If you have older patients in your practice, odds are quite good you know how devastating the effects of Alzheimer’s disease can be.
Loss of memory of families, friends, and former lives can be devastating for formerly healthy, active seniors. Given that today’s seniors are represented by the Baby Boomers, the increasing numbers of Alzheimer’s patients should not be a surprise.
In fact, the National Institute on Aging estimates that as many as 5 million Americans over the age of 65 have some form of Alzheimer’s disease.1 In its latest roundup of facts, the Alzheimer’s Association states that as many as one in three older people will die from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia in the United States.
This makes it the sixth leading cause of death, claiming approximately 500,000 people each year. Most of these deaths will be female, as two-thirds of all patients with Alzheimer’s in the U.S. are women.2
It is often easy to mistake the memory loss and forgetfulness of Alzheimer’s disease for just the natural progression of aging. However, this is actually not the case. In fact, actual changes take place to the brain structure of Alzheimer’s patients that are the root cause for the symptoms of the disease.
Although there is no current cure for the disease by stopping these changes, there is some interesting research about a possible mechanism by which those changes occur, in which the brain essentially starves.
Chiropractic adjustments may actually be able to offset this starvation by providing the brain the nutrients it needs to remain healthy well into the senior years.
The link between brain starvation and Alzheimer’s disease
A group of researchers at Northwestern University in Chicago published a paper in the journal Neuron that looked at a possible connection between necessary energy for the brain, and changes that may occur that are known to be more prevalent among people with Alzheimer’s disease.3
If the brain does not get enough glucose (energy from sugar), a particular brain protein known as eIF2alpha will increase production of the enzyme BACE1. This particular enzyme will, in turn, activate a type of sticky protein known as Aβ, which has shown up in greater amounts in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease upon autopsy, when compared to the brains of those without Alzheimer’s disease.3
How can chiropractic adjustments help?
If this research is correct, glucose that is not properly making its way to the brain is setting in motion a chain of events that could lead to the formation of certain changes to the actual brain structure that are indicative of Alzheimer’s disease.
As we all know, chiropractic adjustments are designed to release pressure on the spinal vertebrae to allow for proper signaling to and from the brain. It would seem to make logical sense that chiropractic adjustments to older patients, particularly around the cervical area, would allow for that glucose energy to more easily reach the brain, thereby preventing the formation of Aβ proteins and the later possible development of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Alzheimer’s disease fact sheet. National Institute on Aging. Accessed July 17, 2017.
- Latest facts and figures report 2017. Alzheimer’s Association. Accessed July 17, 2017.
- O’Connor T, Doherty-Sadleir KR, et al. 2008. Phosphorylation of the translation initiation factor eIF2α increases BACE1 levels and promotes amyloidogenesis. Neuron, 60(6), 988-1009.