Some of the most encouraging information I’ve found since I began writing about aging is that much of what we’ve assumed isn’t necessarily true. I confess that when I was younger I thought old people were “over the hill” as far as reaping the benefits of life. Even if they looked like they were doing well, surely the reality was far less superior than my youth? I was wrong. While there are advantages to being young, there is an equal number of benefits to getting older. I’m not suggesting that everything is perfect—at either age—but making the right choices and with the right guidance, many potential problems can be avoided and rewards enjoyed. What is true, with even as something as frightening as the potential for Alzheimer’s or dementia, is that there are lifestyle choices that you and I can make today that can help to reduce the risk. So instead of pretending or denying that such a possibility exists for many of us, isn’t it SMART to study up on current research that offers the most hopeful perspective? I sure think so!
In case you are wondering, I do have some personal experience in this area. My father-in-law Ken, experienced dementia in his late 70’s and didn’t even know who Thom was when he died a couple of years later. My own mother Alice was diagnosed with moderate Alzheimer’s in her early 70s. She passed away at age 73 after a stroke and cancer, but what we did see of the disease wasn’t pretty. While I consider myself a completely different personality and body type than any of my parents, it would be foolish to ignore what that could mean for my future.
But rather than simply sit back with my fingers crossed, hoping that my fate is different from my mom’s or my father-in-law’s, a new book offers promise. That book, The Alzheimer’s Solution—A Breakthrough Program To Prevent and Reverse The Symptoms of Cognitive Decline at Every Age offers us hope, but it’s not without challenges. It turns out that we might be able to prevent and even reverse the symptoms of diminished mental capacity, but it isn’t as simple as taking a pill or doing a crossword puzzle every day. If we want to accomplish what the authors Dean and Ayesha Sherzai, M.D.’s believe is possible, we must follow a rather rigorous brain-healthy lifestyle plan in order to accomplish it. And that is where the challenge arises.
Interestingly enough, some of the suggestions in the book are very similar to other remedies for living a long and healthy life. Like many offered in The Blue Zones or The Longevity Diet, most of the recommendations are familiar. But the Sherzai’s don’t stop with diet. What husband and wife team Sherzai believe is that “Alzheimer’s disease and overall cognitive health are deeply influenced by five main lifestyle factors.” Those five lifestyle factors are:
- Nutrition—authors recommend a “whole-food, plant-based diet” like MIND.
- Exercise—they recommend frequent daily movement and ongoing aerobic exercise.
- Unwind—with meditation and other daily ways to de-stress.
- Restore—a minimum of seven to eight hours of restorative sleep every night.
- Optimize—incorporating a variety of lifestyle activities that build cognitive reserve.
The Sherazi’s are co-directors of the Brain Health & Alzheimer’s Prevention Program at Loma Linda University Medical Center in Southern California. Although they started their medical degrees like most doctors with a “mechanistic view of Alzheimer’s,” they gradually realized that approach “didn’t consider the whole person, the whole disease, the whole complex process over time.” Rather than staying stuck in a “disease-based system that had almost nothing to do with health” they started exploring all the studies they could find that investigated the connection between lifestyle and chronic diseases. Rather than see Alzheimer’s as merely a product of malicious genes with nothing that could be done to prevent it, they have come to believe that “a brain-healthy lifestyle all but guarantees you will avoid Alzheimer’s disease.”
The book is filled with all sorts of research and studies related to food, exercise, sleep, meditation and other activities that can help to create a brain-healthy life. A few of the most interesting ideas that caught my eye are:
- “The brain is naturally—and profoundly-resilient.”
- “Rather than a simple game of tic-tac-toe, Alzheimer’s is more like three-dimensional chess; what matters is the combination of your age, your overlaying genetic risk, and how your lifestyle choices either protect or damage your brain.”
- “…our genome actually changes over time when exposed to harmful environmental triggers like poor nutrition, sedentary lifestyles, pollution and chemicals, and chronic stress.”
