Recently, I had the opportunity to watch up-close and personal the cognitive decline of two people very close to me, my Mom and Step-Dad. As I reflect on their simultaneous passing just 4 days apart last Fall, I see that there were so many complicating factors to their health, medical care and awareness on the topic. My research is teaching me now that prevention is so incredibly important. They passed from a form of dementia known as vascular dementia caused by minor strokes, they each suffered. In fact, so minor, that a stroke was undetected in one of them for more than a year. And in case you didn’t know it, 80% of strokes are preventable.
There are many forms of dementia, and by the way dementia just means brain cells have died for one reason or another. For the sake of this moment, let’s focus on the topic of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) which is a degenerative disease, and the most common form of dementia, causing problems with memory, thinking, and behavior.
Over 5 million Americans live with AD, one in 10 people over the age of 65 has AD. Early onset AD affects approximately 200,000 Americans under the age of 65. In fact, while I recently participated on a dementia panel, I met a man whose wife was an executive in a large company and now, younger than age 50, is in a memory care unit. With this disease, minor changes in the brain occur long before symptoms show as was the case with this woman. It’s was like a slow fade. Small things you might not notice like finding the background pattern on a checkbook too busy to figure out where to write the amount.
The Silver Tsunami, a term used to describe the aging Baby Boomer population, is upon us and is expected to cause some enormous stress on our already strained healthcare system. Current healthcare costs for over 50 million people worldwide afflicted with AD are about $818 million and are projected to be $2 billion by 2050. Unfortunately, there are no drugs currently available that can delay and/or prevent the progression of disease in elderly individuals and in AD patients. This is why I am spreading the word on some very easy suggestions to measure, track and improve your current brain health and give yourself some semblance of hope for a stronger brain and overall physical health.
The relationship between the apparent causes of AD and other diseases is amazingly similar and should capture your attention. After all, why not knock out a few concerns at once. The list of daily routine recommendations is one you have heard before and together support cognitive health;
- proper nutrition,
- good sleep,
- exercise and
- low stress
Interesting how these same recommendations seem to support the reduction of metabolic syndrome (abdominal fat, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar) heart disease and diabetes. And have you noticed that the nature of our daily routine in the U.S. has us eating processed foods (on the run) while being stressed out in traffic or on conference calls with little exercise and unable to sleep at night because we are on our technology making “important” decisions or answering a constant borage of incoming messages? Talk about stress.
Experts have noted the following major AD risk factors:
- Overconsumption of bad fat and carbohydrate (nutrition) a.k.a. Increase good fats; Omega-3s
- Risk of AD is doubled in Type 2 Diabetics (nutrition)
- Heart disease also increases your risk of dementia, as arterial stiffness is associated with the buildup of beta-amyloid plaque in your brain, a hallmark of AD disease (nutrition, exercise, stress reduction)
- Sleep impact of not getting REM sleep leading to buildup of beta-amyloids (sleep, exercise, nutrition and stress reduction)
And I know what you are thinking, I don’t have time for all of this…But what if you made just one adjustment to your nutrition that could impact nearly all of the prevention factors above and multiple disease contributors as well? Would that be of interest?
Improving your Omega-3s (fish oils) could be that one change. Reducing the consumption of fats like margarine and fried foods (Omega-6’s) and reducing the consumption of carbs that work against you like sugar in candy bars, French fries, pasta, potato chips etc. is a great start. The ratio of Omega-6s to Omega-3s (polyunsaturated fats) is important so make certain you increase your fish oils to have at least 1,000 Mg per day. The Omega-3’s in your diet actually help your body feel more satisfied and can assist in reducing the cravings for sugars and carbohydrates.
Eating a 3 oz. serving of oily fish (Herring, Bluefin Tilapia, Cod, Haddock, Catfish, and one fatty fish (such as Salmon, Albacore Tuna, Mackerel, Sardines) at least 4 times a week will keep your levels at 1,000 Mg a day of combined EPA and DHA. However, this serving suggestion does not take into consideration that the impact of these levels are reduced by having excess Omega-6s (corn, soy, vegetable oils and processed foods.) Which means you may need more than 1,000 Mg per day to offset.
As noted above, research is also suggesting that addressing circulation across the blood brain barrier (BBB) with Omega-3s looks positive. The key here is the impact of Omega-3s on beta-amyloids. The research is suggesting that Omega-3s can help the plaque clear the BBB and reduce the build-up.
How do you know if your current level of Omega-3’s (EPA and DHA) are the right level for you? We can support getting these questions answered through this simple blood stick test which can be performed in the comfort of your home by ordering a kit from our office. Learn about the evidenced based research in this free brochure. And if you think you are eating enough fish, wonderful. However, 96% of people in the U.S. are not eating enough Omega 3’s. Are you one of them? Take the test and find out.