DEMENTIA PREVENTION: Prevent Dementia with Vitamin D


Vitamin D comes from three main sources – exposure of skin to sunlight, foods such as oily fish, and supplements. Aging skin can be less efficient at converting sunlight into Vitamin D. The level of circulating Vitamin D should not go below 50 nmol/l – optimal range for general health 125-175 nmol/L. It is important to take Vitamin D3 (not the synthetic D2) and to take Vitamin K2 – which ensures calcium does not build up in your arteries and soft tissue.

Magnesium is also very important, and ensures the proper function of calcium and for converting vitamin D into its active form. Magnesium also activates enzymes which help your body digest the Vitamin D.

Vitamin deficiency is common. Vitamin D, Magnesium, Calcium, and Vitamin K2 all work in tandem with each other. Vitamin A, Zinc and Boron are other important nutrients which interact with Vitamin D. Supplements are not the only solution, and can lead to an unbalanced diet – getting the nutrients from a whole food diet combined with sun exposure are your best prescription.

Dietary sources of magnesium include sea vegetables, such as kelp, dulse, and nori. Vegetables can also be a good source. As for supplements, magnesium citrate and magnesium threonate are among the best.


HEALTHY AGING: Are We Aging Faster?

Healthy aging

Ronesh Sinha fills us in on healthy aging, and how insignificant our chronological age is! How exciting – we can lie about our age, and could actually be telling the truth! Read what she has to say about aging below: 

Our modern lifestyles have turned chronological age into a virtually insignificant number. Aging is not just the number of years you’ve inhabited planet Earth, but rather the degree of wear and tear your body, brain, and vital organs are expressing at a given point in time. When I came out of medical training and started practicing in Southern California, I could easily estimate how old my patients were by looking at them since many of them were working jobs involving physical labor, often outdoors. In fact when we are taught to do physical exams, one of the first things we report is whether patients appear their stated age.

For example, “Mr. Smith appeared older than his stated age.” When I moved up to Silicon Valley to start caring for a mostly sedentary, high-tech workforce, I lost the ability to estimate a patient’s age and often would not even come close, being off by a decade. Yes, 30-year-old engineers looked like they were pushing 40.  It wasn’t just the fact that they were overweight. It was their posture, their skin, and their facial expression which lost much of its age-appropriate youthfulness. As I looked at the literature on aging in the context of our current lifestyles, I realized I wasn’t imagining things. I was witnessing an epidemic of accelerated aging in my patients.
Measuring Age: It’s All About Your Genes

A better way to estimate your true health age is to analyze your genetic code or DNA. If your body were a smartphone, the apps and programs are the proteins that run all the basic functions that help your body survive and thrive. Just like writing computer code produces apps for your phone, your DNA or genetic code produces proteins for your body. One particular bit of DNA code may produce a muscle protein, while another code produces a protein for skin elasticity and so on. However having the specific gene doesn’t guarantee that the protein will be built. This is where DNA methylation comes in. There are chemical molecules called methyl groups that attach to your DNA in very specific patterns. These patterns determine whether your genetic code will turn on or turn off production of a specific protein or process. Scientists can read these DNA-methylation patterns (aka “epigenetic clock” or “DNA methylation age”) to accurately estimate your age without any additional information about you. Why am I going into so much detail about DNA methylation? Chronological age is something we have no control over, but our DNA methylation age is something we can influence through our environmental exposures and behaviors. Also tied to DNA methylation is the health of our telomeres. Our genes are packaged into structures called chromosomes and at the tips of these chromosomes are structures called telomeres. When your telomeres are healthy, your cells divide normally, meaning your body’s tissues renew and regenerate properly. When telomeres start wearing away, cells are no longer dividing properly and your body starts exhibiting signs of internal and external aging. My patients who were 40 but looked like they were 50 was not my mind playing tricks on me. If we were to look at their DNA methylation age and the health of their telomeres, their biological age would be closer to 50. Everything from their skin down to their bones, joints, and vital inner organs have functionally aged a decade more than their chronological age. On the other hand, I have some remarkably healthy patients who look 10 years younger than their age with fit bodies, supple joints, smooth skin and that youthful glow we all envy. Their genetic age defies their chronological age

Four Major Age Accelerators

Now that you understand the importance of DNA methylation and the health of your telomeres as a better marker for biological age, let’s discuss the four major age accelerators, a major focus of my book.  Each of these factors can be modified to slow down the aging process.

1. Poor nutrition:  Those methyl groups we discussed that influence gene expression are actually made directly from the nutrients you eat, such as folate from green vegetables. A nutrient-rich diet with a diversity of plants, healthy proteins and high quality, healthy fats actually feed and nourish your genes which not only manifest in optimal health for you, but also allow you to pass these pristine genes to your children and grandchildren. Most of the patients I see in my clinic are eating highly nutrient-deficient diets that are starving their genes and contributing to accelerated aging. The other major dietary culprit behind accelerated aging is an abundance of glucose. Excess carbohydrate intake (sugar, starches and even whole grains) can damage your proteins by binding directly to form substances called advanced glycated end products, also known appropriately as “AGEs.”  Back to our smartphone analogy, even if your genetic code is clean and has produced the right protein or “App,” excess glucose, like a bad software virus, can bind to your protein Apps and cause them to malfunction. So micronutrient deficiencies can disable your genes from producing the right proteins needed for optimal health, while excess glucose from too much sugar and carbohydrates can damage proteins directly.

