It can be painful to watch a loved one’s health decline as they age. It’s hard to watch them suffer with aches, pains and other disabilities that may set in. It can be even more difficult to watch them suffer with mental disorders. Emotional connections tend to get lost as they deal with disorientation and memory loss.
Although there are many neurological disorders that affect the elderly, Alzheimer’s is the most common. It is a progressive disorder that destroys cells in the brain and ultimately interferes with a person’s most basic mental and physical functions.
As of today, there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s but there are preventative measures you can take to help fight it’s onset. Staying healthy and keeping your brain active can be helpful, but CBD is also being looked at for the ways it can help protect the brain.
Let’s take a closer look at Alzheimer’s and how CBD can be used as a preventative measure in the onset of this disease.
Alzheimer’s is a general term for the loss of memory and other cognitive abilities. It’s the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of cases.
Alzheimer’s worsens over time; in its early stages, those affected may just experience mild memory loss. However in later stages, individuals will lose their ability to carry out a conversation and respond to their environment. This makes it nearly impossible for them to execute even the most basic human functions.
Though Alzheimer’s typically affects people 65 or older, it is not a disease of the elderly. Early onset Alzheimer’s can manifest in younger people as well.
Research is being done to find ways to cure Alzheimer’s and while there are ways to slow the worsening of symptoms, no official cure has been found.
Alzheimer’s is a fatal disease and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Those dealing with Alzheimer’s usually live four to eight years after the diagnosis, although some can live as long as 20 years after being diagnosed.
On a scientific level, let’s look at how Alzheimer’s affects the brain.
The brain has 100 billion nerve cells (neurons). These nerve cells connect with other neurons to communicate. Each neuron has a special job. Some are involved in thinking, learning and remembering. Others help us see, hear and smell.
When we think of the ways these neurons operate, it is almost like a little factory. They receive supplies, generate energy, construct equipment and get rid of waste. They need fuel and oxygen to survive.
Scientists aren’t sure exactly how it happens, but, over time, these factory-like processes begin to break down. It is suspected that this is caused by abnormal structures that form in the brain known as plaques and tangles.
Plaques are deposits of beta-amyloid that build up in the spaces between nerve cells. Tangles are twisted fibers of a protein called tau that builds up inside cells.
Though the buildup of plaque and tangles is a normal sign of aging, those with Alzheimer’s will have a greater buildup than others. It is believed that they work to block communication among nerve cells and disrupt processes that the cells need to survive.
The destruction of the nerve cells causes memory failure, personality changes, a break down in functioning and eventually death.
CBD and Alzheimer’s
CBD has been shown to be effective in reducing the effects of Alzheimer’s. Here’s a bit about how it works.
CBD protects the brain’s hippocampus from toxins and disease. It also reduces the activation of microglia. Microglia makes up 100% of the cells in the brain. They are similar to neurons and are activated when injury or disease occurs.
Although microglia work to protect the brain, their chronic activation can lead to more damage as they release glutamate cytokines and other harmful substances which kill neurons over time.
Microglia is a prevalent feature in a brain affected with Alzheimer’s. Many treatments have been introduced to block the release of the harmful chemicals associated with microglia. Unfortunately most of these have serious side effects, making them unsuitable for medical use.
CBD is also effective at treating Alzheimer’s due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
During the onset of Alzheimer’s, inflammation occurs in the brain and works to increase the negative impact of the disease. It is caused by the immune cells failing to clear disorienting passages.
CBD has been proven to reduce inflammation and can be particularly effective in reducing inflammation related to Alzheimer’s.
When inflammation occurs in the brain, oxygen is released. This further helps to increase memory loss and cause other types of brain deterioration.
CBD has been shown to lessen the impact of inflammation on oxidative stress, further reducing the damage Alzheimer’s can do to the brain cells.
Finally, CBD has been shown to stimulate brain tissue to reverse and prevent the negative impact Alzheimer’s can have on the brain. It can promote the growth and development of brain cells, reducing the decline of memory and other brain functions.
Several studies have been conducted to show how CBD can work to protect the brain against Alzheimer’s.
- A 2012 study showed the therapeutic potential of the endocannabinoid system for Alzheimer’s disease. CBD and other cannabinoids stimulate the endocannabinoid system making them a promising treatment for Alzheimer’s.
- It has been shown that CBD elevated cell survival while providing neuroprotective, anti-oxidative and anti-apoptotic effects against beta-amyloid toxicity.
- CBD helped reduce beta-amyloid induced neuroinflammation in a study conducted in 2007, making it an important pharmacological tool in the fight against Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s and Other Neurodegenerative Diseases
CBD’s ability to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress while stimulating and protecting the brain make in it useful in its ability to not only fight Alzheimer’s but several other neurodegenerative diseases.
These include the following:
CBD and Vascular Dementia: Vascular dementia is a condition where blood flow to one’s brain is impaired causing damage that can lead to problems with reasoning, memory, judgement and thought process.
Studies have found that CBD can activate CB2 receptors to increase brain cell activity and reduce damage.
CBD and Dementia with Lewy Bodies: Lewy body dementia is associated with abnormal deposits of a protein called alpha-synuclein, or Lewy bodies, in the brain. These Lewy bodies cause chemical changes in the brain which can lead to problems with thinking, sleeping, movement, behavior and mood.
CBD is effective in fighting this condition because of its anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to reduce motor symptoms and improve sleep patterns. It also does not block acetylcholine, the main chemical LBD attacks.
CBD and Parkinson’s Disease: Parkinson’s Disease attacks the nervous system and is linked to decreased dopamine production. It typically affects middle aged and elderly people and is characterized by muscle rigidity and slow and imprecise movement and at times, digestive imbalance.
CBD provides antioxidants, brain protectors and anti-inflammatory properties that can help manage Parkinson’s.
CBD and Frontotemporal Dementia (Pick’s Disease): Frontotemporal dementia refers to a group of disorders caused by nerve cell loss in the brain’s frontal or temporal lobes. Symptoms include depression and psychosis.
CBD works as an antipsychotic and an anti-inflammatory working to reduce inflammation and anxiety while reducing motor symptoms and improving sleep patterns. Unlike many antipsychotic drugs, it does not lead to an increased risk of death.
Huntington’s Disease: Huntington’s Disease is an inherited disorder that causes death of brain cells. Early symptoms include problems with mood and mental ability. Lack of coordination and an unsteady gait will manifest as the disease progresses.
CBD works to manage this disease due to its high content of antioxidants and its ability to work as an anti-inflammatory.
Other Ways to Prevent Alzheimer’s Naturally
CBD works to reduce the onset of Alzheimer’s when administered early on, when the disease is first diagnosed.
It may be a good idea for those with a history of Alzheimer’s in the family to start using CBD to help reduce the risk of the disease setting in.
Of course, there are other ways to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s naturally. These could be beneficial on their own or when combined with CBD use. They include:
- Exercise: Exercise protects against Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia by stimulating the brain’s ability to maintain old connections and make new ones.
- Healthy Diet: Certain foods can contribute to inflammation and insulin resistance while others can reduce inflammation and protect the brain. Cut down on sugar and trans fats while eating foods high in omega 3’s and fruits and vegetables for the ultimate in brain health.
- Mental Stimulation: Just like every other part of your body, your brain needs exercise to perform at its best. Stimulate it regularly by reading, writing and engaging in mental activities like crossword puzzles, etc.
It can be heartbreaking to watch someone suffer with Alzheimer’s. While science has still not found a cure for the disease, CBD is emerging as a promising treatment for prevention and slowing the degeneration it causes. Use it to find out how it can help protect your brain and improve your health overall.