Thursday, March 17, 2011

Turn Off Your Alzheimer's Genes

I've asked a question in a few Alzheimer's Disease communities that has really gotten some very mixed responses:

"If you carry the Alzheimer's Gene, would you want to know?"

I was surprised by the number of negative responses I got.

Followers of my blog know that I did choose to have the Alzheimer's Disease genetic testing.  Of all the tests that were done on my DNA, this was the one that scared me the most.  However, my take on genetics and disease is: just because you have the genes that predispose you for a disease, doesn't mean it is going to be your fate.  In fact, knowing you are predisposed to certain diseases can do many positive things.  Among them:

++ You can put your doctor and family on the alert so you will both be more mindful of subtle changes as they may happen.

++ You can try to change your lifestyle to maximize the chance that these genes won't come into play.

When I mentioned this in one group, my statement was met with some skepticism.  Most people don't understand that your genes are only part of your story.  Sometimes they are only a very small part, and we can help to control them!

Recent research and an article by Dr Amen in California gives more details to prove this important point:

Your genes are not your fate.

In this case, Dr Amen explains that a specific gene called E4 is the one that scientists have linked to Alzheimer's.  About 15% of the population carry at least one of these genes which can act to increase your risk of Alzheimer's Disease.  The preliminary study Dr Amen cites showed that diet may enable you to turn off your Alzheimer's gene! 

Wow!  This is incredible stuff because diet is something that is very much under our control!

In this study mice were given one of 3 different diets.  One was a "normal" diet.  One was a "bad" diet high in cholesterol.  Another was a diet high in Omega 3 fatty acids and low in cholesterol.

The results showed that a diet high in Omega 3 fatty acids like those found in fish and krill oils along with low cholesterol acted to switch off the E4 gene in the study mice!

I would never want to push testing onto anyone - ever.  This is a very personal choice that each of us can make individually.  Our doctors rarely offer it to us, so if we are interested in it, it's going to require taking action by first beginning a conversation with them.  It's not likely they will tell you not to be tested, but they may be able to give you some food for thought to help you make the decision on your own.  You can order this type of testing on your own through any of a number of companies, some of which can be easily found online.  These companies offer genetic counseling as a part of the service you pay for.

The take-away I want everyone to be aware of is this:

Our genes are not our destiny.  We can influence them, but to do that we must take action.  Sitting and waiting for it to either hit us or not does nothing to help ourselves.

You don't want Alzheimer's to hit you?  Then take action now by optimizing your health today.  Eat right and treat your body like the precious gift that it is.  No, this guarantees nothing.  But it does stack the deck in our favor, and I for one will take whatever advantages I can get!

Will you?

I'm curious to know, did this research change how you feel about testing for Alzheimer's disease genes?  Does it change how you feel about altering your life to maximize the potential to turn off bad genes?  Will you change your life to reduce the chances you will receive an Alzheimer's diagnosis?

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