Dementia is the name for a group of disorders that affect the brain, including the most common disorder which is Alzheimer's disease. More than 5 million people in the United States are suffering from dementia, which is a very devastating and difficult disease. The consequences of Alzheimer's include memory loss and difficulty with words, changes in the personality and delusions, agitation and a lack of ability to problem solve or manage emotions. Although the risk of dementia increases with age, memory loss or other Alzheimer's symptoms are not to be considered a part of the normal aging process.
A study published in a research journal, Aging, found that an approach that incorporated a healthy diet and an exercise routine actually showed to reverse symptoms of Alzheimers disease. With promising studies like this, there is hope to not only reverse this horrible disease, but to also prevent the development of this disease by adopting lifestyle changes before any symptoms of mental decline even begin. No matter your age or medical history, the time to start Alzheimer's prevention is now. Approximately 35% of dementia cases could actually be delayed or prevented if attention is given to modifiable risk factors, according to a 2017 study published in the Lancet. These risk factors included education, hypertension, obesity, physical inactivity, diabetes, smoking and social isolation.
If you have a history of having diabetes, insulin resistance, or if you are overweight, your risk of having Alzheimer's is greatly increased. For more information on how to manage insulin related conditions, check out our article about diabetes management here. Smoking has also been shown to increase the risk of developing dementia, along with drinking alcohol in excess, so making healthy choices when it comes to these two activities is very important.
Let's take a look at the top ways that you can lower your risk for Alzheimer's.
1. Maintain a Healthy Weight
As mentioned above, being overweight is one of the key factors in dementia development. Make it a goal to stay within a healthy weight and a healthy BMI (body mass index) for your age, gender and height. Try to stay active by engaging in some kind of physical activity a few times a week. Lifting weights is especially beneficial for your brain, and has been shown to increase BDNF in the brain.
2. Manage your Blood Sugar and Eat Less Sugar
Alzheimers is often referred to as the "diabetes of the brain", and has even been referred to as type 3 diabetes. Managing your glucose levels and eating a diet low in added sugar is a huge key factor in diabetes prevention. Continual spikes in blood sugar caused by eating high glycemic foods alone, such as drinking a soda before eating food, or choosing a sugary breakfast first thing in the morning, do damage to the brain by increasing amyloid plaque in the brain. In our article about the basics of nutrition, we give advice on how much sugar you should be eating per day, and what kind of sugar is best for your body and brain.
3. Increase Vitamin D Consumption
There is a huge correlation between vitamin D deficiency and Alzheimer's development. Studies have shown that there is at least a 53% increased risk for developing Alzheimer's in those who are severely vitamin D deficient. Although the sun is a great source of vitamin D, it is important to know that too much sun exposure can cause skin damage, and that you cannot get all of the vitamin D that you need from the sun alone. It can be very beneficial to supplement with a high quality vitamin D supplement. If you choose to supplement, look for a vitamin D that has no additives and contains 10,000 IU. Egg yolks and mushrooms are also great, whole-food sources of vitamin D.
4. Eat the Right Kind of Fat
Because the brain is a fatty organ, it is important to eat the right kind of fats so that you brain health is preserved. Coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, ghee, grass fed butter, and fat from wild caught fish and grass fed meats are great sources of brain-friendly fats, in addition to raw nuts such as Brazil nuts, hazel nuts and cashews. Some examples of "bad" fats include canola oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, rapeseed oil, peanut oil, corn oil and sunflower seed oil. These oils are heavily processed and promote inflammation in the brain. You do not have to worry about weight gain if you add more fat to your diet. It is an old, outdated belief that "eating fat makes you fat", and it is now shown that overconsumption of sugar is to blame for obesity
5. Support your Microbiome
More and more research is not supporting the importance of the human bacterial microbiome. The gut (intestines/GI tract) is now referred to as the "second brain". Basically, anything that affects the gut will impact the brain, and vise versa. So, if you have poor intestinal health and are not consuming beneficial bacteria, then your brain will suffer. Try to avoid anti-biotic overuse, and only take a round of antibiotics when it is absolutely necessary. After a round of antibiotics, be sure to replenish your bacterial supply by taking a high potency pro-biotic. As an every day probiotic supplement, we suggest looking for a broad spectrum probiotic that contains at least 30 billion CFU per serving.
HEALTH TIP: Some of the most benefital foods for your brain include wild caught salmon, blueberries, coconut and coconut oil, tomatoes, walnuts, almonds, olive oil and berries.