dementia

  1. Do These 3 Things RIGHT NOW to Keep Dementia Away

    For generations, the odds of getting dementia -- or hopefully, avoiding it – pretty much came down to luck.
    Essentially, you would get older and hope that most of your cognitive abilities remained intact.
    But no more. These days, researchers have learned that avoiding dementia is possible, and more importantly, relatively easy.
    The three keys to avoiding dementia include these three pillars:
    ● Food
    ● Activity
    ● Brain exercises

    If you want to keep dementia away, make these guidelines part of your daily life NOW, rather than wishing you’d done it sooner.
    Pillar One: Brain-Boosting Foods
    Researchers from Rush University Medical Center have created the MIND diet, a program specifically recognized for helping people avoid dementia.
    You can learn more about the MIND diet here.
    But while you’re getting on board with the MIND way of eating, try incorporating these seven foods into your diet now.
    Arielle: The MIND diet link referenced above directs to the article that follows this one.
    1. Leafy greens. Leafy greens are vital to overall health, so it makes sense that they’re just as important when it comes to brain health. They’ve been shown to improve and protect cognitive function, and reduce feelings of depression. Avoiding dementia -- another good reason to have a salad!
    2. Beans and legumes. There are so many minerals essential to brain health in legumes that it’s nearly impossible to list them all. Ounce for ounce, beans are some of the best all-around sources of iron, folate, potassium, and magnesium, and they’re critical to maintaining brain function at every level.
    3. Blueberries and other berries. Berries contain an antioxidant that’s especially effective in protecting the brain from free radical damage, as well as reducing inflammation in the brain that can lead to chronic health problems.
    4. Pumpkin and other squash. It’s the vitamin A that’s so important here, so if you’re not a fan of squash, choose other vegetables high in vitamin A, like tomato, asparagus, and carrots. All of these tasty choices will protect brain function, comprehension and reasoning.
    5. Cruciferous vegetables. You may not know the term, but it includes brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage and other similar veggies. Cruciferous vegetables contain high quantities of B vitamins and powerful antioxidants that help prevent dementia. Another tasty reason to choose them? They reduce the levels of an amino acid that can inhibit cognitive function.
    6. Omega 3 fatty acids. Fatty fish, avocado, nuts, flax seed, and olive oil are all excellent sources of high quality omega 3s. These essential fatty acids pack a powerful punch for brain health, with the ability to reduce the risk of dementia by more than 25%!
    7. Turmeric. This exotic and very tasty Mediterranean spice is becoming more common, thanks to its many health benefits. It’s one of several spices that can help break up and reduce the brain plaque that impairs memory and cognitive function. Plus, turmeric can help slow aging in the brain.
    Pillar Two: Get MOVING to Protect Your Brain
    The activities you choose help complement the food you eat -- a one-two punch to help keep your brain healthy.
    1. Regular exercise. We all know that exercise is good for your heart, but did you know it’s also good for your brain? It’s true… taking steps to increase blood flow, oxygen and nutrients will help keep your brain healthy and sharp.
    Your brain needs all three types of exercise:
    ● Aerobic exercise – aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise every week -- even short bursts of energy add up. And if you’re up to it physically, do even more for extra brain and body benefits.
    ● Anaerobic exercise – or strength training. Aim for two to three strength training sessions per week. This can include lifting weights or doing body weight exercises like push-ups (on your knees is fine) or squats.
    ● Balance exercises. Not only can balance exercise help keep your brain healthy, but they also protect against falls, which can cause head trauma and other injuries. Work on your balance often throughout the week, through everything from yoga or tai chi classes, to standing on one foot while you brush your teeth or do the dishes.

