The Boomer Generation has many concerns; and high on the list, is the
issue of Alzheimer's and dementia prevention. Dementia is the
destruction of brain cells, causing problems with memory, thinking and behavior
severe enough to affect work, lifelong hobbies or social life.
While this is a serious topic, the good news is that there is a tremendous amount that we can do to reduce the risk of this condition, slow its further progress, or reverse it to some degree!
More than 5 million Americans now have Alzheimer’s disease (the most common form of dementia), and today it is the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States.
Dementia is not just a disease of old age. Up to 5-10 percent of people with the condition have early-onset dementia (also known as younger-onset), which often appears when someone is in their 40s or 50s.
While research is seeking a way to eliminate brain abnormalities that define Alzheimer’s, prominent experts such as Dr. Gary Kennedy, director of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, are of the opinion that these abnormalities may be “manifestations of the disease and not its origin” – being only the expressions of a brain disorder, but not its underlying cause.
What then might be the underlying risk factors which are behind the rising prevalence of Alzheimer’s and dementia?
Diabetes and pre-diabetes are linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s. People with diabetes are at a significantly increased risk of developing dementia, according to a study published in the September 20, 2011, issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
Abnormal cholesterol/lipid profiles are linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s. Another article in the journal Neurology, September 13, 2011, reported an association of Alzheimer’s disease with abnormal lipid (fat) metabolism involving cholesterol. The results of this study suggested that abnormal lipid profiles increase the risk of 'plaque-type pathology.'
The linkage between brain dementia and both abnormal cholesterol and blood sugar suggest an underlying metabolic cause involving abnormal biochemical disturbances at the cellular level.
Effective solutions to cognitive decline and memory require correct understanding of the cause of the problem. The causes of the problem are reversible factors affecting metabolism at the cellular level.
Cognitive decline is an expression of 'accelerated brain aging.'
Science is confirming that the basis of this accelerated brain aging is a state of low-grade chronic injury to brain cells and tissues that triggers the silent on-going brain behind dementia, heart attacks, cancer and many other diseases.
The primary sources of cellular injury are overly processed foods, environmental toxins and emotional stress, all of which are under our control to a much greater degree than we may have realized; and, thereby, offer us a pathway to brain health and a significant reduction in the risk of brain disorders including dementia.
To promote healthy aging of the brain and to reduce the risk of accelerated aging, we need a comprehensive approach that includes the following.
Choose a healthy lifestyle, beginning with a balanced whole foods diet that avoids high-glycemic foods that spike blood sugar, resulting in insulin resistance and blood vessel inflammation, and contribute to obesity and high blood pressure.
Utilize specific brain nutritional factors that have been confirmed to improve brain cell function and healthy brain cell chemistry.
Scientific research seems to confirm that a key principle for promoting memory and cognitive function is to avoid a diet high in trans-fat and saturated fat from animal products, especially red meat.
Whether or not lean, grass-fed beef free of hormones and pesticides and organically-raised poultry may be acceptable as healthy protein sources has not been adequately studied. If possible, eating these kinds of proteins is preferable along with wild-caught fresh fish.
It is clear that trans-fats and diets high in saturated fats can cause cellular inflammation and the production of unstable reactive free-radicals. Free-radical damage can lead to the inflammation of the lining of blood vessels and the death of brain cells.
This also requires adequate use of the entire family of anti-oxidants that reduce the free-radical damage that causes the inflammatory state.
Include fruits and vegetables, along with fish rich in omega-3 oils, as a protective against memory loss and reduce the risk of dementia.
Take a high potency multiple vitamin and mineral formula that includes folic acid and other B vitamins to reduce homocysteine levels, which is a risk factor for both heart disease and memory loss.
Optimize liver and digestive function, and cell membrane integrity to promote ‘cellular health’ within the brain and nervous system. This requires proper nutritional supplementation with essential fats and oils.
Optimize your Vitamin D3 levels with adequate sun exposure and/or Vitamin D3 supplementation.
Exercise to overcome a sedentary lifestyle and unwise food choices that create insulin resistance and low-grade inflammation in the blood vessels and capillaries that nourish the brain and every part of the body.
Be socially active and ‘exercise the brain’ with mental activities and stimulation.
Utilize mind-body stress relief methods that create balance in the autonomic nervous system and optimum brain biochemical balance. A 2006 research study, published in the medical journal Heart, found "two minutes of silence to be more relaxing than listening to 'relaxing' music, based on changes in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain." Research conducted at the world-renowned HeartMath Institute has confirmed that feeling appreciation will positively impact brain-wave activity and nervous system function!
Receive health coaching by a trained health professional to be educated and empowered through a personalized program of proactive wellness lifestyle.
For more information on the subject of promoting brain health, lifestyle, and aging, visit www.drbergman.com
Bill Bergman, M.D. is a physician and educator in the fast-growing field of integrative and preventive medicine, focusing on a comprehensive approach to health promotion and stress relief.
Dr. Bergman's medical education began as a Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude graduate of Amherst College in 1966. He went on to Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons as a member of the International Fellows Program at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs and a Edward John Noble Foundation Fellowship recipient. Dr. Bergman completed his post-graduate training at Denver General Hospital in 1971, where he first began researching preventive healthcare and methods for reducing the risk of serious disease. After 45 years in the health profession, he is committed to providing integrative healthcare strategies that can transform a person's health.
Dr. Bergman's other passion is reaching out to the community with programs highlighting health promotion and disease prevention. He has been an integral part of developing cooperative partnerships with local businesses and civic associations around the concept of a healthy community through the non-profit 501(c)3 Thrive Community Health that he founded in 2005.