If you have a parent or grandparent who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, then you may wonder if you are at risk for developing it later in life, as well. No one really knows if this mysterious disease is genetic or not, although researchers have suspected that there may be some genetic component to it. There have been several recent studies that you may find comforting, as one study produces suspicions that the disease may not be genetic after all, and others can help you reduce your risk of also developing the disease.
1. Alzheimer's May Be Caused by a Prion
There have been suspicions for years that Alzheimer's may be caused by a prion. The first suspicions actually date back to the 1970s. While there was little talk for years about the prion hypothesis, a recent study hit the news headlines that not only re-opened talk about the prion suspicions but also raised suspicions about how the prion may have originally been transferred to today's Alzheimer's sufferers.
A prion is an infectious protein. Researchers now suspect that an Alzheimer's prion was spread to humans by contaminated Human Growth Hormones, or HGH, taken from cadavers and administered to some children to help them grow until the 1980s when synthetic HGH replaced the cadaver-sourced version.
What does this mean for you? If a prion is proven to be the true cause of Alzheimer's, then the disease may be proven to not be genetic at all. While no one knows for sure if this theory is true, it can help you feel better about your chances of living a long, healthy life without also getting Alzheimer's.
2. Healthy Intake of Vitamin D may ward off the Disease
Vitamin D is very important for everyone, and the human body has difficulty making its own without proper sun exposure. With people working indoors a lot and wearing sunscreen outdoors, it can be difficult for the body to make enough with the little sun exposure people get today. So, it is very important to eat vitamin-D rich foods and take a supplement daily if required intake cannot be met through food alone.
Along with the other health benefits of proper vitamin D intake, researchers have found that people with Alzheimer's often have very low levels of the vitamin in their bodies. While more studies are needed to see if vitamin D supplementation can help people already suffering from Alzheimer's , researchers believe that getting enough vitamin D now may play a role in warding off Alzheimer's later in life.
3. Cocoa May Have Protective Benefits Against Alzheimer's
Cocoa has many health benefits due to its very high antioxidant content. Antioxidants fight off free radicals that contribute everything from mild inflammation in the body to cancer. While cocoa has been known to be a healthy food due to its high antioxidant content, researchers now believe that, like vitamin D, a high intake of cocoa may prevent Alzheimer's later in life.
While further studies are needed, a researcher found that polyphenols in cocoa helped remove harmful proteins in the brains of animals after they were fed this treat. Researchers are so convinced that a component of cocoa may ward off Alzheimer's that they are looking to find out just what it is in cocoa that is responsible for the great affect and isolate it from the bean to include in a medication. While scientists are working to create this medication, you can take advantage of this finding now by eating or drinking foods that contain cocoa, such as dark chocolate or sugar-free hot cocoa.
Pure cocoa nibs are also available that you can munch on without any extra calories from added sugar or fat that is often included in cocoa-based candies and deserts.
If you have a parent or grandparent that has Alzheimer's, then you may worry that you are at risk for developing the disease later in life. Remember that the cause of Alzheimer's is not truly known, and it may not be hereditary after all. You can also reduce your chances of developing any type of Alzheimer's by eating a nutritious diet packed with healthy foods, including plenty of vitamin-D and cocoa.
For more information on Alzheimer's, speak to a professional physician at your local medical clinic.