Alzheimer’s disease seems to be on the rise. With so much focus on our fast changing habits, foods, and environments, one wonders if we can’t manage or prevent Alzheimer’s naturally.
Can we manage and prevent Alzheimer’s naturally or holistically?
Recently, Roland and I were guests at the powerful Move For Minds fundraiser – an event organized by the The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement – a non profit organization dedicated to education for prevention and delay of brain disease.
We were at Move For Minds not only to support the cause, but to take part in a brain healthy workout, and meet other local experts on health and wellness. We had all banded together with one mission – to bring our own work to everyday people, and empower them to take care of their precious minds, one healthy action at a time.
The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement has a long history of bringing experts in brain and mind health together – from exercise and nutrition all the way to mindfulness, meditation, and caregiving.
It was a moving and inspiring day, meeting with real people who suffered or whose loved ones suffered. Many of whom were only now for the first time on the receiving end of hope and insight from experts.
Similar to other conferences and panels we had participated in, we were hearing the message that a holistic approach to managing and preventing brain disease will win every time.
Move For Minds Panel
Each of the panelists, while they were an expert in their own field, acknowledged that only an integrated approach – taking into account the benefits of sleep, regular movement, real food nutrition, and stress management, can really give us the results and the hope we need.
Below, you will find notes I took, as panelists answered questions from the host – Leeza Gibbons and the audience.
Among the panelists were: Leeza Gibbons, Television & Radio Personality, Alzheimer’s Advocate; Joshua Grill, Ph.D., Associate Director, UC Irvine Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center; Lori La Bey, Founder of Alzheimer’s Speaks; Katy Bowman, M.S., Biomechanist, Creator of Nutritious Movement, Author Dynamic Aging and Move Your DNA; Daniel Amen, M.D., Psychiatrist, Founder of Amen Clinics, New York Times bestselling author; Mallika Chopra, Founder & CEO on Intent.com, Author Living With Intent; Tana Amen, BSN, RN, Vice President, Amens Clinics, Health & Fitness Expert.
Why does Alzheimer’s disease disproportionately affect women?
1 in 6 women is affected compared to 1 in 11 men? Is it hormones? Is it stress?
One theory is that women are simply better at living longer. As we age, there is a higher and higher risk. Once you are 65 every 5 years your risk doubles. Women at increased age are of course more at risk. We also think that back in the day, when the women of today’s older generation were young, they missed out on many opportunities that may have had a protective role. Factors such as complex and challenging jobs, exercise, good sleep – all these are adding life to women today. Back then, women didn’t have those privileges, they were learning how to work and be homemakers. We believe that about 50% of the risk is lifestyle related, and we know that lifestyle and genes interact. Right now we are making sense of how genes particularly affect females.
What is the role of stress?
I do believe that living with intent makes a huge difference. I
encourage you to find time for small changes in your life to start addressing stress. We now know that meditation isn’t something woo-woo or snake oil, there is more and more research coming out all the time showing innumerable benefits. Some of those include increased learning and memory, as well as increase in telomeres. I also want to assure you that practice doesn’t have to be regular. Give yourself the freedom to forgive yourself if you can’t and start again every day.
Work on your personal connections and your own sense of purpose.
We were lucky enough to have a front-row seat, so we were able to get Mallika Chopra’s two minute S.T.O.P meditation on video!
What is making us sicker?
You know the weapons of mass destruction come from the the food industry.
As a nation we consume many industrial food-like substances. They stimulate behaviors leading to overeating and a growth in bodyweight and then obesity. We’ve seen in studies that as one’s bodyweight goes up the size and function of their brain goes down. Another component of our toxic load is the effect that chemicals in cosmetics, packaging and especially plastic have on us!
The good news is you are not stuck with the brain you have – you can change it.
How does one find time to fit all of this in?
I don’t have time not to do this.
I find a few moments to meditate or go for a 15 min walk. Everyone can do something. If people understood that eating well is not about deptivaton, it’s about abundance – they would start to do it sooner.
Movement is key as it increases blood flow and decreases inflammation.