- “…partners of those who develop dementia have a 600% greater risk of developing the disease themselves compared to the general matched population.”
- “Sugar is one of the most destructive compounds we can ingest.” In 1909 the average person ate 5 lbs. of sugar per year. In 2010 it was 190 lbs. per year!
- “Though proton pump inhibitors improve the gastric function of many patients, they have also been shown to increase the chance of developing dementia by 40%.”
- “Don’t settle for an outdated expectation of ‘normal aging.’ Don’t blindly accept inactivity and decline.”
- “…regular exercise is a tremendously powerful way to heal your brain on a cellular level, increase its strength and resilience, and it all but guarantee a life free of Alzheimer’s.”
- “…what likely has a greater impact on our brain health according to new research is the number of sedentary hours per day” which is “a much better predictor of future cognitive decline than their (a person’s) daily exercise regimen.”
- “…multitasking takes an especially big toll on working memory in older adults (ages 60 to 80).”
- The CDC “calls insufficient sleep a major public health concern and estimates that 30% of American adults are chronically sleep deprived.”
- “…we were able to detect a significantly greater increase in dementia rates for sleep apnea sufferers.”
- “Simple and moderately difficult exercises do in fact contribute to cognitive reserve…but this study also revealed that complex, personalized activities (like playing music, learning a new language, dancing, building models, etc.) afford us even greater protection.”
- “…lifelong bilingualism could delay the onset of dementia by about four and a half years.”
- “One of the most common limitations that cause older people to withdraw from life is hearing lost…hearing loss was associated with cognitive decline.”
- “…your rescue is in your stories, in what made you who you are. No puzzle book could ever compete with an activity that connects you to deeply personal, emotional islands. It might take a bit of investigating to unearth or remember your passions, but everyone has them, and everyone can benefit from them.”
- “…people defined as ‘lonely’ had double the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.”
- “Complex social activities, those that require you to be truly engaged and participatory, are the most protective for the brain.”
- “…daily brisk walks resulted in a 40% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s later in life.”
- “…our research proves convincingly that Alzheimer’s, dementia and overall brain health are directly linked to lifestyle factors and can be influenced—and more importantly prevented—by the choices we make every day.”
Obviously, this book contains so much more than I can possibly share in this article. But for those who have interest, this book is a great resource. The authors include ideas that can lead to changing habits along with suggestions for everything from recipes to types of beneficial exercises, improved memory skills, and mediations. As for my personal lifestyle challenges, I was pleased to see that I already include much of what is recommended. My greatest room-for-improvement is increasing my movement each day, upping my aerobic exercise, and cutting even more meat from my diet (although I have already reduced it tremendously from time passed.)
Alzheimer’s or dementia isn’t something that I talk much about. I don’t think others do either. Like cancer and other diseases, we all would like to believe we can escape its presence in our lives. The thing is, in some ways we can. I would never say that we have complete control over everything that happens to us. But on the flipside, my personal experience and everything I read suggests that we have far more influence over experiences and our health than we usually acknowledge.
I think it’s SMART to first admit that we do have choices and recognize that there are things we can do to help when it comes to our physical, mental and emotional health. Will we do it? That of course, is entirely up to us.
Okay your turn? Have you ever worried about you or your loved ones slipping into dementia or Alzheimer’s? Do you agree with this book’s claim about how we can avoid either? Please share in the comments below about your thoughts….
Dr Sock says
Kathy, thanks for the very informative post on dementia. I have been reading quite a bit on it recently, because one of my blogging buddies is caring for a spouse with early onset Alzheimer’s. I read somewhere that the prevalence of Alzheimer’s has increased astronomically in recent years, and that 1in 5 people end up with some form of dementia in their older years, and half of those have it in the form of Alzheimer’s.
Like Donna, I too am afraid of developing dementia, or of my spouse developing dementia. My grandma, who lived to 100, had dementia for the last 20years of her life. Among my new groups of friends here, I am finding out that several are dealing with dementia in their families.
