Secrets to Preventing Alzheimer’s and Dementia

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Last year, Timothy R. JenningsMD., released his latest book,  The Aging Brain: Proven Steps to Prevent Dementia and Sharpen Your Mind. While the title promises ways to prevent Alzheimer’s and other dementias, the formula is surprisingly simple:

And he says that whatever stage you are in life, to start now. “People can do a lot to protect their brains from dementia. And it’s not too late to get started,” he told the Deseret News in December.

 I want to eat more fish, but I’m worried about mercury affecting my brain. Is it safe?
Yes. In fact, “it’s likely that eating fish regularly as part of a balanced diet could reduce your risk of age-related cognitive decline,” according to the U.K.’s Alzheimer’s Society. If you’re a drinker, however, you might want to be careful. Recent studies have shown a link between elevated mercury in the body and reduced liver function in older adults, particularly those who drink alcohol regularly. If you’re still concerned, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish as high in mercury. Shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon and pollack are lower, and safer, by comparison.

Mike Zimmerman, with Jessica Migala, Your Brain Health After 50, April 19, 2019 

In that interview, he said that people who have mild cognitive symptoms, who start exercise, move to a whole food, plant-based diet, manage stress and get “normal” sleep. He promised that “if they do all those things, those people will not progress to dementia” and skirt Alzheimer’s disease and at worst, they may maintain brain health.” Some of them even improve,” he reported.

Diet and Nutrition

Healthy food choices, he says makes a big difference in arresting Alzheimer’s desease and other dementias. “The two diets that have been shown to correlate with better brain volume, better cognition, better memory and reduced dementia rates are the plant-based diet and the Mediterranean Diet.”

High temperature frying and roasting can bind glucose to molecules. This leads to them becoming oxidizers, which damage tissues and increases aging. “Fried foods, seared foods, grilled foods …produces those molecules and your body will absorb 30 percent of whatever the load is. Diets high in those types of oxidizing foods accelerate aging.”

Three foods he recommends are oily fish, walnuts and 100 percent pomegranate juice—”pomegranate clears amyloid (the toxic protein that builds up in Alzheimer’s dementia)” He also suggests a wide variety of colors in food from things like “berries, carrots, yams, greens. The more colors, the better.” And he suggests that these be eaten raw or steamed, but not in a microwave. “The closer to its natural state, the better.”

While steam and pressure cooking are fine, microwaving foods could “disrupt important vitamins and nutrients that you would otherwise get. Sometimes you are cooking in certain plastics and other things that might be producing different molecules you don’t want.”

Sleep

Bad sleep and bad moods can be a bad sign. A 2019 study in Science Translational Medicine showed that older adults who have less slow-wave sleep — the deep slumber that consolidates memories — have higher levels of the brain protein tau, which is linked to cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s. Waking up tired and irritable on a regular basis could be a red flag that you’re shifting from healthy to impaired brain function. So could general crankiness: A 2019 Danish study of 6,800 people found that those who are distressed in late midlife (average age: 60 in the study) may be at a higher risk for dementia later on. Researchers call it vital exhaustion, a state of prolonged stress that causes symptoms like unusual fatigue, irritability and demoralized feelings. Don’t wait for it to get worse.

MIKE ZIMMERMAN, WITH JESSICA MIGALA, YOUR BRAIN HEALTH AFTER 50, APRIL 19, 2019 

He said that as we sleep, “the neurons of our brain expel the byproducts of metabolism to be cleared out of the brain.” Sadly, he reported that thirty percent of us are sleep-deprived and “chronic sleep deprivation — night in, night out …increases our risk of dementia as we age.”

Explaining the stages of sleep, he said that going to bed at a set time and getting up eight hours later, does not make sleep normal. In normal sleep, “you go into a light stage followed by deep slow wave sleep where your heart rate slows down, your blood pressure falls, your body temperature falls. That’s followed by REM rapid eye movement sleep, where you do all your dreaming. Then you wake up, go back into another light stage, deep sleep, REM cycle and this happens all night. From the time you enter the light stage until you exit the REM is anywhere from 70 minutes to 120 minutes, so if you are waking up every hour or two hours over the night but you’re able to get back to sleep, that’s normal.” And normal sleep helps curb or prevent dementias and Alzheimer’s disease.

