As you may have noticed by the lack of blog activity, I have been out of the office for several months attending to a family emergency. My father has advanced Alzheimer’s disease and he experienced a sudden and drastic decline in his condition. Fortunately, he is now stable and is doing as well as can be expected. I have been touched and encouraged by the many people in similar circumstances who have shared their stories with me. Because this topic is so near and dear to my heart, I would like to write about ways you can enhance and protect your brain function.
Currently, Alzheimer’s disease affects over 5 million Americans, so it is not surprising that so many people have a parent or grand parent with the disease. By 2050 it is estimated that 1 in 8 people will have Alzheimer’s. Why do some people get Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, while others remain mentally sharp into their 80’s 90’s and even 100’s? Dr. Daniel Amen in his book “Magnificent Mind at Any Age” lists risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and poor brain function in general. Here are 4 ways Dr. Amen recommends to improve overall brain function and reduce risk of Alzheimer’s:
1. Eat a diet that supports a healthy brain. What you eat every day can either help or harm you brain function. The best brainy food choices are:
- Lean proteins build neurons. Choose wild caught fish and organic grass fed lean beef as well as free range chickens and organic eggs.
- Eat more complex low glycemic veggies like kale, Swiss chard collard greens, broccoli, beets, peas, peppers and beans. Add fruits high in antioxidants like blueberries. Avoid processed foods, artificial sweeteners and MSG.
- Choose healthy fats. Avocados and raw nuts are smart choices. Olive oil, flax seed oil and walnut oil are high in healthy Omega 3 fatty acids. Use coconut oil for cooking. Good fats promote healthy nerve cell membranes and nerve-brain communication.
- Drink plenty of pure filtered water. Dehydration leads to loss of cognitive function.
- Obesity and diabetes more than double the risk for Alzheimer’s. Fat cells store toxins that harm both body and mind. Some scientists consider Alzheimer’s to be another type of diabetes.
2. Protect your noggin. Head trauma, whether recent or years ago plays a significant role in the development of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Wear a helmet when biking, skateboarding, skiing or snowboarding. Avoid heading soccer balls, which can damage the front of the temporal lobe, and possibly lead to loss of memory, language and emotional control. New research has shown that repeated concussions sustained in sports like tackle football and boxing lead to loss of brain function later in life.
3. Neutralize stress and think positive. Experiencing chronic stress releases hormones that actually shrink our brains. Long term exposure to stress hormones leads to memory loss. Negative thinking erodes brain function, while positive and hopeful thoughts release hormones that improve brain function and make us feel better at the same time. Acupuncture, exercise and meditation relieve stress. Daily relaxation, meditation or prayer helps you to become more aware of your thoughts and correct negative thinking. Instructions for an easy 90 second meditation can be found on my blog at www.acupuncturemesa.com Look for the title: 90 Seconds to Better Sports Performance
4. Exercise and be social. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain. The more blood flow to the brain the more the brain receives vital substances like oxygen, glucose and nutrients, while clearing out toxins. Exercise also regenerates brain cells. Stimulate these newly regenerated brain cells with mental or social interaction and more connections will be made in the brain making you even smarter. Aerobic exercises that require coordination with movement are ideal. Activities like dancing and table tennis improve thinking, mental flexibility and thought processing speed.
I highly recommend Dr. Amen’s book. Although age and family history are risk factors for Alzheimer’s, there are many things you can do right now to lessen the risk and improve your brain function.
I am happy to report that I am back in the office full time. If you would like to schedule an appointment to reduce stress and improve brain function or if you would like to address other health concerns please call me.
Denise Jenderzak, L.Ac.