The sources I have been reading support the twenty points you made, although most researchers don’t claim that they can prevent or cure dementia, but only slow down its onset and its progress. And because of the role of genetic and age factors, lifestyle changes alone won’t work for many. (Although, I firmly believe that we should take whatever actions we can to address lifestyle factors, as our own behaviours are something that we can influence.)
One factor that I wonder a lot about is exposure to chemical, hormonal, pharmaceutical, and radioactive contaminants in our environment. The rise of the extensive use of chemicals such as pesticides in agriculture (for example) or mining tailings and oil spills into the groundwater (other examples) coincides with the period that dementia has shown such a dramatic rise in prevalence. Because the interactions among factors are so complex, they are hard to disentangle.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Jude! I agree that the authors of this book make some pretty bold claims about how much we can affect our potential for Alzheimer’s and dementia. It certainly contradicts much of the previous knowledge about the disease. But by opening the door to the conversation it offers people hope if not concrete actions that can be taken.
I am reminded of a time several years ago when Thom went to his doctor for a checkup. The doctor took Thom’s blood pressure and then told him that it was a high. The doctor then recommended blood pressure pills. So Thom said, “No, I really don’t want to start that. Isn’t there anything else I can do.” That’s when the doctor said, “Well, yes. You could lose weight.” So Thom answered, “Why didn’t you tell me that in the first place?” and the doctor responded by saying, “Well, I do sometimes but people don’t ever do it so I stopped. I think people just want to take a pill, they don’t want to actually change.”
Recognizing that our lifestyle has such an effect on our longevity AND the possibility that we will or won’t get dementia is something that some people just don’t want to deal with. Even when it is scary, they are just hoping a drug company will come up with a pill they can take so that they don’t have to change. That just isn’t the way I see things. Is change easy? Not usually…but if it brings about a dramatic result I believe it is worth it. But as I say all the time, the choice belongs to each person. ~Kathy
JEN Garrett says
Well, since you asked for my thoughts:
Yes, I absolutely think that many diseases, including Alzheimer’s and dementia could be prevented with the right lifestyle. But my approach is a bit different (albeit less educated) than the authors’. The way I see it, individuals all have certain needs – physical, social, spiritual, mental, and emotional – that must be nourished. Each of us has the choice (and responsibility) to identify our individual needs and nourish them. Rather than check off a list of healthy behaviors, I simply strive to nourish those needs and avoid neglecting them.
That said, how do I know what will nourish me? That’s where scientists’ discoveries come in. It often happens that bad habits (which seemed healthy to the previous generations) are found out from these studies. Go Science!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Jen! Yes I did ask for your thoughts…thank you! And I also appreciate your perspective on how you approach the issue of staying healthy–mentally AND physically. I completely agree we are all individual and unique with different needs in all the areas you mention. Discovering what those differences are is so very important and certainly what I would call SMART. Finding ways to “nourish those needs and avoid neglecting them” is a wonderful way of going about staying healthy. And YES! I would say that being openminded AND adaptable with changing information is also very helpful. Thanks for sharing your “take” on this! ~Kathy
Terri Webster Schrandt says
Kathy, I am convinced that a lot of our brain health can be handled with lifestyle, diet and exercise, but genetics plays a huge role. My mother contracted systemic lupus at age 40–a woman who hiked, ran, camped, and led an active lifestyle. No one else in our families have indications of auto-immune diseases. Now at 78 she is still in a nursing home suffering from dementia and RA. She’s bound to a wheelchair. I have been ridiculously healthy my whole life, although my hearing loss, random orthopedic injuries and now arthritis in my left thumb joint, are trying to slow me down. Losing weight and staying active is critically important to most midlifers, but a part of me worries a little about what my 70s and 80s+ may look like. Dad does well at almost 82, but he isn’t as robust as he used to be. I just found a new physician with Kaiser that specializes in homeopathic medicine…my former doctor retired and had wanted to put me on statins for my slightly high cholesterol (runs in my family with no links to any heart disease). I think reading and managing our own health is what needs to happen these days. A great book, Kathy and thanks for the summary!