    Combining these three types of exercise can reduce the risk of dementia by up to 50% – and may even help slow its onset if a loved one has already started showing signs of cognitive decline.
    2. Stay social. Research indicates that people who are isolated lose cognitive ability faster than people who remain socially engaged. Make an effort to stay in touch with your friends and loved ones, get out of the house, and even make new friends. Find a club to join or volunteer your services at a local organization. Even just chatting with your neighbors and mail carrier can benefit your mood and your brain. And that leads us to our next pillar…
    3. Relax. Cortisol, the hormone your body produces when life gets stressful, is damaging to your brain. That means it’s important to relax and give your brain a break. Go for a run, stretch, take a hot bath, find a quiet spot to meditate, discuss your concerns with friend or loved one – just find a way to reduce your stress levels, and you’ll benefit your brain as well.
    4. Have fun. Life sometimes becomes too serious, and that can take its toll on your brain. Make it a habit to prioritize fun in your life, no matter what fun means to you. Just be sure to laugh, engage and really enjoy what you’re doing. Now that’s a win-win -- while you’re having a great time, you’re also helping avoid dementia.
    Pillar Three: Brain-boosting exercises
    Physical exercise goes hand-in-hand with mental exercise when it comes to brain health. When it comes to cognitive ability, it’s use-it-or-lose it, so keep your brain sharp with these mental exercises:
    1. Brain Teasers and puzzles. Popular brain games like sudoku, crosswords, logic puzzles, and math problems all work different sections of your brain. Try doing a different type of puzzle every day or every week to keep all of the different parts of your brain sharp.
    2. Learn something new. Continuous lifetime learning is one of the best ways to avoid dementia. When you learn something new, you create new neural connections and keeps the ones you’ve got in good shape. In addition, learning helps improve and maintain memory. You have so many options to learn new things, like reading books or magazines, taking classes, and exploring the wide variety of online learning options, like apps, websites, classes, and much more.
    3. Listen to music. In addition to being enjoyable, listening to your favorite music can actually help exercise your brain. Music improves brain function by:
    ● Boosting focus, concentration, and attention span
    ● Enhancing brain elasticity
    ● Reducing the chronic stress that can cause physical changes to your brain
    ● increasing brain hormone levels that help strengthen cognitive ability
    ● Improving mental productivity
    ● Reducing mental decline and cognitive aging

    Imagine getting all of those benefits, just by playing some of your favorite tunes.
    4. Learn a new language. Our brains shrink as we age, which contributes to cognitive decline. Learning a new language can not only reverse shrinkage, but also actually increase the size of your brain. That makes it easier to maintain brain connections, which in turn, helps protect your thought processes and mental capacity for a longer period of time.
    5. Fine detail and hand-eye coordination activities. Needlepoint, painting, sewing, building models, and similar fine detail and hand-eye coordination activities are actually considered brain exercises. They can effectively stimulate neurological function, improve concentration, and lower your risk of dementia.
    When it comes to avoiding dementia, you no longer need to roll the dice and hope for the best. By understanding these three pillars and incorporating these guidelines into your daily life, you can protect your brain health… and stay you for years to come.

  2. Slash Alzheimers risk by 54 percent with powerful antioxidant

    As much as it may puzzle conventional researchers, Alzheimer's disease is a modern problem stemming from our modern diet. Over the years, I've told you about preventing Alzheimers Disease with B3. And now, a new study from Sweden shows that adding just one powerful antioxidant to your regimen may cut your Alzheimer's risk by more than half.

    Unravelling the mystery of Alzheimer's disease

    The overt signs of Alzheimer's disease don't usually appear until after the age of 60. But we now know that damage to the brain begins much earlier, often up to 20 years earlier.

    The disease begins when abnormal bits of protein called plaques and tangles begin to form in the brain. As a result, a person with Alzheimer's appears more forgetful or has trouble completing complex tasks, like handling money or paying bills.

    As the plagues and tangles take root, more healthy neurons in the brain begin to die. Eventually, the carnage spreads to the hippocampus, an area of the brain responsible for building and storing memories. By the final stages, damage is so widespread that even basic functions -- such as speaking or swallowing -- become impossible.

    Unfortunately, the top three Alzheimer's drugs on the market haven't been proven to slow the progression of this disease one iota. Not one iota!

