Dementia and Alzheimer’s are incredibly important health issues, and June is National Alzheimer’s and Brain Health Awareness month.
Dementia is a brain condition that affects parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. In America, there are an estimated six million people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, with expected growth to 13 million by 2050. One out of three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, killing more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. Alzheimer’s and dementia are not only personally taxing, but also financially in the health care system; in 2021, Alzheimer's and other dementias will cost the nation $355 billion, including $239 billion in Medicare and Medicaid payments combined. The average monthly cost for an Alzheimer's Care Living Facility is $8,000 - $10,000. Despite investments in Alzheimer’s treatment, unfortunately, no cure has been found. Increasingly, there has been evidence that people can prevent or reduce their risk of cognitive decline through lifestyle changes. Here are some ways you can best support your brain:
- Exercise: Several studies have concluded that aerobic exercise (exercise that increases your heart rate) in middle-aged or older adults leads to improvements in thinking and memory, as well as reduced rates of dementia. Strength training has also been shown to prevent the loss of bone which reduces the risk of cognitive decline, slows aging, and prevents brain atrophy. Physical activity improves blood circulation and increases chemicals that protect the brain, like dopamine and endorphins.
- Sleep: An explosion of scientific discoveries over the last couple of decades has shed new light on the fundamental role of sleep on our cognition and overall well-being. Sleep enriches our ability to learn, focus, memorize, and make good decisions. A lack of sleep leads to increased inflammation and a weakened immune system resulting in dysfunction and disease.
- Mitigate Stress: Chronic stress ages us, our cells, our organs, our systems, our function. It's important to relax and restore on a regular basis. Things like meditation, breathe work, prayer, biofeedback, and Qigong and Tai Chi are great ways to destress. Find what works for you.
- Diet. A diet high in green leafy vegetables, proteins, and healthy fats and low in sugar, carbohydrates and grains is associated with lower levels of memory and thinking problems. Intermittent fasting has also been shown to improve cognitive performance. Fasting promotes autophagy, which is an evolutionary healing process by which our cells "clean house" to make room for new cellular components. Fasting for at least 12 hours overnight is highly recommended.
- Social engagement. Studies have found an association between lifelong involvement in mentally and socially stimulating activities and a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease as well as a strong familial unit and/or community to be significantly supportive of health and longevity.
- Mental stimulation. Brain activity is just as important as physical activity. Mental stimulation can include playing memory games, reading a book, or playing an instrument.
At Princeton Integrative Health, we believe that brain health must be integrated into our lifelong care, regardless of if a patient shows any symptoms. In fact, the earlier you identify and intervene, the more the likelihood of success. Symptoms do not always tell the full story. The best time to work on brain health is prior to having any symptoms.
In addition to guiding patients on their health journey as part of our natural repertoire, we have a Brain Health Program. Our twelve-month Brain Health Program includes clinical and coaching sessions, functional nutrition and lifestyle consultations, meal planning, and customized supplement program designs. Our methodology is based on the work of Dr. Dale Bredesen, MD, from Duke University Medical Center, Chief Neurologist at UCSF, professor, and best-selling author of "The End of Alzheimer's" who has successfully reversed cognitive decline in hundreds of individuals. Our program also covers cognoscopy, a thorough screening that assesses a patient’s current functioning based on risk factors (i.e., inflammatory, trophic, glycotoxic, toxic, vascular, and trauma). Information obtained from the testing is then organized to create a picture of why the individual’s cognition is declining.
We evaluate the brain in the context of whole-body health, as the brain is interconnected with the immune, GI, and endocrine systems. Call our office to book an appointment, 609-512-1468.