Why Alzheimer’s Disease is Visible in the Eyes by Mark Grossman, OD, L.Ac

The eyes and the brain are more closely linked than you might realize. Amyloid-beta plaque, the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, starts building up in the eyes for a long time before obvious symptoms of dementia appear. Early detection of this brain disease is crucial for slowing its progression. Doctors can screen for Alzheimer’s disease by running a retinal scan. Why? The eyes are neural tissue. Therefore, what is good for the eyes is also good for the brain.

Based on scientific research, Natural Eye Care has recommendations for keeping both your brain and your eyes healthier as you age. We take a holistic approach to Alzheimer’s prevention and management. Early detection, lifestyle, nutrition, and exercise are all important to healthy aging.

The Eyes Mirror The Brain

Why Does Alzheimer’s Show Up in the Eyes?

Retinal imaging has been gaining popularity for detecting Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages.1 A machine takes a high-quality image of the inner, back surface of the eye. Beta-amyloid plaque in the image indicates Alzheimer’s disease. This technique can also detect diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, and glaucoma.

Normal amounts of beta-amyloid are helpful to brain functioning. The problem is when beta-amyloid aggregates into plaques and accumulates in the brain. Dr. Dale Bredeson, author of The End of Alzheimer’s, theorizes that the build-up of waste in the brain of Alzheimer’s disease is the body’s attempt to deal with imbalances. These may include a lack of essential nutrients, chronic inflammation, exposure to toxins, and hormonal imbalances.

Possible Underlying Causes of Alzheimer’s Disease

This brain disease is complex, with a long list of potential causes. Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia. Causes include:

  • Inflammation of the brain. The changes in the brain from Alzheimer’s might trigger an immune response. This kills neurons and makes the cognitive decline worse.
  • Damage to the blood-brain barrier. The blood-brain barrier protects unwanted materials from reaching the brain. Acting as a gatekeeper, this barrier allows essential nutrients in. The barrier can be damaged by heart disease, genetics, poor blood flow to the brain, alcoholism, injuries, and chronic inflammation.2 3 4 5 A diet high in processed foods and refined carbohydrates can also cause damage to the blood-brain barrier. Researchers have found that the barrier is dysfunctional in Alzheimer’s disease patients, leading to increased cognitive decline.6
  • Free radical damage. The systems that remove waste are comprised by Reactive Oxygen Species.7 8 9
  • Heavy metals and other environmental toxins. Lead, for example, is toxic to the brain and increases the risk of age-related cognitive decline. High levels of lead in the blood in seniors are linked to unusual10 difficulty with words, trouble identifying line-drawn objects, and low scores on a cognition test.11
  • Leaky gut syndrome. An unhealthy gut lining can allow toxins, antigens, and bacteria to leak into the bloodstream. Then, the immune system attacks the invaders, wreaking havoc throughout the body.
  • Poor sleep and bad sleep habits. Sleeping is crucial for flushing out amyloid beta cells, removing waste, and helping prevent excess formation of amyloid. Your brain depends on proper amounts of sleep to recycle and remove waste products that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.12 13 14
  • Blood flow to the brain. Seniors start experiencing reduced blood flow to the brain.15 Research indicates that reduced blood flow to the brain may lead to dementia, including Alzheimer’s.
  • Obesity. A body mass index above 30 is now considered to be the most modifiable risk factor for dementia in the USA.16

A Complementary Approach to Alzheimer’s Disease and Eye Wellness

Many risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease are related to lifestyle. Your food, vitamins and supplements, exercise, and exposure to toxins such as smoke and alcohol are lifestyle factors you can control.

Exercise – Moving your body protects and enhances cognition17. It also makes you more coordinated. A rare genetic form of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease was delayed with just 2.5 hours of physical activity a week.18

Trans fatty acids – Certain processed foods have this dangerous fat, including most fast foods, commercial frosting, chips, most types of margarine, and crackers. Eating high amounts of trans fats leads to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive decline, poorer memory, and even lower brain volume.19 20 21 22 Trans fat amounts are listed on nutritional labels.

Aim to get brain nutrients in your food, drinks, and supplements. The best for the brain: acetyl-L-carnitine, ashwagandha, apigenin, curcumin, DHA – found in fish oil, ginkgo biloba, ginseng, grapeseed extract, green tea extract, lutein, N-acetyl-cysteine, resveratrol, olive leaf extract, phosphatidylserine, PQQ (pyrroloquinoline quinone), vinpocetine, vitamin E, and zeaxanthin.

Eat a diet rich in the best brain foods, including avocado, blueberries and other dark berries, dark chocolate, eggs, fish, fruits and vegetables, goji berry, green and black teas, mulberry, nuts, mushrooms (reiki, shitake, and lion’s mane for example), pomegranate juice, prunes, pumpkin seeds, plain organic yogurt, and walnuts.

Ask your doctor to check for nutritional deficiencies in your blood. Several nutritional deficiencies can mimic dementia including vitamins B1, B6, B12, D3, iron, magnesium, selenium, and zinc. Also, brain chemical imbalances can resemble dementia, such as low serotonin and low dopamine.

Try essential and aromatic oils. Test out essential oils such as bergamot, ginger, lavender, lemon balm, frankincense, peppermint, rosemary, sage, and ylang. They can benefit the aging brain, body, and eyes.

Start juicing daily. Make or buy a low-sugar juice or smoothie. Include several of these brain-essential foods: leafy green vegetables, broccoli, avocado, apples, berries (especially blueberries), strawberry, bilberry, black currant, blackberry, mulberry, lemon, goji berries, chia seeds, kale, citrus fruits, apple, curcumin, garlic, parsley, pomegranate juice, prunes, walnuts, and yogurt.

Supplements: Take targeted eye and brain supplements daily.

Click here for the original article with citations and recommended reading


Marc Grossman, Doctor of Optometry and New York State Licensed Acupuncturist is author of several books, including Natural Eye Care – Your Guide to Healthy Vision.  Since 1980 Dr. Marc Grossman has helped many people maintain healthy vision and even improve eyesight. He is best described as a Holistic Eye Doctor, dedicated to helping people with such conditions ranging from myopia and dry eyes to potentially vision threatening diseases as macular degeneration and glaucoma. His combined multi-disciplinary approach using nutrition, eye exercises, lifestyle changes and Chinese Medicine provides him with a wide array of tools and approaches to tackle difficult eye problems. Dr. Grossman founded the Rye Learning Center in 1980, a multidisciplinary center for learning problems, in 1996 co-founded Integral Health Associates in New Paltz, New York, and in 1999 co-founded Natural Eye Care, Inc. For more information go to www.naturaleyecare.com or call 845-255-3728.


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