    In fact, one independent study in the UK showed that patients taking the drug Aricept had virtually the same timeline for decline as patients taking a placebo (42% taking Aricept ended up in an institution after 3 years, versus 44% taking the placebo).

    I still scratch my head as to why doctors continue to prescribe those drugs when they clearly don't work. The better option obviously would be to prevent the disease altogether. And the new study out of Sweden proves that preventing AD naturally is entirely possible.

    Seniors cut Alzheimer's risk by up to 54 percent

    Scientists from Sweden began their study with a hunch...a hunch that a powerful antioxidant could protect the brain against Alzheimer's disease.

    The scientists recruited 232 patients over the age of 80 with no signs of dementia or Alzheimer's disease. They took samples of the patients' blood to check for vitamin E, an antioxidant typically associated with supporting the heart and immune system.

    Then, the scientists checked back in with their patients six years later. During that time, 57 of them developed Alzheimer's. But the patients who had plenty of vitamin E in their blood at the outset of the study had a clear advantage. In fact, these patients had a 54 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer's. That's right. One simple vitamin cut their risk by more than half!

    So exactly how does vitamin E protect the brain?

    Well, scientists have no definitive answer. But generally, they think that it simply helps to gobble up free radicals that contribute to nerve damage in the brain. It also seems to play a role in preventing oxidative stress.

    Oxidative stress is bad, no matter where it happens in the body. But in the brain, it can lead to the build-up of protein. And as you'll recall, protein in the hippocampus causes the early, overt signs of Alzheimer's disease. The person becomes more forgetful or has trouble handling money or paying bills.

    The good news, it seems that good 'ole E seems to help prevent all this.

    Vitamin E: More than just the sum of its parts

    With all the positive effects it has on your overall health and well-being, there's never been a better time to add vitamin E to your regimen. As this study showed, even men and women in their 80s benefited from this powerful antioxidant.

    Just remember, there are eight different naturally occurring forms of vitamin E. They all play a different role in the body. In fact, the participants in the study who garnered the most protection against AD had all eight forms of the in their blood. So if Alzheimer's is a concern of yours, make sure to look for an all-natural gel cap that contains all eight fractions of vitamin E.

