Anti-Inflammatory Medication May Cut Alzheimer’s Risk in Half

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, by 2040, an estimated 78 million American adults will have some form of arthritis. Today, that number is closer to 54.4 million — equating to around 25 percent of the population.

Although there is no cure for most forms of arthritis, a wide range of treatment options are available.

Often linked to other potential health complications, arthritis could increase cognitive impairment. However, new research has shown that arthritis medication may halve the risk of dementia.

Study Finds Arthritis Drugs May Reduce Risk of Dementia

A study conducted by Oxford University and NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Center analyzed over 5,800 records. Comparing subjects from the UK, 3,876 patients were currently taking anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and 1,938 patients were not. Of those taking these drugs, methotrexate was the most common.

As published in Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Translational Research and Clinical Interventions, it was found that when patients took anti-inflammatory medication, they experienced half the risk of developing dementia and more specifically, Alzheimer’s.

The researchers concluded that drugs used to treat inflammation among arthritis patients could also be beneficial to patients with other diseases. Of those who suffer from dementia, inflammation is a key characteristic. This is true regarding heart disease and some forms of cancer.

The researchers also stressed the importance of only taking prescribed medications. This means it is not recommended that you begin taking anti-inflammatory medication to reduce your risk of dementia or other inflammatory disease.

The Connection Between Inflammation and Dementia

For years, researchers have studied the effects of immune function and inflammation in relation to Alzheimer’s. In one 2017 study, there was a link between inflammation biomarkers in the blood and potential brain shrinkage. More specifically, individuals who showcase inflammation in their 40s and 50s may suffer from brain cell loss decades later.

The author of this study, Keenan Walker of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, stated that inflammation in mid-life may be one of the early contributing factors associated with Alzheimer’s. It was also found that individuals with inflammation biomarkers and brain shrinkage, scored lower on a memory test.

In summary:

  • A total of 1,633 individuals with an average age of 53 were studied.
  • Blood samples were taken to test for five markers of inflammation.
  • On average, these participants took a memory test 24 years later. The researchers also conducted brain scans to measure the volume of brain tissue.
  • In comparison to those with no elevated levels, subjects who exhibited elevated levels across three or more biomarkers had lower brain volume. On average, these individuals had 5 percent lower volume in the hippocampus and other regions of the brain commonly associated with Alzheimer’s symptoms.
  • Although the study’s sample size was fairly large, the greatest limitation was that biomarkers were only measured once. A future study could potentially measure the effects of chronic inflammation across time.

Eat These Foods to Reduce Inflammation

Although it is not certain whether or not inflammation causes Alzheimer’s, it is well-documented that inflammation increases your risk of disease. Regardless of your age, it is never too early or too late to adopt healthy eating habits.

To actively intervene and reduce inflammation, please be mindful of the following suggestions.

  • Eliminate processed foods and eat whole foods instead. This golden rule could not be simpler. As you remove processed foods from your diet, replacing them with fresh whole food options, your body obtains the types of nutrients it requires to function at an optimal level. This will also significantly reduce your consumption of sugar and other harmful additives.
  • Consume approximately 90 percent of your daily calories from plant-based foods. It is also recommended that you consume the following foods daily: whole grains (barley, brown rice, oatmeal, millet), starchy vegetables (squash, pumpkin, plantain, parsnip, legumes), non-starchy vegetables (broccoli, cucumber, artichoke, mushrooms, tomato), berries and other fruits, cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, arugula, brussels sprouts), dark leafy greens, as well as nuts and seeds.
  • Avoid foods that inflame, including refined carbohydrates, fried foods, soda (including diet), an excess of red meat, processed meats, and margarine.

You can also discuss options with a certified nutritionist. This is especially recommended if you currently live with any medical conditions or take medication on a regular basis.

Krista Hillis has a B.A.Sc degree, specializing in neuroscience and psychology. She is actively involved in the mental health and caregiving community, aiming to help others. Krista is also passionate about nutrition and the ways in which lifestyle choices affect and influence the human brain.

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