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Terri! Thanks so much for sharing some of your personal background in reference to this post. I agree that much of what is happening with our health can be influenced by lifestyle, diet and exercise. The big thing is that we are all so different mentally AND physically that you can’t just take us to a mechanic who knows “cars” and expect to walk away with a perfect repair! Darn! And I agree that genetics are involved but have you also read about the exciting new discoveries in the area of epigenetics? The way I understand them is that even if we have certain genes that can lead to particular illness, only when certain epigenetic triggers occur do they “kick in” and a person develops a certain health condition. Researchers know this because they have done autopsies on people who died of one thing or another only to find out that they were LOADED with the genes for certain conditions and never developed the disease. What that tells me is that even with the worst genes possible, there is no guarantee (or lack of hope!) that we will develop a condition. There is nearly always something we can do! And yes, as you say, “managing our own health” is certainly what needs to happen these days. ~Kathy
The Widow Badass says
Great post, Kathy! I do worry about losing my faculties as I age. I think this bothers me the most, when I think of the inevitable decline that comes with living to a great age (which I am not certain is in the cards for me, given my family histories of cancer and vascular disease). I think I could handle loss of mobility or other senses but losing my mind? That is very scary. I’ve told my kids already that if that happens to me, please pursue the assisted-dying route for me, if possible! I suppose I should put that in writing somewhere…
I find it interesting that most disease can be prevented cheaply and easily by living a healthy lifestyle. It’s reassuring to learn that Alzheimer’s and other dementias could be prevented by this as well. Thank you for sharing!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Deb! I completely agree and prefer to not think about it too much because I’m VERY attached to my healthy brain! But when offered this book and reading the credentials of the authors, I thought I should at least give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised that they were extremely optimistic about what they are learning and while they certainly have certain biases (don’t we all?) I thought that they offered a great deal of hope regarding the topic. Everything I read in most articles seems to keep perpetuating the idea that you are either lucky and don’t get it, or your screwed and do. I tend to like to believe that I can at least influence most everything in my life so obviously, this book appealed to me.
I also agree that us Baby Boomers should be at least talking about how we want to spend our time should our experience come to something less than pleasant. Thom and I have talked about it and both have a plan (at least at this stage of our lives). We don’t have children so it is even more important that we make decisions and get clear with each other and in writing. Thanks for checking in and sharing your thoughts on this. ~athy
Carol Cassara says
I’ve been hearing a lot about how fats feed the brain and that healthy fats are missing in many diets, contributing to Alzheimers. There’s so much info out there it’s head spinning. Thanks for sorting through it.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Carol! Yes there is a bit in there about the healthy fats for the brain. But they are particularly against animal fats and were also didn’t recommend coconut oil. It is interesting to me to see where some of the research overlaps and other ways it veers off in different directions. Of course, I don’t personally believe there is only one RIGHT answer for anything or for every single person. Hopefully, though we all find what works best for our own unique selves (yes there is rightsizing again!) and we follow through on that. Thanks for your comment Carol! ~Kathy
Beth Havey says
I love the list. Maybe for me it was intuitive, because I do many of these things and rarely think about it. My lifestyle is simple and the biggest part of it is being in nature through my garden and daily walking and of course reading. I would rather read than do anything, challenging my brain and being able to know what is happening in the world and in the world of fiction. That makes me able to navigate conversations, to challenge my brain in discussions. To top that off, I am at the keyboard 2-5 hours a day writing. I’m not patting myself on the back. This is what I LOVE TO DO. I pray, I can continue on.. and that my brain will say GOOD GIRL, Beth.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Beth! Good for you for knowing that all of these things are important. And thank you for pointing out something that I think is critical…and that is that the only way we will make positive choices in our lifestyle is if we choose things that we love to do. If you don’t like a certain activity, or absolutely won’t eat something, no matter how “healthy” people say it is, we won’t continue. Far better to find those things we LOVE to do and then we will do them gladly, instead of as a struggle. And funny, I also talk to my brain now and then! Learning to love ourselves, our bodies and our brains makes the journey that much better. ~Kathy
Karen Hume says
The feelings that were welling up when reading your well-written and informative post tell me that I’m going to have to write about dementia sometime. My father had vascular dementia. It was the most horrific eight years of our lives. I suspect it will be a long time, if ever, before I can write about what that time was really like. But your post reminds me that it is important to talk about this disease.