  3. Pesticide exposure linked to 53 percent increased risk for Alzheimers disease

    It's hard to protect yourself against pesticide exposure, even if you're diligent. These harmful toxins are everywhere...on your produce, in cosmetic products, and even in your drinking water. In fact, just last month, EPA officials discovered that a type of pesticide called DDT had polluted all the wells in a small Michigan community (even though DDT has been banned in agriculture use in the U.S. for 30 years!). The unfortunate truth is, over a lifetime, most of us are bombarded by pesticides. And a new study has just discovered that repeated exposure to pesticides may increase your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease by 53 percent. The good news is, there are simple steps you can take to drastically reduce your pesticide exposure...and hopefully lower your associated AD risk. I'll tell you all about them in a moment. Alzheimer's risk skyrockets for farmers in Utah In recent study, Duke University scientist Kathleen M. Hayden, PhD and her team followed 3,000 elderly men and women living in rural Utah for 14 years. At the outset of the study, the scientists asked each of the participants detailed questions to determine exposure to many different types of pesticides. In addition, the scientists measured the participants' cognitive levels three times over the course of the study. They found that about 600 participants had some pesticide exposure. In fact, most of them had been exposed to two kinds of pesticides commonly used to spray food crops, called organophosphates and organochlorines. Of the 600 participants exposed to these pesticides, an astounding 500 developed "incident dementia" over the course of the study. In addition, 433 developed Alzheimer's disease. Put another way, this means that almost 70 percent of the men and women with repeated pesticide exposure over their lifetime developed Alzheimer's disease! According to the Duke researchers, these pesticides appear to wreak havoc on the central nervous system. Specifically, pesticides reduce a person's acetycholine (a type of neurotransmitter responsible for learning, memory, and concentration). And low acetycholine is also a common characteristic of Alzheimer's patients. In fact, three out of the four drugs on the market work by increasing acetycholine levels. Who's most at-risk? It's important to note that many of the participants were farmers, with routine physical contact with pesticides. Now, I'm not a farmer. But I do eat foods grown on a farm. Does eating foods treated with pesticides increase my risk of Alzheimer's disease? The study's authors didn't specify, but consider this... Another recent study published in the medical journal Pediatrics links ADHD in children with pesticide exposure. In fact, kids with high pesticide exposure are more than twice as likely to have ADHD. And how are these kids getting exposed to pesticides? You got it. By eating fruits and veggies treated with pesticides. My hunch is that these kids also have similar disruptions in acetycholine (that neurotransmitter I talked about earlier that's responsible for learning, memory, and concentration). How can you reduce your pesticide exposure? Avoiding all pesticide exposure could easily become a full-time job. And I know most of us can't go to such extreme lengths. Nevertheless, here are some good rules to follow to decrease your pesticide load: 1. Buy organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible. The Environmental Working Group puts out a great "dirty dozen" list of the produce that you should always buy organic. There's also a list of "clean 15" that are always safe to eat. 2. Use a quality water filter. Many of these pesticides (as residents of the Michigan town will tell you) leach into your drinking water. If possible, install a filter on your showerhead as well. 3. If you live near farmland, make contact with the farmer to learn if he or she uses pesticides on crops. 4. Most lawn care services use organophosphate pesticides. If yours does, never walk on your lawn after it's been sprayed. Ideally, stay away from the house for a few hours after your lawn's been treated. Ideally, I'd recommend skipping the lawn service all together or find one that offers "natural" products for your lawn care. 5. Avoid using insecticides in and around your home. There are lots of non- toxic ways to control pests. For instance, start by building outside barriers against pests, such as mulch or caulk. If ants are invading your house, sprinkle baby powder on problem spots. The smell of talc deters them. I've also heard that cinnamon and vinegar deters them as well. In closing, pesticide use is a bigger problem that anyone in the mainstream press is willing to admit. And it's just getting bigger. I guarantee the pesticide- Alzheimer's disease link is just the tip of the iceberg. So don't be a victim and educate yourself. Visit www.ewg.org to learn more common-sense ways to safeguard your health and decrease exposure to these toxins.
  4. Preventing Dementia Naturally

