Could Alzheimer’s Begin in the Blood, Then Transfer to the Brain?

Here at BrainTest, we have often addressed some of the possible causes of Alzheimer’s disease — after all, knowing why a disease develops, helps you understand how to prevent or treat it.

There are many theories, many which overlap. Researchers currently believe that a number of factors can influence the development of Alzheimer’s, focusing on a combination of lifestyle, genetic, and environmental factors.

Over the years, cardiovascular health and even blood sugar have been shown to play a role — which is the topic of conversation for today.

Could issues with one’s blood be the initial catalyst, later contributing to symptoms of Alzheimer’s?

Study Finds — Alzheimer’s Disease May Begin within the Blood

When we think of Alzheimer’s, we think of the brain.

Although this disease is certainly a neurodegenerative condition, it may actually begin within the blood and larger bodily tissues before progressing to abnormal changes in the brain.

In a new study, published in Molecular Psychiatry, it was found that the protein amyloid-beta may begin to develop in the body, then migrate to the brain. Although this protein is naturally created within the human body, in the case of Alzheimer’s, there is a build-up of plaques in the brain. As these proteins clump together, they cause brain cells to die.

Within this study, mice were surgically attached so that they would share the same blood supply. Since one of the mice had been genetically modified to produce high levels of amyloid, the researchers were able to see the effect on the otherwise healthy mice.

After observing these mice pairs for a year, it was found that the normal mouse had contracted Alzheimer’s. The contributing factor was, of course, a shared blood supply.

Although apparent after a year, these mice had experienced brain impairments after just a few months. Since the blood-brain barrier (the membrane that separates the brain from circulating blood) weakens with age, this could explain why elderly individuals are most often affected.

Should We Be Targeting Plaques Early On?

Based on these findings, researchers are interested in treatments that focus on targeting the development of plaques earlier in life. In terms of the build-up of plaques, it’s believed that both genetics and lifestyle factors play a role, so there is still a lot of work to be done.

With that being said, these findings have provided a new potential pathway for researchers to explore — and that’s exciting news!

When it comes to preventative measures, research has shown that your lifestyle choices may influence the build-up of sticky brain plaques. Within one study, 44 adults between the ages of 40 and 85 (who had been experiencing mild memory issues) underwent brain scans.

The researchers were interested in the level of tangles and plaques within the participants’ brain tissue. In addition, they collected information regarding factors such as body mass index, diet, and levels of physical activity. What they found, was that the following three factors lowered levels of plaques and tangles by one to three percent (which would be significant enough to delay the onset of dementia):

  • A balanced, Mediterranean diet
  • A healthy body mass index
  • Exercise

I stress the importance of a healthy lifestyle all the time — and regardless of how certain factors influence the development of Alzheimer’s, the message has become apparent. We need to take actionable steps to protect our hearts and brains as we age in order to reduce our risk of neural and physical complications.

Eat This, Avoid That

Of course, there’s no singular ‘magic’ food that can prevent Alzheimer’s — but there is one spice that has certainly caught the attention of researchers. I’m talking about turmeric — and more specifically, curcumin (the active ingredient).

Although associated with ancient Indian herbal medicine, turmeric has been extensively studied within modern medicine. It has not only been studied within Alzheimer’s research, but also in relation to cancer, liver disease, ulcers, arthritis, atherosclerosis, and the list goes on.

It is believed that curcumin may influence both the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s. Being an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, it has been shown to improve cognition in patients living with Alzheimer’s. It has even been shown to decrease beta-amyloid plaques and delay degradation.

To get you started, here are a few turmeric-rich recipes to try:

In comparison, there’s one ingredient that you need to avoid — refined sugar.

I have discussed the link between Alzheimer’s and diabetes before, which is based on numerous studies and years of research. In fact, within one study, it was found that high blood-sugar levels make beta-amyloid significantly more toxic to the cells that line blood vessels in the brain.

We all know it’s hard to break bad habits, especially when it comes to a poor diet — but you have to start somewhere. Instead of feeling like you can never enjoy your favorite unhealthy foods again (which you can, in moderation), start small.

You need to make a conscious decision to commit to a healthier lifestyle, starting with what you put into your body. Small changes create big results, trust me. So, each week, make one more permanent change to your diet. These changes will soon turn into a routine, and eventually, a habit.

Stay away from ‘short-term diets’ — and instead, focus on long-term lifestyle changes. Little by little, each small change will become a big difference.

Remember, everything is connected. When you take care of your body, you also take care of your mind.



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.

Leave a Comment