June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness month. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and dementia are major health concerns. At the moment there are no successful preventions, treatments or cures.
Currently, dementia affects 47 million individuals worldwide. Every 65 seconds someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s disease. These statistics are projected to rise with estimations of 106 million individuals diagnosed with AD in 2050.
Dementia is an umbrella term for all of the symptoms that affect the brain such as memory loss, decline in activities of daily living, impaired reasoning, personality changes and a loss of communication abilities. Alzheimer’s disease is a specific term for the most common form of dementia.
Dementia is a syndrome, not a specific disease. A syndrome is a condition with a similar set of symptoms. Dementia is a set of symptoms that affects the brain’s processes and function and leads to cognitive decline.
A major risk factor for dementia is insulin resistance. In fact, scientists have begun calling dementia “Type 3 Diabetes”. Other risk factors include chronic inflammation, leaky gut syndrome, elevated homocysteine levels, abnormal blood lipids, prescription medications and excessive alcohol consumption. Rarely (contrary to popular belief) is dementia considered “genetic”.
Dementia shares many of the same risk factors as other chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
While dementia typically affects older individuals (age is a risk factor), it can actually begin at a young age and takes years to develop and worsen.
It is important to address many of the underlying causes of dementia. Dementia is a multifactorial condition.
The Paleo diet is rich in essential protein, fats and the right type of carbohydrates (from vegetables and fruits) to support to brain health. It is highly anti-inflammatory and nutrient dense. It provides the antioxidants and nutrients needed for optimal neurotransmitter function.
Research has shown that the currently popular high carbohydrate diet (aka Standard American Diet) is evolutionarily discordant and contributes to Alzheimer’s disease development by altering lipid metabolism and damaging cells (Source).
The sun’s UVB rays hit the skin and convert cholesterol in the skin to vitamin D. The sun is your best source of vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiencies have been liked to an increased risk of developing dementia (Source).
Additionally, abnormal cholesterol levels have also been associated with the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (Source). The sun is a powerful tool to keeping brain cells happy and healthy by regulating cholesterol levels and increasing vitamin D concentrations.
Often, problems that are seen in the mouth arise from digestive issues. The mouth is known as your oral microbiome and it is linked to your gut microbiome. When you get leaky gut, it can manifest as systemic inflammation and bacterial dysbiosis, both of which can also be seen in the mouth. The microbiomes of dementia patients have distinct types and levels of bacteria compared to healthy individuals. These bacterial populations could play a role in generating neuroinflammation, a hallmark cause of neurodegeneration.
Practice good oral hygiene habits to balance microbes and reduce inflammation. Get tested to see if you have leaky gut. If you do, heal it by repopulating with good bacteria and taking the right supplements.
Exercise has been shown to reduce risk of dementia. It can also slow brain cell deterioration in individuals who have already developed a cognitive disorder. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity movement each day.
Regular physical activity stimulates brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is a protein that keeps your brain cells flourishing and strong. Physical exercise can stimulate brain cell growth and repair. It is also required for adequate blood flow to the brain.
Cognitive- stimulating activities such as reading a book, learning a new hobby or even doing a puzzle have been shown to prevent dementia.
Exercising your mind is beneficially similar to exercising your body. It helps to increase the strength and communication between neuron (brain cell) connections.
Insulin resistance and blood sugar imbalances are a major risk factor for dementia. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels damages neurons and inhibits communication between brain cells. We know keeping your blood sugar under control is key to protecting arteries, but it is also essential to keeping your brain healthy. A study showed that even in individuals who didn’t have diabetes, higher than normal blood sugar levels were associated with an increased risk of dementia (Source).
Over time high blood sugar causes inflammation and loss of insulin sensitivity. Again, some scientists are now calling dementia “Type 3 Diabetes”. Check out the foods and supplements you can utilize to prevent or reverse insulin resistance here.
Toxins are some of the most potent environmental triggers of dementia. Pesticides and other chemicals have brain-damaging effects. Typically, the toxic exposure trigger is chronic meaning it has been going on for a long period of time. Toxins can include pesticides, insecticides, chemicals in beauty products or household cleaners, heavy metals, carbon monoxide and even alcohol in excessive amounts.
To prevent dementia risk, it is best to completely avoid toxin exposures. See the list of natural products we use every day here.
Maintaining or improving vascular health is one way to prevent dementia. There are strong links between dementia and cardiovascular conditions like heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.
Reducing risk factors for cardiovascular conditions will also reduce risk of dementia. Damaged arteries in the heart can impair blood flow to the brain, which contributes to neurodegeneration and memory loss. Focus on boosting nitric oxide levels to improve blood flow and protecting both the heart and brain.
There are several key supplements that can be used to prevent dementia and keep the brain strong. These are three of our top brain-protecting supplements:
The body needs high quality water every day to function optimally and fend off disease. Regular tap water is filled with toxins (such as fluoride, lead, cyanide, arsenic, aluminum and the list goes on and on) that damage the brain. The water you drink daily needs to be completely filtered of all contaminants, re-mineralized and re-energized. Check out the water we love here.
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