Alzheimer’s disease scares me. And if you know anyone that has had it, or anyone who’s family member has had it, you’ll understand why. The idea of forgetting your loved ones, losing the memories of the best times of your life, forgetting how to take care of yourself, these are all frightening concepts. In medical school in the early 2000s, I learned about the pathology of the disease, and I learned that the few medications for it don’t really help. And I saw my grandmother slowly fade away as she and our family suffered from the disease. And nowhere did I hear about the idea of prevention.
What can we do?
So I have been surprised and excited to learn how approximately 90% of cases of dementia are preventable. The leaders of the Alzheimer’s prevention movement are two neurologists, Dean and Ayesha Sherzai. I recommend that you check out their book, The 30 Day Alzheimer’s Solution, as well as listen to them speak on a variety of podcasts out there. You’ll learn about scientifically based recommendations, such as:
- Eat a plant based diet (particularly foods from the NEURO 9)
- Avoid all foods that are high in saturated fats.
- Avoid refined carbohydrates and sugar.
- Reduce salt and season your food with herbs and spices.
- Avoid processed foods.
- Drink water.
- Eat homemade meals.
The NEURO 9 are foods that you should try to fit into your diet every day, and they are:
- Green leafy vegetables (like chard, collards, and spinach)
- Cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy, and other brassicas)
- Whole grains (such as oats, brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, millet)
- Beans and other legumes (such as chickpeas, lentils, edamame, tofu, tempeh)
- Berries (blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, etc.)
- Nuts (such as walnuts, almonds, and cashews)
- Seeds (especially ground flax and chia seeds)
- Herbs and spices (especially turmeric, but also rosemary, thyme, sage, and others)
- Tea (such as green, black, white, and Oolong)
And they have a nice mnemonic for the complete way of life to minimize dementia, which is NEURO:
- N (nutrition: as above)
- E (exercise: which can be as simple as brisk walks, some squats, and stretching)
- U (unwind: bad stress can wear on the mind, so work on de-stressing with meditation, mindful breathing, getting out into nature, listening to music, etc.)
- R (restorative sleep: getting enough sleep is crucial, since that is the time that the mind can organize, restructure, and clear out toxins)
- O (optimize your cognitive reserve: making a lot of neuronal connections, so that as your brain deteriorates with age, it’s starting from a higher capacity. This involves social connectedness, learning new things, and developing your passions.)
I hope you find their book and lectures helpful and uplifting. Here’s to taking control of our health so we can avoid Alzheimer’s disease.