And it is important to take action to prevent it or at least slow it down. That’s where, like Joanne, I feel enormous fear. I’ve been heavily addicted to sugar for a very long time. I’m taking steps now to change that – i.e., no sugar at all for the last 17 days – but I do wonder and worry if the damage is already done. I’ve often said that I’d love to have a head to toe medical exam where I can be guaranteed that if I go forth and sin no more, I’m going to be just fine. In place of that I, unfortunately, make great efforts, do really well, then get anxious that it’s not enough and in my anxiety I turn to – you guessed it – sugar.
A question I have from the quotations you’ve provided. If Alzheimers and dementia are like three dimensional chess with the three factors being lifestyle choices, age, and genetics, are the impacts of age and genetics really so minimal that good lifestyle choices can truly and massively negate them? Did you find the arguments for sleep, stress relief, nutrition, exercise, learning sufficiently compelling or are they the authors taking obviously good ideas and saying that just as they will help people live longer lives, they must surely also help us live longer, brain healthy lives?
As someone once said, “There is no one more hopeful than a cynic waiting to be proven wrong.” I absolutely want to be proven wrong in my cynicism here. Is there evidence in the book directly related to studies of patients with Alzheimers or dementia, or are we just assuming that since nutrition etcetera is good for everything else, it’s necessarily good for brain health?
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Karen! My spam catcher is being particularly aggressive these last few days. But this post was still there. I’m going to add you to my personal “white list” so hopefully this won’t happen again. Thank you for being willing to try with another comment.
Meanwhile, to address your questions, I really felt that the authors had curated a great number of specific studies to fortify their claims. But they do admit that there isn’t nearly enough research in this area because most research is focused on finding that one pill to fix one specific issue and they are convinced it is a multi-faceted disease. The good news is that they are conducting many of their own research at Loma Linda because they are attracting attention there for being authorities in the area. Only time will tell in the long run.
And yes, they refer to many studies that focused on “brain health” more specifically than Alzheimer’s and/or dementia, but I don’t think they just randomly assume that because they are good for overall health, that they should be good for the brain too. They seem more thorough than that and explain their methodology in a way that sounded pretty convincing to me. BUT, with that said I also picked up that line where it seems that it is a result of three things, genetics, age and lifestyle choices, then all the “lifestyle suggestions” really only carry a third of the weight. Yet the book seems to think lifestyle is much larger.
And while I think the authors are optimistic about their claims, they do have some really compelling stories of patients that were able to make great improvements. And they don’t just say that we should eat well, they even offer recipes and specific tools to incorporate their suggestions. About the only thing I thought they gave no weight to whatsoever was a spiritual/mindset/consciousness aspect. I mean that from a much deeper and broader perspective than just positive thinking or going to church on a regular basis. I personally believe that consciousness is a guiding premise in all of our lives but that is the topic for another post!
As with so many things, I think we can live our lives in fear of what might happen or do our best to live as well and as healthy as possible and then “trust” in that higher power, consciousness, nature or whatever you want to call it. Finding the balance of action and optimism for each of us to me is another aspect of rightsizing.
