In preparation for a lecture, I will be giving later this month, I have been studying a great deal about Alzheimer’s. Here is the big take away: it is best treated EARLY and healthy lifestyle changes CAN and do make a difference.
Over fifty million people worldwide are affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Global prevalence of dementia is expected to triple by 2050.
Dementia is defined as symptomatic changes in reasoning, memory, and other thinking skills. Alzheimer’s in the most common cause of dementia but is hallmarked by structural changes in the brain.
Risk factors for dementia and Alzheimer’s include medication, depression, excessive alcohol consumption, diabetes, heart disease, lack of exercise, vitamin deficiencies, hormone deficiencies and toxins.
Here are warning signs of dementia: Forgetting important dates or appointments, inability to work with numbers or follow a recipe, difficulty completing familiar tasks or remembering the rules to a game, inability to join in a conversation, poor decision making or changes in personality including increased anxiety or isolation.
I have been treating cognitive issues for several years. And I have seen cases of Alzheimer’s reversed but it is difficult to treat, and a person needs a super support team. The family must be involved. The key to the greatest success is starting early. If you are noticing changes in your memory or a loved one’s memory, do not wait for a diagnosis. You can change things around by diet, exercise, adequate sleep, meditation, proper oral hygiene, and brain training/cognitive stimulation.
The diet should be high in fresh colorful vegetables, lean protein sources, rich in good fats like raw nuts and seeds, avocado, olive oil, organic ghee or butter, some whole fruit, and NO processed sugar. It is ideal if you fast 12-16 hours between dinner and breakfast. Ketogenic type diets (ketoflex) with lots of vegetables or Mediterranean diets are the best. Diabetes is a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s and so getting blood sugars under control is critical.
Exercise daily. A combination of weights and cardio exercise is good. 30 minutes does not have to be intense. This helps on many levels.
Make sure you are getting 7-8 hours of sleep. If you are snoring or thrashing in your sleep, get a sleep study. Sleep is a critical time when the brain heals itself. If you have apnea, it is important to get it treated.
Stress reduction exercises: meditation, prayer, gentle yoga to offset the impacts of elevated cortisol which has detrimental effects on your immune system, brain, blood sugars, ability to repair.
Brain stimulation: there are many online games geared to stimulate cognition. Sudoku, crossword puzzles, learning an instrument, a language, a new dance step are all great choices.
Oral bacteria can trigger inflammation in your brain. Get your teeth taken care of, treat gingivitis, periodontal disease. Swish with antimicrobial mouth washes.
We are facing several crises right now. Our physical and mental health is impacted by how we treat our bodies. These basic lifestyle recommendations can decrease symptoms associated with other diseases not just dementia. And remember, that optimizing your health will impact the health of your loved ones. Another major risk factor for dementia: caring for someone with dementia.
By Dr. Jennifer Means, ND, LAc