What’s the difference between exercise and movement?
We need to move away from an exercise to a movement paradigm.
Exercise is a bout of time, where you are doing an activity to reap the benefits of movement away from the environment where it would occur. Maybe we can talk about moving more in general versus taking exercise classes. You could build your home in a way that encourages movement – such as placing your equipment close to the floor or squatting to get it. You can start thinking of chewing your food, because it will affect blood flow to the brain versus thinking of cardio, flexibility and strength training.
My work is to encourage people to do more non-exercise movement and to think specifically about how that affects the brain.
Tell us about the caregiving side
We are doing our best to shift caregiving from a mindset of crisis to an experience of comfort.
We are trying to bring a change in language, talking about care partner and care companion. I remember how caregiving allowed me to slow down and made me a better person. I was able to go within and ind peacefulness. My mission since them has been to raise everyone’s voice, improve dementia culture and show the power of one! I
t’s just heartbreaking that 800 k people in the USA live alone with the disease – they need a lot of help and support. Their own voice needs to be heard.
What about daily habits
What are some of the daily habits that may adversely affect the chance of developing the disease? Alcohol for example?
Alcohol is not a health food (laughs!). I hope you are not thinking that you can drink and be healthy. Moderation is absolute key.
Sleep is huge here as well. You need to know that melatonin and sleep are linked with Alzheimers. Be aware that what you are doing can be hurting your sleep – and alcohol can temporarily calm you down, but it can disrupt your sleep later. You also can’t fall asleep with a busy mind. If you are a worrier there are supplements like 5htp and magnesium which can trenendously help your sleep.
What is your opinion about ketogenic diets and using MCT oil?
We don’t know yet. The MCT oil for Alzheimer’s hypothesis is being tested – there are medical food trials to see if there is symptomatic benefit.
If you believe beta amiloid plaque is what causes Alzheimer’s – apoptosis helps with that – there is a significant benefit – a ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting could be of huge benefit.
Are mental exercises beneficial and do you recommend them?
You know it’s interesting. We are finding physical exercise to be beneficial in so many ways, and we find it to be more applicable than mental exercises – for example chess. Exercise helps with newborn brain cells – and there are lots of arrows in how it reduces risk. You can even look at how sleep and exercise are related, and one doesn’t normally point to that as a direct efffect of exercise, yet it is.
Is there any other aspect of brain health we need to be aware of?
It’s important to be connected – isolation is very common. For example we know that volunteering helps memory scores. That’s why we created Alzheimer Speaks – everyone can benefit from having connection and being heard.
Watch the Move For Minds Panel
To watch a recording of the whole panel of speakers and really dive into the spirit of Move For Minds, see the video below.
How you can help manage and prevent Alzheimer’s naturally
Whether you read through my notes or watched the video, you are probably wandering what can you do to support your own health, but also what you could do to support Alzheimer’s research?
Alz.org – 10 ways to love your brain today
Test your brain health online with the special program Dr Amen created
Alzheimer’s Researchers NEED Volunteers
There is a huge need for research that will both determine how to prevent and delay the disease, and the best ways to treat it. But for that, researchers need volunteers.
Dr Grill addressed the audience with a great opportunity: to take part in research. You can sign up to be a volunteer here.
Walking and helping a good cause
We invite you to combine two of our favorite ways to live life: in community and while walking – and do it for a good cause.
25+ Lifestyle Strategies and a Brain Health Quiz from Precision Nutrition
These 25+ areas on nutrition, movement, and lifestyle are a great way to reduce your risks. Plus, take the Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention Quiz to see how YOUR brain stacks up!
It was wonderful to attend Move For Minds, and Roland and I are thankful to have been there.
Thanks to the panel of amazing and kind experts, of course, but also a big thank you to Irvine’s Move For Minds host Leeza Gibbons who did a phenomenal job moderating.
Like most of you, we also know and love people with Alzheimer’s disease. The more we can do to get the word out on how to manage it better, prevent it when possible, and support those afflicted and those who care about them, the better.
Love you all,