    Years ago, a friend of mine lost her grandfather. He was 82-years-old and had been living in an assisted-living facility following a mild stroke. While he bounced back physically after the stroke, his cognitive abilities were never the same. Sure -- he could tell you all about his childhood growing up on the Jersey Shore. He could tell you about going to Harvard Law School and his travels across Europe and the Middle East. He could tell you all about the speeches he wrote for J. Edgar Hoover and President Kennedy. But he couldn't remember what day it was or what he'd eaten for breakfast. All of us have probably been touched in one way or another by a loved one or a friend suffering from dementia. It's an increasingly tragic problem. At age 65, only 5 to 10 percent of adults are affected by dementia. But that number gets worse as we age. According to some reports, nearly half of all men and women in their 80s have some type of dementia. But a new study out this month gives us all reason to hope that it's possible to prevent cognitive decline with extracts from a traditional Chinese plant that's been used for centuries to boost the immune system and promote longevity. Learning from China Chinese (or Korean) ginseng is generally considered an "adaptogen" plant that can boost your overall health. It's known to help lower blood sugar, control high blood pressure, and even treat erectile dysfunction. In the west, ginseng's most commonly used as an energy booster. You'll find it in lots of so-called "energy" drinks on the market. But just how versatile is ginseng? Can it actually improve your memory, or prevent dementia? Well, some very promising studies are starting to emerge that may encourage you to take a second look at this well-known Chinese plant extract. Improving stroke-induced dementia A few years back a small, but solid study was presented at American Stroke Association's 28th International Stroke Conference. This study showed that ginseng can improve memory in people who have vascular dementia (stroke-induced dementia). After Alzheimer's disease, stroke is the second-leading cause of dementia. Researchers looked at 40 patients with vascular dementia. They gave 25 patients Chinese ginseng three times a day for 12 weeks. They gave the remaining 15 patients Duxil, a prescription drug that's given to dementia patients to improve memory. After 12 weeks, the patients from both groups took five memory and cognition tests. Overall, researchers found that patients taking ginseng significantly improved their average scores after the 12 weeks. Plus -- the ginseng group scored higher overall on memory testing than the Duxil group. Previous laboratory studies on mice have suggested that ginseng could improve stroke-induced dementia, but this was the first study on humans shown to do the same. Improving age-related dementia Okay, so ginseng may benefit stroke-induced dementia patients. But age-related dementia is a far different disability. Can ginseng benefit these patients too? Well, a new study out this month takes that question by the horns. In this study, researchers looked at how ginseng would affect mice with age-related memory decline (not stroke induced). For eight months, mice were given 100 mg/kg of ginsenoside (an active component of ginseng). Researchers also gave a control group of mice placebo pills (or sugar pills) for comparison. As expected, the elderly mice given the ginseng extract performed better on water mazes and step-down tests (two standard tests used to gauge memory in mice) than the control groups. But researchers didn't stop there. They wanted to know why these mice performed better. Turns out that the ginseng extract actually changed the mice's brains for the better. The ginseng actually increased certain types of proteins found in the brain responsible for learning and memory. Hope for the future I hope we'll see more studies in the near future testing ginseng on men and women with age-related memory loss. I'll keep you posted as new studies emerge. Often, because they're undertaken by Chinese researchers, these relevant studies just don't make it into the mainstream press in the U.S. As a final note, only take Chinese ginseng under the care of a naturopath or M.D. Use caution if you have a bleeding disorder, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or hypoglycemia. Also, I wouldn't recommend it for anyone who is sensitive to caffeine, as ginseng can act as a stimulant.
  5. Staging a comeback?

    Poor old ginkgo biloba. It’s one of those herbs that skyrocketed into popularity in the 1980s and 90s. Then -- bam -- a few negative studies showing negligible results in treating dementia and ginkgo biloba’s stuck at home on date night eating ice cream with mom, dad, and the cats. Well, I digress. Truth is, ginkgo biloba’s got a lot more going for it than almost anyone in the medical world is willing to admit these days. Anyone except the scientists at Johns Hopkins Institutions, that is. A recent study by Hopkins researchers has shown that supplementing with ginkgo biloba may reduce brain damage and neurobehavioral dysfunction from a stroke by a whopping 50 percent. Of course, their testing was on mice. So they’ve got a ways to go to prove this will work for humans. But the researchers are optimistic. According to researcher Sylvain Dore, “If further work confirms what we‘ve seen, we could theoretically recommend a daily regimen of ginkgo to people at high risk of stroke as a preventive measure against brain damage." How about that for staging a comeback!
  6. More beach vacations for cardiac patients?

