How to Beat Dementia
There’s a fear that haunts us all: will we, or someone we love, one day develop Alzheimer’s disease?
Someone in UK is diagnosed with dementia every three minutes. It’s now the leading death in woman and there’s no cure. The disease currently costs the Uk £72 millions day.
But what if you could sharpen up your mental capacity quickly and that you could significantly reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s and even reverse early symptoms of forgetfulness or confusion? All naturally without harmful side effects of drugs. (Though if you are on medication, follow your doctor’s advice.)
Two eminent neurologist Dr Dean & Dr Sherzai who specialise in Alzheimer’s for over 20 years, revealed how their cutting-edge research has led them to believe simple lifestyle tweaks can help fend off the disease. For decades they have been on a mission to find a cure for Alzheimer’s and are convinced that 90% of cases can be prevented. For the remaining 10% with a strong genetic risk, they believe the disease can be delayed by as much as 15 years.
The answer lies in making simple changes to your lifestyle.
The facts to the findings of the research are that brain health is influenced by five main lifestyle factors: nutrition, exercise, managing stress, restorative sleep, and brain training.
The key lies in taking responsibility for your health and creating a personalised plan of action that encompasses healthy changes in diet, exercise, stress levels, sleep, and activities to keep your brain challenged.
The risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or cognitive decline is as individual as your fingerprint and life experience.
The Deadliest Enemy:
If we had to name a single food that plays the biggest rise in the development and progression of Alzheimer’s, it would be sugar.
Studies link sugar with cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s. It is one of the most destructive compounds we can ingest, and because so much of our food is processed, few of us realise just how much sugar we are really eating.
One of the problems is the fact that sugar is nature’s ultimate stimulant. It provides a quick efficient burst of energy, but the chemical cascade it triggers is damaging for the brain.
A high-sugar diet can lead to a very common condition called insulin resistance (diabetes), which can in turn cause damage to the brain cells and lead to a build -up of sticky ‘amyloid plaques’ which doctors have found to be synonymous with Alzheimer’s.
What is Amyloid Plaque?
It is hard, insoluble accumulations of beta amyloid proteins that clump together between the nerve cells (neurons) in the brains of Alzheimer's disease patients.
It’s Never too late:
The studies have shown that cutting back on sugar can have an almost instant impact on brain health. It was also found that even small improvements to your diet will improve brain function quickly.
Though the brain is very small and comprises only 2 percent of the body weight, it is incredibly greedy and uses up 25 per cent of the body’s energy.
This means our brains our especially affected by the balance of goodness and toxins in the food we eat.
All the studies show that years of poor nutrition will damage your brain. In fact, many experts believe that Alzheimer’s is essentially a rubbish-disposal problem, characterised by the brain’s inability to cope with what we feed it over a lifetime.
But no matter how many unhealthy takeaways, kebabs, or burgers you have eaten in the past, and how many packet of crisps, biscuits, or tubs of ice cream you have quietly scoffed in the evenings, the right changes to your diet now can have a swift impact on your brain health.
Food Has an Effect on the Brain:
So many people patients have been trying to find a solution to Alzheimer’s through vitamins, they spend a small fortune on brain training games, join elaborate exercise programmes or consult with neurologists, when the solution is in their fridge.
Scientific studies have shown that certain foods raise the risk of heart disease, cancers, and stroke and other reduce the risks. crucially it was found that what is good for the heart and kidneys also appears to be beneficial for the brain. Clinical trials now offer a clear, science-based approach to brain healthy eating which has helped patients prevent and reverse debilitating symptoms of cognitive decline.
It has become quite clear that our typical western diet of salty, sugary, fatty, processed foods puts us at risk of obesity and diabetes, both of which hugely increase our risk of dementia. Studies show obesity in mid-life increases dementia risk by as much as 40%, and poor blood-sugar control in the elderly accounts for as much as 39% of Alzheimer’s cases.
Studies show a plant- based diet is enough to reduce your risk of cognitive impairment by 28%. It is advised for dementia patients to add many vegetables and fruit of all kinds as they can to every meal, and to try and cut back on all forms of meat.