2. Inactivity: A study done in over 2,000 identical twins that carry the same genetic material showed that the more active twins had longer, healthier telomeres than their genetically identical siblings. (http://www.edinformatics.com/news/exercise_and_aging.htm). The most active twins had genes that appeared 9 years younger than their inactive siblings. So genes are not immutable and can be influenced by behaviors such as exercise, which promotes anti-aging and prevents chronic disease.

3. Stress: A 2004 study (http://www.pnas.org/content/101/49/17312.long) comparing the telomeres of a group of age-matched mothers with healthy children versus mothers who cared for children with a chronic illness (high chronic stress group) showed shorter, unhealthier telomeres in the mothers caring for the sick children. Despite being the same chronological age, the mothers of the ill children genetically looked almost a decade older. Chronic stress promotes inflammation and oxidative damage that is inflicted upon DNA, which increases disease risk and accelerates aging.

 4. Low vitamin D: Vitamin D appears to be involved in the process of DNA methylation, promoting telomere length, and in reducing chronic inflammation, all processes critical for halting accelerated aging. Does this mean taking vitamin D supplements is a proven anti-aging strategy? This has not been proven, but getting natural doses of vitamin D with safe sun exposure and physician supervised supplementation based on your blood levels appears to be a reasonable strategy.

How Fast Are We Aging?

Back to my original question stated in the title “Are we aging too fast?”  Hopefully I’ve convinced you that the answer in our modern world is a resounding yes. Most of the patients I see in my clinic are sedentary Silicon Valley workers who have all four major age accelerators. They are eating a nutrient deficient and glucose abundant diet, they are completely inactive, they are experiencing high stress and most are significantly vitamin D deficient due to work lives and personal lives confined predominantly to indoor, sun-deprived spaces. Their spines are arthritic and their arteries are becoming blocked with heart-attack causing plaques in their third or fourth decade of life. Formerly known as “diseases of aging,” these conditions are presenting early in life. Even more startling is seeing the effects of these age accelerators on today’s children, who are suffering from conditions like adult onset diabetes, obesity, and fatty liver. If you are planning to have children, realize that future fathers and mothers who are leading unhealthy lives may be passing their sick genes onto their children and grandchildren, increasing their risk of obesity and chronic disease. Your lifestyle decisions are no longer just about you, but can shape the health of future generations.

Febrary 10,2015 (https://www.indiacurrents.com/articles/2015/02/10/are-we-aging-faster)


DEMENTIA: Lawyer, banker on to-do list, but so are good times with family


Darce Fardy, a retired journalist and public information officer, is chronicling his experiences with dementia in this occasional series for The Chronicle Herald.

And so it goes, as more plans are made for what is likely to happen as my dementia advances. This is the practical stuff.

In my last column, I told you that we would be going to see a lawyer who was familiar with dementia issues. And we did. We wanted to discuss what measures we needed to take for a time when my dementia has progressed to a point where I am unable to make decisions for myself.

We all recognized that I am some distance from that point but being too early was better than being too late.
 We both had met this lawyer when she spoke at an Alzheimer’s conference we attended. Although we had prepared living wills when I was 75, those documents needed to be looked at again with our future in mind.

I was, of course, participating in this meeting. I can say emphatically that I have no problems exercising the changes we will likely have to make. I expect that when the time comes I will be a co-operative guy.

We had already decided we would offer our bodies to a medical school. Our lawyer pointed out that the medical school would likely want to examine the brain of someone with dementia, particularly when that person had kept a public diary of sorts. I think my columns have provided much of that information. I would like to put myself in a position where I could help in pursuit of a cure for dementia. I know it sounds ghoulish, even perhaps a bit self-serving, but that’s the kind of conversation we need to have before the inevitable. It’s important for everyone, but, in my case, it’s important to have those conversations now.
 Our next stop was the bank, where we discussed with our banker how we might deal with the possibility that I lose my wallet or reach a point where I might make inappropriate withdrawals or purchases, using either my debit or credit cards.

It seems the answer is to limit the daily maximum I can access on my debit card, and to lower my credit card limit. This decision has the added advantage of protecting us should someone else attempt to use either card. Our accounts have now been flagged by the bank so that any attempt to exceed these amounts using my card will be brought to the bank’s attention. I was able to reassure my family that I had no difficulty accepting these pecuniary restraints.

Alzheimer’s disease1

Over Christmas, we sat down with our son and two daughters and went over our new wills and our own wishes should we become incapacitated. They have now read everything and we have answered all their questions. I found all of this very satisfying and I believe the family did as well.

It was a first for all of us. It was salutary.
 All of this may seem surreal but this is no cris de coeur. I’m still enjoying life and talking too much. I don’t think I am any more cranky than I ever was.

