Brain

Alzheimer’s and Lifestyle Medicine Prevention

Did you know that genes cause only 1% of Alzheimer’s and that it is possible to identify other risk factors? Most of these factors are under our control as they are diet and lifestyle driven.

In my latest blog, I identify the dietary and lifestyle tips that may help to prevent Alzheimer’s, as follows:

Eating a Low Glycemic Load (GL) Diet

Keeping glucose levels to a normal range is key, so have your HbA1C tested with your GP or privately on a 6–12-month basis to check for the fasting glucose marker. Developing dementia is more likely if a person already has type 1 diabetes.

Insulin control/sensitivity goes one step deeper into this picture. And the core principles of the ‘Health Path’ are geared around underpinning good insulin sensitivity. So, avoiding high-sugar items as much as possible and eating fewer refined carbs will help. Opt for whole grains (seeded bread, whole grain pasta over white varieties).

Include protein sources with your carbs. For example, oats with seeds and nuts and berries, cherries and plums are lower in sugar than some other fruits. Follow a Mediterranean diet.

Increasing Good Fats

Healthy ‘brain fats’ include omega-3‘s, phospholipids and vitamin D. Omega-3 fat (DHA) is the most abundant fat found in the brain. Both EPA and DHA are involved in a wide variety of brain processes. Cold water fish contain large amounts of EPA and DHA. Supplementing at least 1,000mg of DHA may be the optimal amount. Walnuts are a good source of omega-3 and ALA and also a good source of antioxidants.

Eggs and seafood are abundant in phospholipids, which are molecules that become attached to omega-3s. They also require B vitamins for the production of DHA-enriched phosphatidylcholine (PC). So, supplementing with EPA, DHA, choline, and B vitamins, as well as C and E and selenium may be beneficial.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D exerts neurotransmission and exerts anti-inflammatory properties. Supplementing 800iu p/d for 12 months has been shown to improve cognitive function.

B Vitamins and Homocysteine

B vitamins are vital for methylation, which is correlated to brain cell function. This is especially true for B6, B12 and folate, which connect brain structure and help limit homocysteine levels. High homocysteine has been shown to be a primary marker for brain-related cell damage. Testing for homocysteine levels can be done using a private functional test and can then be easily supplemented using a blend of B6, B12 and folate.

Antioxidants and Polyphenols

These plant chemicals protect the brain from harmful oxidant buildup. Oxidant buildup is a natural process within the body but also includes exposure to smoke, chemicals, and toxins. Include in your diet carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, spinach, mushrooms, blueberries, strawberries, green tea, red wine, and dark chocolate, all of which contain polyphenols.

Extra virgin olive oil has also been shown to protect the brain. Vitamin C and E supplementation may also prevent the onset of cognitive decline. Beta-carotene is also beneficial, and this is found in orange foods. Anthocyanidins are also beneficial, and these are found in blue and red foods.

These two components have antioxidant effects and work within the gut microbiome to improve liver function, decrease inflammation, and improve cardiovascular health.

Gut Health

The gut produces the neurotransmitters GABA, serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline, which all influence the brain’s activity. The gut also absorbs B12, among many other crucial brain-related nutrients. Periodontal disease is implicated in Alzheimer’s (gum disease and dysbiosis are related to cognitive decline). Low stomach acid as we age is also related to low B12 absorption.

Keeping Physically Active

Movement is one of the most powerful ways to prevent cognitive decline. Brisk walking is beneficial to the brain. Exercise increases sleep and reduces inflammation. Resistance training also improves brain health, and increased strength and muscle health are correlated with better brain health. Exercise that involves coordination and balance also helps to improve brain health (yoga and Pilates).

Keeping Socially Active

Unsurprisingly, there is a strong correlation between strong social participation and increased brain health.

Sleeping Well

Sleep disturbance is a big factor in cognitive decline, and less than six hours may be detrimental. Night shift working may actually be classed as a carcinogen which can impact quality sleep. Mindfulness and meditation are beneficial tools, and checking HRV (heart rate variability) is also considered a good marker for overall health.

Check out the ‘COGNITION’ Test

https://foodforthebrain.org/the-cognitive-function-test/

Spearheading this test and this campaign is Patrick Holford, who is the original pioneer in innovative approaches to health and nutrition. He co-founded the Institute for Optimum Nutrition and the Food for the Brain Foundation. He is one of Britain’s best-selling health and nutrition writers and the author of over 45 books translated into over 30 languages – selling millions of copies worldwide.

Reference: Stopping Alzheimer’s: The Evidence for prevention. IHCAN Magazine. September 2022

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