In several of the recent blogs I have offered a quiz, asking if you are ready to change your life and your world. In addition, I have offered suggestions for satisfying your internal needs and creating a new life direction. Now I want to offer a warning: while chasing those dreams, make certain you avoid dementia. It’s not genetic; and it’s not preordained. It’s something you can avoid.
Dementia is a huge and growing problem. It affects over 5.2 million Americans. One in nine baby boomers, over the age of 65, have the disease. Some experts claim that it is becoming the fourth leading cause of death, right behind heart disease, cancer, and physician-related error. But there is good news. We have a much better idea of the factors that cause dementia.
There is growing evidence that your diet directly impacts your risk of developing dementia. We used to view sugar (glucose) as the key energy source for the brain. Today, we realize that much of the brain’s energy comes from ketones, which are made as your body digests fat. More importantly, we now realize that high levels of sugar (glucose) are damaging to the brain.
Studies, for example, have shown that a high intake of sugar (and other types of carbohydrates) disrupts the brain function, causing memory difficulties. Other studies have demonstrated that type 2 diabetes, with its high blood glucose, can decrease brain volume and cause brain atrophy. So, some of the core causes of dementia are clear: high sugar consumption, a high carbohydrate diet, and a high intake of gluten.
You can take many actions to prevent the loss of memory and the development of dementia. You can reduce your sugar consumption. That includes eliminating those sodas with their high fructose corn syrup. You can also reduce your intake of non-vegetable carbohydrates. This means that you need to reduce your dependence on grains like bread, pastry, pasta, and donuts.
Remember that our wheat has shown a 40-fold increase in gluten in the past 50 years. Gluten means “glue” and it keeps the bread (and other products) looking fresh and tasty. Unfortunately, gluten is damaging to your blood-brain barrier, which keeps “bad” things out of your brain. Now, I am not asking you to eat “no” wheat or dairy carbohydrates. I am asking you to reduce these carbohydrates by 50%. Smaller portions. A bite, yes. A whole piece, no.
There are many nutrients that are beneficial for the brain. Folate, which is found in vegetables, is extremely important. Healthy fats with omega-3 fatty acids are equally important. Try eating more wild Alaskan salmon, or avocado, or olives, or organic virgin olive oil and coconut oil. Nuts are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Even organic butter can be healthy for your brain cells.
There are other dietary tips. As discussed previously in early blogs, it is crucial to maintain a healthy gut flora. Eat fermented foods or take high-potency, high-quality probiotics. Your intestinal flora influence the production of neurochemicals and the higher production of neurochemicals will help protect the brain cells from toxic contaminants (like sugar / glucose).
In closing, you need to reframe your thinking from what you have been taught. That included rethinking sugar, some carbohydrates, and cholesterol. We were taught that cholesterol levels should be lowered to avoid heart disease. Well, the lowest cholesterol levels are associated with the highest risk of dementia. Worse, the lowest cholesterol levels are associated with the highest risk of dying.
Here is what I recommend. If you haven’t, go back and take my quiz re: changing your life. Gain some clarity of the direction that best fits your needs. Move away from your career and focus on following those dreams and passions in a new life direction. You will find greater happiness. But, with these changes, try a shift in your diet and eating style.
Remember Hemingway’s quote: “First, you must last.” You cannot follow those new dreams and passions if you cannot remember what they are! So, to change your life and your world, you need to change what you eat. As stated, we live life from the inside out. Your change must also occur from the inside out. Change your mind and thinking. Then change your eating style and cognitive health. Then take on those new dreams. Follow that new compass, healthy and ready. And get ready for a life of a much higher level of happiness.