So far the family is doing well relating to a husband, father and granddad whose memory is fading. We had all six grandchildren — ages 10 to 18 — and their parents with us at Christmas time. And on Boxing Day we were able to invite close friends to come and meet the whole family. At that reception, Gabrielle, our eldest grandchild, chose to migrate during the evening between the adults in the living room and her five cousins in the den, all of them with their heads down, exercising their thumbs on iPhones and watching Big Bang Theory.

Gabrielle, who lives in Toronto and attends university in Washington, D.C, on a soccer scholarship, now drives, just as her granddad has stopped driving. Grandson Seamus, who lives near us, has his driver’s licence too. For Christmas, he received the keys to our car with a note attached reading, “Granddad’s chauffeur.” Tempus fugit!
 The only awkward moment over the holidays was when I was dumb enough to wonder aloud about next Christmas. I should have predicted the reaction. Oh well! Even Granddad’s not perfect.

I have now been through two Christmases and 15 months since I was diagnosed, with not much new to report. (I will need a dispensation if I repeat stuff I have mentioned in other columns.) I sometimes forget names. I try to bluff my way through it.

Good friends are willing to help me out in such a subtle fashion that I don’t even notice the interjection.

Although I can find my way to any part of the city, I frequently do not remember street names. There’s no cause to fret over that yet. I walk to and from the gym, even in –15 C temperatures. When the sidewalks look iffy, I arm myself with a spiked walking cane. So with a sharp stick and a muffler masking part of my face, I probably look threatening to kids going off to school.
 Now for the “fools walk in where angels fear to tread” bit. As you can imagine in the situation Dorothea and I are in, patience is required of both parties. Dorothea, of course, needs more patience than the “patient,” but the patient requires some too. (Here I enter the “angels fear to tread” arena.) After driving in Halifax for many years (I quit only a year ago), I “knew” the best routes to take downtown and the best places to park. Not surprisingly perhaps, Dorothea finds different routes to take and has different favourite parking spots. And she doesn’t appear to need a co-pilot. Well, believe or not, I have managed to stay out of it.

It’s tough sometimes, though.

A final story, again at my peril. In my era, most men I knew never did the wash, except occasionally for the dishes. So I delicately pointed out to Dorothea the other day that I was running short of clean unmentionables. She assured me that there’s a cache of clean underwear, pajamas, etc., available for unexpected travel or emergency. I should have known.
As time goes by, I guess it’s natural for me to think more about how all this will end. Tho’ I think I am an affable guy, I can’t help wondering how I will behave when my dementia gets worse. And I wonder how much of the memory problems are compounded by the natural aging process. I’ll soon be 83. I still have the curiosity of an old newsman.

February 07, 2015 (http://thechronicleherald.ca/novascotia/1267904-darce%E2%80%99s-dementia-plans-and-feelings-coexist)


DEMENTIA: Can the Human Immune System Cure Alzheimer’s Disease?


Research recently proved that the body, the immune system specifically, has the ability to break down plaque build up in the brain. This study brings new hope to find a cure to this life altering disease.

Read the article below to learn more: 

Alzheimer’s disease is the most important public health issue of our period which has no real-time cure, said Terrence Town, PhD, professor of physiology and biophysics. He also added that the study demonstrates a way to wipe out the plaques built-up in the brain with the help of body’s immune response, bringing a new hope in cure for the ailment.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia often seen in elderly people, characterised by loss of memory and other mental functionalities. In Alzheimer’s disease, a sticky plaque built-up in the brain made of a special type of protein called beta-amyloid induces memory loss in the patients. The immune system that generally wipes out the toxic protein substances from the body is unable to clear the plaques as it becomes inefficient and imbalanced.

Alzheimer’s disease-1  

The researchers demonstrated that blocking a substance called the interleukin-10 in genetically modified mouse activates an immune response against the protein beta-amyloid, thereby clearing the plaques.  As a result of the plaque clearance, brain cell damage and memory loss were restored in the mouse.

The mouse on immune response activation was reported to have behaved like other normal species without disease in memory and learning tests. The researchers added that further studies on the effectiveness of the drug in blocking interleukin-10 will be carried on the mice that are genetically engineered to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

There are about 36 million people in the world suffering from Alzheimer’s disease now, and if the same pace continues, the figure will reach 115 million by 2050, says the Alzheimer’s Society. Therefore, there is a big time need for an effective drug against Alzheimer’s disease.

February 08, 2015 (http://au.ibtimes.com/human-immune-system-itself-can-cure-alzheimers-disease-1419027)


SUCCESSFUL AGING: Finally! You can choose how old you are.

Healthy Aging

MacArthur published a study showing 50 percent of cognitive aging, and 70 percent of physical aging is due to lifestyle choices. Your nutrition, exercise, and connection to the community all play a role in determining your overall heath and wellbeing. Our age is not predetermined, we have more control over how we age than our genes.


Dr. John Rowe and Robert Kahn used the MacArthur study as the basis for their book “Successful Aging” (Pantheon, 1998) which includes changes in diet, types of exercise, mental stimulation, self-efficacy, and how to establish dynamic connections all crucial factors in healthy aging. 

Purchase the book here – http://www.amazon.ca/Successful-Aging-John-Wallis-Rowe/dp/0440508630