According to the Alzheimer’s Association, every 65 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease. It is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S., and so many of us have family and friends affected by it. I wanted to share some information about a few lifestyle changes that affect brain health. While we don’t know exactly what causes Alzheimer’s, there is mounting evidence that suggests the changes you make now can have a considerable impact on what happens to your brain decades from now. Current thinking is we may be able to significantly slow or even stop the progression of Alzheimer’s by adopting as many brain-supportive habits as early in life as possible. Here are a few tips to help keep your brain in top form for as long as possible:
1) Tame inflammation around the clock.
Chronic inflammation is often the starting point for diseases that are tragically becoming endemic, such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Inflammation can be tamed, by trading sugars, industrial oils, processed foods, and factory-farmed meats for wholesome, fresh, consciously-raised, real foods, and by maintaining the bacterial balance of the gut microbiome. To get on a more brain-supportive path, start with the 30-Day cleanse to fortify and repair your gut, while adding in some of the brain-loving foods listed below.
2) More movement, and (a lot) less couch-potato time.
Simply put, moving your tush is good for your brain. Frequent movement helps improve memory and slows the rate of cognitive decline. Movement also increases blood flow to the brain, key for the health of the organ. According to the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation, regular exercise cuts the risk of developing the disease by half, so keep moving. If you’re a desk jockey, work more movement into your day by setting an alarm on your phone to remind you to get out of your chair and do a lap or two around the office every 30 minutes or so. When time’s too short for a 30 or 45 minute exercise session, embrace the idea of the ‘micro session,’ as in, do any kind of movement for ten minutes at least once or twice a day. Ten minutes of movement – that’s about 3 songs worth on the playlist – done several times in a day can keep the blood pumping to everywhere you want it to go.
3) Make quality sleep a top priority.
Sleep is not a luxury; it is an absolute essential act of daily maintenance, and it’s your ally in keeping your brain sharp and youthful. So next time you plan to cut sleep corners, consider this: sleep may be pivotal in avoiding early mental decline. When you sleep, your brain protects itself from toxic proteins. Its glymphatic system flushes cerebrospinal fluid through the brain to remove proteins that accumulate between the cells, byproducts of neurological processes during the day. This “overnight cleanup” keeps the brain clear and healthy, but this brain-cleaning crew only works when you’re asleep. If you don’t let them do their work, it’s like having a party one night and neglecting to clean up the mess the next day, and then having another party. These waste products begin to accumulate, the house starts to deteriorate. Science is now linking this toxic buildup with loss of neurological function. Over time, this “trash buildup” of proteins in the brain can contribute to dementia and Alzheimer’s – so never underestimate the power of a good snooze! Be sure to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night.
4) What goes in your mouth matters to your brain.
The recommended, wholesome foods below will help protect your brain by tamping down the cell-damaging inflammation that’s considered a key contributor to the development of Alzheimer’s. They’ll also support the efforts of brain-protective glial cells which are thought to be responsible for pushing toxins out of the brain. So when you make your food choices throughout the day, think about feeding your head with the best brain foods possible, preferably organic leafy greens, colorful veggies, dark berries; nuts; healthy fats; and moderate amounts of organic, grass-fed or pasture-raised animals. Drink oolong or green teas and ditch sugar, processed foods, and industrial oils. Also, limit the amount of alcohol and, of course, cigarettes. They all can damage brain cells, in some cases, causing permanent brain changes, and, of course, boost Alzheimer’s risk.
5) Ditch sugar – and the Standard American Diet – NOW.
As I often say, sugar is the devil because of it’s health-destructive properties. And now, there’s yet one more reason to condemn it. In addition to setting you up for obesity and type 2 diabetes, sugar may be destroying your brain cells. In fact, many scientists have taken to calling Alzheimer’s the diabetes of the brain, or ‘diabetes 3,’ thereby making avoidance of all that sugar, simple carbs and processed foods endemic to the standard American diet of the utmost priority, that is, if you want to keep your brain healthy.
6) Get rid of the non-stick.
Cook using non-reactive materials like ceramic, enamel-coated cast iron, glass or silicone, instead of aluminum or non-stick cookware. Aluminum and non-stick have been tied to possible long-term health problems, including Alzheimer’s. If you happen to have a kitchen full of non-stick, slowly start replacing your old stuff with healthier alternatives.
7) Change your eating patterns.
In recent months, chances are you’ve heard about intermittent fasting – aka the 12-hour window that we practice in the 30-Days to Healthy Living & Beyond program. But, what you probably haven’t heard is that it’s showing some promise as a preventive tool to combat diseases of modern civilization such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. The theory is that the diet, in effect, resets the system and can help normalize blood glucose, blood pressure, and liver function, all of which in turn, protects brain health.
8) Take a brain-booster.
In addition to eating a clean, plant-rich diet, I also recommend a few key supplements to help fill in nutritional gaps while strengthening the body’s ability to ward off neurological decline. Some of my favorite brain-supporters are:
- Omega 3 fatty acids (in our protein powder & Greens Balance) and WILD caught salmon
- Methylated Folate and Vitamin B12
- Coenzyme Q10 in Arbonne’s Mind Health AND in the new Fizz sticks!
9) Meditate, meditate, meditate!
One of the simplest things you can do to support brain health every day is meditate. Meditation gives the brain the downtime it needs to relax, restore and refresh itself. Too much unrelieved stress contributes to brain shrinkage in the area responsible for memory, so it’s imperative to counteract it with meditation. Get your meditation practice flowing and start preserving that all-important grey matter volume. I recommend the Insight Timer App. There are hundreds of guided meditations to choose from.
10) Don’t hibernate – Circulate!
One final thought: be social and stay connected with friends, family, neighbors and your community. Those who remain socially active and connected with others have a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s – so get out there!