The XX Brain by Dr. Lisa Mosconi and The End of Alzheimer’s Program by Dr. Dale Bredesen are two books that have really made me realise how much our lifestyle affects our brain health. I’m a 58 year old woman who wants to continue to live a healthy and active life where I’m mentally and physically well. Don’t you? According to the information in both these books, this is going to take more than wishful thinking.
Berries are full of antioxidants and are great for the brain.
In this blog, I want to share with you some of the most important tips I’ve learned so that whatever decade of life you are in, you too can prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s which, in Australia and the UK, has become the leading cause of death for women – pushing heart disease off the top spot. That’s right. Also, did you know that two out of every three Alzheimer’s patients in the world are women? Read on!
There are four important things we need to being doing right now to avoid dementia in the future. We have to eat the right food, exercise, get good quality sleep and fast.
There are certain foods that promote brain health.
We are what we eat but we are also what we don’t eat. Avoiding simple carbohydrates like sugar, cookies, cakes, breads, pasta and white potatoes is not just about being ‘good’ or avoiding extra kilos around the tummy. Avoiding these foods (including grains like wheat, rye and barley) means that you are stopping the inflammatory properties of these foods in your body and you are optimizing your cognitive health. The best foods for our brain are the cruciferous vegetables and leafy greens, the good monounsaturated fats found in foods like fatty fish (sardines, salmon and anchovies), nuts (pistachios, macadamias, hazelnuts and walnuts), avocados and good oils like extra-virgin olive oil and coconut oil. Many of the food scientists are saying that they now eat to feed their gut biome rather than their taste buds because our brain and gut are so intimately connected. A healthy gut biome has been shown to support brain longevity. Your gut loves foods that are rich in fiber as well as the prebiotic foods like garlic, onions, asparagus, cabbage, leeks, artichokes and bananas. It also loves the probiotics like natural yogurt, kefir and fermented vegetables.
Going without food for at least 12 hours a day is very beneficial.
The good news here is that you can fast whilst you sleep. Too easy! Dr. Bredesen says that for most of us, as long as you are getting at least 12 hours of no eating during a 24 hour period, you are taking the right steps to avoid dementia and/or Alzheimer’s. So, if you stop eating at night by 7pm and don’t eat again until 7am the next morning, you are getting that 12 hour fasting window without even trying. If you can stretch it to 14 or even 16 hours, then even better. This is what is called intermittent fasting and has been shown to have so many health benefits as well as reduce ageing.
When you go for your walk, walk as if you are late for an appointment.
The good news here is that you don’t need to do anything excessive. Just walking briskly for 30 minutes at least 3 times a week is beneficial on so many levels. Brisk walking has been shown to stop brain shrinkage. If exercise isn’t your thing, maybe it will be soon when I tell you that lack of physical activity is listed as one of the top risk factors for Alzheimer’s. Personally, I’ve always loved swimming so I do around 12 laps of a 50 metre pool a couple of times a week and most days I go for a brisk walk in nature. Not only am I doing my heart and bones a favour, but I’m also relaxing my mind and reducing stress which helps to boost my immune function and promotes longevity.
I don’t know about you but I don’t take a good night’s sleep for granted anymore like I did when I was younger. I can no longer drink caffeine or alcohol too late in the day. My acupuncturist also told me that the more protein we eat at night, the less likely we are to sleep well. I’ve found this to be true! If I skip dinner or eat lightly, I always sleep better. Whilst I don’t have trouble falling asleep, I do seem to have trouble staying asleep the whole night. I bet many of you can relate to this. Have you heard of sleep hygiene? There are some things we can do to help us get some quality shut-eye. The sleep experts tell us that if we can be asleep by 10pm, we are likely to have a better night’s sleep than if we go to bed later. This is because the body and brain start to wind down but if we don’t go to bed, they wake up again. Try to promote autophagy (cleaning out cellular waste products) by eating your last meal of the day at least three hours before bedtime. Exercise is best done earlier in the day since it elevates adrenaline and prevents sleep. Lastly, keep your bedroom like a relaxing sanctuary where you feel at ease and you will not be tempted by a TV or other electronic devices. Make sure you give yourself the chance to wind down by avoiding stimulating activities or conversations a few hours before bedtime.
Try to be asleep before 11 pm at the latest.
By following these strategies and taking an active interest in your physical and mental health, you will more likely live a long and healthy life. I can recommend the books I mentioned at the beginning as well as The Plant Paradox and The Longevity Paradox by Dr. Steven Gundry. During our youth we can get away with eating the wrong foods, drinking too much alcohol and burning the candle at both ends, however, if we don’t change our ways, our twilight years are going to seem pretty long and miserable. My goal is to die young at a ripe old age. How about you?