Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a disease that is almost never diagnosed in young women and rarely in middle age women. We most commonly think of it as a disease diagnosed in the elderly but the frightening fact is that this most debilitating chronic disease actually starts much earlier in women and is only diagnosed much later.


According to Dr Peter Hill of Met S-Care, 65% of all AD occurs in women. “AD is the most common form of dementia accounting for 60-70% of all dementia. It is essentially a progressive brain disorder that negatively impacts on memory, cognitive functioning (thinking), behaviours and our ability to perform everyday activities,” says Hill.


As far back as 2008 the World Health Organization declared dementia a ‘priority condition’. This is largely because a new case presents every 4 seconds, i.e. it’s incidence doubles world-wide every 20 years and because currently there is no treatment and no cure available. “It is truly ‘an elephant in the room’ for all concerned,” says Hill.


Hill believes in the absence of any effective treatment and cure we have to look at prevention, much like we would approach any chronic disease. “With AD it is a little more complex because of the range of contributing risk factors: demographic (age and race), genetic (e.g. APOE4 allele) and environmental (e.g. metabolic syndrome-related diseases such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as poor lifestyle choices such as smoking).


Hill believes that by following a healthy lifestyle early, the risk of AD can to a large extent be reduced. Good lifestyle dietary measures like following a low carbohydrate diet, eating healthy fats, as well as understanding the important role that a healthy gut microbiome play can assist in preventing AD.


How important is exercise?


“To answer this we can only draw from research findings,” says Hill. Of interest, the research reveals that a toxin, lipopolysaccharide or LPS, an inflammatory agent, is produced by certain gram negative bacteria in the gut, especially where a condition known as ‘leaky gut’ exists. LPS has been shown to play a role in preventing the development of new brain cells in the area of the brain most affected by AD.


In a study using mice, it showed that ‘elderly’ mice with high levels of LPS are able to produce new hippocampal neurons following wheel running, i.e. after exercising aerobically. This effect did not hold true for the ‘elderly’ mice who were purposely not given access to a running wheel, i.e. did not exercise. Their ability to produce new hippocampal neurons was significantly reduced.


“Therefore,” says Hill, “if this research data were to hold true for humans as it does for laboratory-raised mice then exercise, and especially aerobic exercise, may turn out to be an essential preventative tool in AD not only for young women but also for their mothers, aunts and older sisters as well.”