He says that we need “five of those cycles a night, seven-and-a-half or eight hours sleep.” Normal sleep does not require medication. “When people turn to medications, almost all of them cause memory problems and interfere with the normal sleep architecture. Using medication, even over-the-counter medication, usually makes things worse.”

Stress Management

For stress management, he suggests, “learning how to unwind and relax. A lot of things correlate: healthy families, learning how to resolve conflict well and not hold grudges, how to forgive people who have done you wrong, weekly sabbath rest experiences, meditation on a regular basis.” All of these thing he says work together “to turn off the brain’s stress circuitry.”

Most people never take times to rest, working five days, returning home to do housework and yard work. He says “data shows if you take one day a week off where you actually decompress, where you unwind with family, maybe go to church or out in nature, that has a remarkable, remarkable inflammatory-lowering cascade. It turns off your amygdala, it alters gene expression in healthy ways and promotes longevity”

A key to preventing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia “is believing in a benevolent God who is compassionate, forgiving, gracious and ‘for’ you, to heal and protect you.” Next best, you don’t believe in God but have a “compassionate humanistic worldview where you are altruistic and care for others. ” The worst “worldview is believing in a god who is authoritarian, punishing, that causes you to live in fear of being punished and causes you to seek to punish others who are not living according to the way you think God would have you live.”

Exercise

When it comes to exercise, he recommends walking, but it has to be something you enjoy, or it will “kick up inflammatory cascades.” It you hate what you are doing, “you get stress hormones going and it undermines the benefit you get from the exercise.” He suggests picking something you enjoy. Something you are not really focused on during the work-out, like “bike riding for instance, or walking with a friend where you’re talking and not really focused on the walking.”

“It’s important to understand the difference between the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s and normal cognitive aging, …Just like our skin wrinkles, our brains age, too. Age-related cognitive decline shows in things like a word that’s on the tip of your tongue and you remember it later. With Alzheimer’s, you’ll forget the word and it’ll never come back. If you forget your keys and realize you were doing three things at once, that’s no big deal. But if you lose your keys and you can never find them, and it’s happened three or four times, it’s time to get screened.”

Richard Isaacson, director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian

When the patient cannot walk, he suggests getting help from a physical therapist or trainer. “Get them into a pool of water, do something with their arms with weights or other types of activities that their bodies can handle. Very few can’t do something,” he said.

Exercise to increase blood flow to the brain, he says, delivers both oxygen and nutrients. “It turns on all the proteins in the brain that stimulate the brain’s new growth, so you get new connectivity, new neuronal growth.” Exercise, he says helps to reduce insulin resistance. “That’s critical to brain health. Not only does it reduce diabetes type 2 issues, but in the brain, insulin is essential for clearing amyloid. People who have insulin resistance in the brain have higher rates. Exercise helps reduce the buildup of amyloid by resensitizing the insulin receptors.”

Other Tips

Become a life-long learner striving to always learn new things. “Not word puzzles, which are repetition of what you can do.” He suggest that we try to study and “assimilate new knowledge. One good thing, if you don’t already know how, is ballroom dancing. Bible study that is not repetitious, but that has you investigating and thinking outside the box is good. Learning a new langauge would be brilliant.”

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Comments on Secrets to Preventing Alzheimer’s and Dementia

  1. Darryl Alder says:

    Reading this book has been an important post-retirement kick in the pants. I am exercising longer and more often, eating more olive oil and less butter, and adding more oily fish to my diet. On top of that, I learned a bunch of new stuff I didn’t know from the action items at the end of each chapter. Those are worth this book alone!

  2. Exciting new research in this are by Dr Dale Bredesen and his protocol for reversing Alzheimer’s can be found in his book, The End of Alzheimer’s. Excellent study. I’ll be glad to check out Dr Jenning’s book.

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