Omega 3 Oils:
Trials showed that omega-3 fats improved cognitive function and maintained brain structure amongst older adults.
Omega -3 fatty acids are essential for brain health, so you should try to eat more foods that contain them. While oily fish is a good source, farmed fish, or large species (such as tuna, halibut, mackerel, marlin, and sea-bass) can contain traces of mercury which may be toxic to the brain.
It is recommended that you limit your consumption of fish to smaller or less contaminated varieties such as anchovies, sardines, and wild salmon.
You can also find omega-3 fats in walnuts, pecans, linseed, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and green leafy vegetables such as kale, brussels sprouts, and spinach. However, the short-chain omega-3 fats in nuts, seeds and greens are less easily absorbed by the body than the long-chain acids found in fish, so the best source of highly absorbable, toxin and pollutant free omega-3s is marine algae or seaweed.
A tip is to try crumbling sheets of nori (which are used to make sushi and available in most supermarkets) into your soups and stews, also look out for samphire when it’s in season and add to meals. You can also supplement with pure powdered algae’s such as spiriulina and chlorella.
Your kitchen shouldn’t contain anything that isn’t 100% wholemeal or wholegrain. This food is full of vitamins, minerals, and fibre, which helps to protect against stroke and dementia.
Avoid anything labelled ‘100% wheat’, as it contains refined wheat, avoid ‘multigrain’, as it may be processed and refined, avoid ‘heart-healthy’, which might be low in saturated fats and sodium, but also processed.
Training the Brain:
Studies show that after age 40, the mind itself begins to function differently, relying on existing neural connections rather than generating new ones. A young mind has the capacity to store vast amounts of information. This is made possible by the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which maintains and strengthens the neural connections responsible for a sharp memory. But as we get older, declining levels of acetylcholine begin to weaken the neural pathways required to retrieve information.
Neither education nor brain exercises are a sure way to prevent Alzheimer's. But they may help delay symptoms and keep the mind working better for longer. Engaging in mentally stimulating activities such as reading, writing, and playing games can improve brain health. Exercising your brain can strengthen neural connections and help prevent beta-amyloid deposits from developing. These are the destructive proteins that have become the hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.
Physical activity and Exercise:
Studies show that people who are physically active are less likely to experience a decline in their mental function and have a lowered risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Physical activity is one of the known modifiable risk factors for dementia. The ideal plan should involve a combination of cardio exercise and strength training. Good activities for beginners include walking, biking and swimming. Moderate levels of weight and resistance training not only increase muscle mass, but they also help you maintain brain health.
Exercising several times, a week for 30 to 60 minutes may:
- Keep thinking, reasoning, and learning skills sharp for healthy individuals
- Improve memory, reasoning, judgment and thinking skills (cognitive function) for people with mild Alzheimer's disease or mild cognitive impairment
- Delay the start of Alzheimer's for people at risk of developing the disease or slow the progress of the disease
- Increase the size of the part of the brain that's associated with memory formation (hippocampus). Physical activity seems to help your brain not only by keeping the blood flowing but also by increasing chemicals that protect the brain. Physical activity also tends to counter some of the natural reduction in brain connections that occurs with aging.
Why Woman Suffer Most:
Women make up two thirds of Alzheimer’s cases, with one in 6 women developing the condition after the age of 65 compared to just 11 men. In fact, women in their 60s are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as they are to develop breast cancer.
One reason for this is the fact that women tend to live longer than men, making the more likely to develop the disease. Hormonal changes during the menopause affect the brain which could also accelerate cognitive decline. The increased risk for women could be linked to the finding that having multiple children appears to put you at greater risk for a stroke later in life.
There is clear relationship between your vulnerability to stroke and vulnerability to cognitive decline. Some researchers even suggest that women are at risk because in the past they had less access to intellectually challenging jobs and higher education, both of which are protective factors against Alzheimer’s.
The next blog will be focused on what foods to nourish the brain and what foods to avoid.