    Last week’s deluge of snow, ice and cold weather has got me thinking again about the “sunshine” vitamin (otherwise known as vitamin D)…and how most of us aren’t getting enough of it this winter. As frequently noted in the Guide to Good Health, the best source of vitamin D is the sun. You can get up to 10,000 IUs a day just by spending 30 minutes in the sun. But during the winter, many of us just scurry back and forth from the house to the car. Spending time in the sun just doesn’t happen. That’s not good, especially when you start looking at all the diseases that vitamin D has been shown to help prevent. It’s not just about osteoporosis Most of us know vitamin D is good for the bones. But it’s actually much more versatile than that. In fact, some nutritionists and scientists now believe vitamin D can protect you against:
    • cognitive decline
    • depression
    • heart failure
    • back pain
    • cancer
    • insulin resistance
    • pre-eclampsia during pregnancy
    • impaired immunity
    • macular degeneration
    • weight gain
    It’s food for your brain In addition to building strong bones, vitamin D seems to help prevent dementia and support brain function for older adults. In a study published in December 2008, researchers assessed the cognitive levels of almost 2,000 adults aged 65 and older. Scientists found that patients with the highest levels of serum vitamin D3 (an overall indicator of vitamin D levels in the body) also had the best cognitive functioning. By contrast, those with the lowest levels of D3 were four times as likely to have cognitive impairment. But that’s not all the vitamin D can do. It’s also one of nature’s best antidepressants Vitamin D helps to regulate melatonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain that give you a sense of well-being. Without enough of it, you’re at risk of feeling low. For instance, in a study published two years ago in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, vitamin D3 was identified as a factor in regulating mood in older adults. Researchers found that patients with a D3 deficiency experienced depression. Some scientists also believe vitamin D is helpful in alleviating “seasonal affective disorder.” Not surprisingly, this condition is common up north where folks spend much of the year under snowy skies. They simply don’t get enough sunlight, their bodies lack vitamin D, and they become susceptible to the winter blues. But that’s not all. Recent studies suggest vitamin D also plays a role in heart health. Sunshine for your heart
    A few months back, one research team from the University of Michigan showed that vitamin D can protect against heart failure in rats. For 13 weeks, rats in a Michigan lab were divided into four groups: 1. Rats given high-salt diet (designed to simulate a “fast food” diet) 2. Rats on a high-salt diet given vitamin D 3. Rats on a healthy diet 4. Rats on a healthy diet given vitamin D At the end of the study, researchers found that rats on the fast food diet + vitamin D regimen faired much better than their counter parts receiving just the fast food diet. After just 13 weeks, the vitamin D treated rats had a lower heart weight. (This was really big news because an enlarged heart—known as “hypertrophy”—is all too common in heart failure patients. When hypertrophy happens in men and women, it makes the heart work harder to pump blood through the body. Your blood pressure rises. Even a simple walk to the mailbox becomes too much.) The treated rats’ hearts also worked less for each beat. They also maintained normal blood pressure. According to the study’s lead researcher, University of Michigan pharmacologist Robert U. Simpson, Ph.D., "Heart failure will progress despite the best medications. We think vitamin D retards that progression and protects the heart." Simpson has studied vitamin D’s effects on the heart for more than 20 years. At first, his ideas were thought of as far-fetched and improbable. Now—his research is starting to bear fruit. I’m sure there’s more to come on the heart + vitamin D link… Even for Oprah and Vogue readers?
    There’s much more to learn about vitamin D, from its role in preventing cancer to stabilizing blood sugar to improving autoimmune disorders. It seems like even some mainstream news junkies are starting to catch on. A colleague told me that Vogue magazine ran a bit on it this month. And evidently, even Oprah’s spoken publically about being vitamin D deficient. You too may be deficient in this important vitamin. Many of us don’t spend much time outside (even in good weather). And many of us dutifully follow the marching orders to lather up the sun block before setting foot outdoors. Sun screen blocks the rays that help your body make vitamin D. Or perhaps you’re of Latino or African-American descent and your skin contains lots of melanin (Just like sun screen, melanin blocks the rays that help your body make vitamin D.) Some scientists believe that anyone living above New York City’s line of latitude NEVER absorbs enough vitamin D through their skin, even in the summertime. Whatever the reason why, I’m convinced most of us need more vitamin D. You can get a simple blood test if you think you might have a deficiency. Optimal levels are between 50-70 ng/mL. For anyone not getting regular sun exposure, I usually recommend taking 2000 IUs of vitamin D daily. In winter months, I’d go for 4000 IUs daily. (Remember, exposure of your full body to the sun for 30 minutes will give you 10,000 IUs or more of vitamin D. So there’s little risk of reaching an upper limit with this supplement.) You can also get vitamin D into your diet by eating more eggs (naturally found in yolks), liver, and fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and sardines).
    Keep up the good work and get some sunshine if you can.

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