Alzheimer’s would be wonderful.

And there’s a couple of different blood biomarkers, so they’re very easy to take, right? take it in a prick of blood. that they’re developing right now, and my hope is that they’ll be available to people to track their brain health progress, maybe within the next 10 years or so.

Those are little molecules and fragments of molecules called phosphorylated tau. I don’t know what name they’re going to give it when it becomes a test one day, but they’re little molecules. fragments of those plaques and also the tangles that end up in our regular bloodstream outside of the brain that they pick up and they have to be very precise, at picking those up.

But there’s great research going on in that area, very hopeful for that. And that’s going to help for prevention also. Imagine adjusting your nutrition and diet as you track that and making sure that stays flat or it starts even going down. That’s, that’ll be a very powerful combination. And that’s where the future is going.

it’s going towards, that’s where it. Tracking it, doing prevention measures, and when it comes to treatment, combining a lot of different treatments together, not just the ones that we have now, which are great, but are very modest, but adding other ones on top to create like a cocktail. of drugs that would come into play if a person actually does go into, disease.

it’s an exciting time, and it’s important for people to know where the limits are as well, because, the current drugs today, they aren’t cures, so people have to understand that and have to do as much as they can to take care of their brains now, so that We don’t end up, in a disease state because there is no way to stop it, you know We can only slow it down slightly.

Rebecca Weber: So you mentioned a few things you mentioned we talked very good over the diet portion and this Mediterranean diet Which I’m very eager to look into more and learn more about we talked about the lifestyle piece with exercise being a really important component. I’m curious of hormones, the things that we maybe have less control over.

How big of a, of a, role do hormones play or do we not know, all of that information just yet, as it relates to cognitive health and or Alzheimer’s disease?

Edward S. Park: Rebecca, that is a wonderful, topic to, to, go into and. It goes back to a little bit about women’s cognition that I mentioned earlier and as it relates to menopause.

When a woman goes into menopause, an average age in the United States is about 51 years old when menopause, takes place. And as I go into that time frame, what’s happening, as all women know, better than me, is that, the estrogen levels, drop dramatically. And that’s that’s, that’s characteristic of menopause.

And estrogen is a hormone that is extremely important not only for, it’s not only a reproductive hormone, it’s a neuroprotective hormone, and that’s what’s been realized by researchers, especially over the past 10 years, is that it’s a neuroprotective hormone. And what that means is that estrogen, it aids, in the ability of the brain to process glucose and therefore create energy.

So when estrogen levels drop dramatically, what happens is that the brain has trouble providing itself with enough energy. That’s a big mechanism in there that estrogen plays a part of. And so that’s why there are many instances where women end up having a lot of cognitive function, difficulty during that period of time.

Now, the natural thing would say, okay, sometimes what women might do is say, can I help with hormone replacement therapy? Can I do something like that? to help stave off the effects of, perimenopause and menopause. Or can it help me with my brain health now that I’ve heard this, right? And it depends on timing.

what evidence is starting to show, and this is, this isn’t locked in stone yet, but the research is showing that it’s a timing issue in the sense that, if women do hormone replacement, earlier on, and maybe soon after menopause, it may be more protective for the brain, as opposed to maybe if they’ve already gone into menopause, and they’re maybe 10 years in, and all of a sudden they start hormone replacement therapy.

That may not be as effective. So the timing matters, and a lot of research is going into this right now. one thing I do want to mention though, is women shouldn’t be alarmed. It’s, obviously menopause has happened before. It’s not like women immediately go into dementia and things like that, when menopause takes place.

There are so many wonderful and beautiful compensatory things that happen, when menopause takes place in the brain. So there are parts of it that become vulnerable, but other parts that boost up. And take, and take, its place and, help, with cognitive function. And so that’s why you have so many very healthy, cognitively healthy women, living well into their 90s and 100s.

but it is, that menopause period is, A window of opportunity to take care of our brains, with a lot of these six pillars of brain health that we spoke about earlier. Or it’s a window of vulnerability in the sense that if the brain isn’t taken care of, that, there could be more injury taking place during that period.

So it’s a very important time to take care of your brain health,

Rebecca Weber: Quite fascinating. So Dr. Park, one of the great, One of the things that we love to do here at AMAC is we like to find ways, to pass on steep savings to our AMAC members. So what we’ve done, is, taken your, product that you’ve advocated for, and this is, Relevate.

people can go to amac. us forward slash N E U R O. You’ll see that up on the screen. Can you talk to us a little bit about this brain health supplement?

Edward S. Park: Sure. Absolutely. Yeah. And one of the reasons I found it on the company neuro reserve, which is the maker of relevant that you mentioned, is to make sure that people have.

really well evidence based nutrition for their brain health. And given what we spoke about earlier, that the Mediterranean and that MIND diet are so effective and so powerful at reducing risk, what we did is we wanted to make sure, along with the medical advisors of the company, which come from great institutions, what, we did is we said, how can we help people mimic?

The Mediterranean in the mind diet. How can we help people get to that point where they’re Modeling that diet because we all know it’s very difficult even the best neurologists out there when they speak with Family members and people with dementia, they, say, please do the Mediterranean diet, but they know that it’s very difficult to achieve Because it’s hard.

It’s hard to eat a perfect diet And so what we did is we made sure that there are about 17 different nutrients that we identified that the average American is very likely to be deficient in taking in that are very important for brain health and that are also very abundant in these Mediterranean and Mayan diets, these very brain protective diets.

And we added those in and created that and gave it the name and called it Relevate. And that way people have a tool, a nutritional tool to help them achieve that same brain protective nutritional profile that people at the Mediterranean, who are very good at the Mediterranean diet have, very good at the Mayan diet have, and therefore can help reduce their risk of obesity.

these terrible brain diseases. And that’s, that was our, main areas just to make sure that we use really contemporary and strong evidence to help us design a product. And, and, I have, dementia and also neurodegenerative disease in my family. Many people out there who watch this, they know what it’s like, right?

and how, Just how devastating it is, socially, just financially, physically, emotionally for the family. So let’s do our very best to take care of our brains. Nutrition is very important. And, and we’re very, pleased and very proud to be, partnering with AMAC in this effort. and of course there’s a great, obviously we want to, give you an excellent benefit.

And so therefore, as, you mentioned, Rebecca, there’s a wonderful discount that we provide so people can give it a try and also obviously make sure that they’re taking care of their brain health in other ways, with their overall diet and also with those lifestyle factors that we spoke about.

Rebecca Weber: this has been terrific. Dr Edward Park, I really would love to have you come back on again, because we could go delve into each and every question and expand on everything we spoke about. And this is such an important topic. I want to thank you so much, Dr. Park, the founder and president of Neuro Reserve, and to all of our great listeners out there, be sure to go to amac.

us forward slash N E U R O. Take advantage of these great discounts. Thanks again, Dr. Park.

Edward S. Park: Thank you, Rebecca. I really appreciate you bringing light to this topic. Thank you.

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5 days ago

Can you give us books that we can do for our Neuro, because we need to know. Is it three books, or two books or just one book — which is is helpful — and then pills and the Mediterranean Diet as best they can. We need this information. Give us information so we can know what to do, PLEASE. I’m game. I’m having some words that I can’t get out, and about how do I undo that or slow it down. Books and Video’s and Pills (eating and brain health). It would all be wonderful.

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