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Lifestyle for the Prevention of Dementia

The longer I reside in the netherworld between "older" (over 60) and "elderly" (anything over 80 if we're lucky enough), the more I tend to be harassed by thoughts of death. How will it happen? When will it happen? Not unusual, I know, for a woman of my age, but I seem to be focused on two possibilities which when I perseverate can scare the wee out of me: My two bĂȘte noires are Dementia and Stroke.

So, in my lame and usually ineffective brainiac way, I have tried to "control" these two possible future aspects of this particular life in this particular body by learning all I can about dementia and stroke ,but mostly their prevention. (I know you are laughing - and at least I know that my higher self has a sense of humor about this: "Control? What control? You must be kidding.")

Let's start with dementia and a lifestyle for prevention. First of all, did you know that our brain and heart health are intimately connected? As one goes, probably goes the other. But if you have a healthy heart and keep your blood pressure normal, control your fibrillations and if your heart muscle is in good working order, chances are that your brain will be healthy as well with good synaptic energy and a modicum of neurofibrillary tangles and beta-amyloid plaques  those white viscous clumps that seem to muck up the brain and cause Alzheimer's disease.

First of all, obesity more than triples your risk for dementia. In a famous Okinawan study comparing these historically long-lived people with Americans, it was found that they typically consume fewer calories  1900 vs. the average American 2600. Calorie restriction is a very good thing by the way because it lowers insulin, body fat, inflammation and blood pressure all of which can increase the risk for cognitive impairment. Calorie restriction can even encourage neurogenesis, or the formation of new brain cells.

A cousin to calorie restriction is fasting, and not the awful kind of fasting where you just drink water for days on end. That, actually, is not healthy at all. The kind I am talking about is now being called time-restricted eating, or not eating anything for at least 12 hours a day. It's not difficult at all and here is how I do it: I eat an early dinner and am through with daily food usually by 6 PM. Then I eat again about 6 AM the next day.

Restrict bad carbs, and you know what those are. The ones that taste so good and are addictive and unhealthy. They create insulin resistance which can be devastating for the brain. Sugar is the baddest of all the bad carbs. You MUST give that up, and right now. Do not wait one more day. The burning of bad carbs creates waste. Is this what is contributing to the white amyloid plaques in the brain? No one knows.

The Alzheimer's Prevention Clinic at the Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian suggests that their patients have only 100-120 grams of carbohydrates daily, and these are the so-called good carbs. You can google "grams of carbohydrates in foods," but for example, a sweet potato (a good carb) has about 23 grams.

Eat plenty of protein. The aging brain needs good protein like chicken, fish, nuts, beans and eggs. Restrict the red meat, though, to about once a week and make that grass-fed/grass finished. The amino acids in proteins are important for memory as are the B vitamins like folic acid and B-6 and B-12. The latter reduces a brain mucker-upper called homocysteine which increases your risk of dementia. By taking a combination of Omega 3's, B6, folate in the form of 5 MTHF and B12, people had a 40% reduction of brain atrophy over a 2 year course.

Make sure you are digesting these proteins, too, because our digestive fire wanes as we age. I can check you for HCL and other enzymes. Plus probiotics. I would say that roughly 95% of my aging patient population takes enzymes with meals. I do.

Stop all the bad saturated fats, like rich desserts, too much red meat, and fast food. You know all that bad stuff that tastes so good is not so good for you. What too much saturated fat does is reduce the body's ability to clear the beta-amyloid deposits. So, the protein/fat ratio is pretty important in that you don't want too much or too little either. Consuming some is healthy, consuming too much is not healthy. However, I do like and suggest coconut oil as a good fat (along with Olive oil) and I eat a lot of it. Let's say you are eating a 2,000 calorie a day diet, your upper limit of saturated fat would be about 20 grams, which  translated - is about 3 ounces of cheese. Again, google "grams of saturated fats in foods" just to get some idea of how you may want to construct your eating.

Then there are the specific foods that can fight the dementias, including Alzheimer's. Let's start with fish - the fatty ones like sardines, salmon and mackerel. Eat those at least twice weekly. Take fish or krill oil in larger quantities than you think possible. (I will be addressing stroke next time and one of the nutritional preventives is tons of fish oil because it acts like Teflon in the arteries.)

Then there is turmeric, my favorite. Curcumin or the compound in turmeric contains potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Take a bunch. I am so attracted to all of the "orange" pills that I take. My happy fingers just plunge into my tackle box to grab at all the orange capsules, like Meriva-500 (2 per day) CV Rescue (2 per day) Memory Pro (2 per day) Neurochondria ( 2 per day) and on and on  Orange is the New Healthy! This, of course, includes carrots and any other of nature's orange that you can eat.

Then the polyphenols. To make it simple, polyphenols include all of the colorful fruits and vegetables, mostly the green, blue, orange, purple and red variety. If you see this color in the produce department, put it in your cart. Eat it raw, preferably, but cook it, too. I also carry something called Paleo Reds which is a powdered polyphenol formula. I put a heaping teaspoon of that in my smoothie in the morning. And, ladies, eat your berries: Blueberries slows cognitive decline in women by 2 ½ years.

Researchers at the Rush Institute studied over 900 subjects ages 58 to 98 and followed them on average for 4.5 years. Three different dietary interventions were evaluated: 1) the Mediterranean diet 2) the DASH diet and 3) the MIND diet which is a hybrid of the Mediterranean-DASH diets. Then they looked at the effects of the three diets on the risk of Alzheimer's disease. The MIND diet, with its emphasis on polyphenols from berries and green vegetables was the best and those participants who followed it most closely had a 52% risk reduction in developing Alzheimer's disease.

The Mediterranean diet came in second and those with the highest compliance reduced their risks of dementia by close to 50%, while in third place, the DASH diet, even with the highest level of compliance resulted in a 40% reduction in Alzheimer's risk, which, even though just a bronze medal-er, is really not too shabby.

When following the proper nutritional program and by adhering to known healthy dietary patterns, like the MIND diet, one researcher was quoted as saying during a 2015 scientific presentation "It was about the equivalent of being 11 years younger in age." And "What is remarkable here is the magnitude of protection."

Here are ten foods on the MIND diet - that decrease Alzheimer's dementia, so if you put these in your cart each time you shop and EAT THEM! You will be doing yourself a huge favor. They are the Green Leafies, All the other veggies, Poultry, Fish, Berries, Whole Grains (in moderation) Nuts, Beans, Red Wine and Olive Oil. Then there is chocolate, very high in flavanols which can improve memory and other cognitive functions. Yes, by all means have your chocolate, but of the higher percentage variety like over 70%. Here are the 5 dangerous foods to restrict, if not eliminate entirely: Red meats, butter and stick margarines, cheese, pastries and sweets and fried-fast foods.

Here is a Smell Test for dementia that you can entertain your guests with at your next cocktail party. The olfactory nerve leads right to the forebrain which is our thinker, so if your smeller is off, so may your brain. Blindfold the other person and have them smell coffee, orange, rose, peppermint and onion or garlic. See if they can recognize all the scents. If not, send them to me for brain rehab!

There are a plethora of supplements, too, many of which I take on a regular basis. I know they help, because if I miss a day or two, I can feel it. My thinker is just slower and I may have to search for a word or a name. If you think you are losing it a bit, change your diet to reflect the above information, and come on in and I will check you out. I know I can help.

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