Thanks for raising these really important questions Karen. I don’t have any answers for sure but I think it’s good that we all do our best to address them for ourselves. ~Kathy
Hi, Kathy – I constantly worry about loved ones (and myself) slipping into dementia or Alzheimer’s. My mother has always led a very active lifestyle, readily accepting new challenges and learning new things along the way. At age 87, she is now experiencing noticeable difficulties with short-term memory. Although she tries to remain active, memory decline can cause a very vicious circle.
In 20 years, the average North American has increased his/her sugar intake by 185 lbs per year?! This statistic is incredibly frightening and means many hidden sugars everywhere.
Thank you for another very informative post. I have added The Alzheimer’s Solution to the top of my reading list.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Donna. Sorry to hear about your mom. And, yes it is definitely a topic that most of us would prefer to avoid … so I’m REALLY grateful that some of you are willing to read about what this book thinks about the topic!!!! The book bogs down a bit with facts but I think some people need that in order to be convinced that our lifestyle really does play into what happens.
OH! And thank you for pointing out one of my typos!! The actual statistic that they quote in the book was in 1909 people ate about 5 pounds per year. (not 1990!) That really would have been a wild change. It’s gone up for sure but not that bad. I also believe that is why dementia and Alzheimers is being diagnosed much more in Baby Boomers than it was in the generation before us. We grew up with sugar and it is only getting worse.
The good news is that this book is really very hopeful. The authors site lots of personal cases where people came in with memory issues from either Alzheimer’s or dementia and by taking on many of the suggestions by the authors they were able to halt and sometimes even reverse some of the sympthoms. It is a rather hopeful book and I surely hope my review conveys that. ~Kathy
Great and very informative article, Kathy. Thanks
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Nora! Thanks. I hope you found the information as encouraging as I did. ~Kathy
Gary Lange says
Looks very interesting. Reducing sugar and stress!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Gary! Yes, two big keys. And I’d say the quality of our sleep goes hand-in-hand. Interestingly enough they do not feel that using sleeping aids is effective in the slightest as far as good sleep goes and believe that sleep, under those circumstances, is not doing its job. The only thing they left out in my humble opinion is mindset and consciousness. Those of us who believe in a greater reality beyond the obvious have other tools that the authors either don’t know about or don’t care about. While they did admit that a good social network is important and that often comes from attending church, the idea of a spirituality didn’t come up. Still, really good information with LOTS to think about. ~athy
I just came from this Washington Post article to this site and thought your readers might want to check out the five myths AND the various comments. Lots to think about, right? And as I approach my 76th birthday I feel slightly more nervous about what the future might hold.
Jeannine in Iowa
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Jeannine in Iowa. Thank you so much for linking that article from the Washington Post. The author’s of this book actually make a point of denouncing lots of these myths (and many many more) in the book. The only one that I think they would disagree with is the one that states: Myth #2 where the article says, “At present, however, there are no effective treatments to prevent or slow Alzheimer’s disease and hence, no clinical advantage to an early diagnosis. Clinical trials have found that by the time Alzheimer’s is diagnosed, it is too late to intervene with anti-amyloid agents. A recent large clinical trial that focused on adults in an early phase of the disease showed no benefit from anti-amyloid drugs. This has led to a debate as to whether amyloid is even a cause of Alzheimer’s. Perhaps it is merely a marker of the disease…” The authors of the book counter this statement with because they are looking at and for the wrong things. Amyloids are symptoms of the disease, so any current treatment that focuses on that is merely putting a band-aid on part of the problem. The authors are convinced that the early a person begins a brain-healthy diet the better, because according to them the problems start LONG before we actually begin to recognize them. If I read it correctly, the authors tend to believe that the worst cases will show up mid-60s to mid 7os but even then there are things you can do to help. Sound like you’ve made it through that time and the fact that you are reading stuff like my blog means you are probably doing very well. Thanks again for sharing that article. ~Kathy
Caree Risover says
Interestingly the BBc published a news article today following a statement by Public Health England that up to one third of dementia cases could be improved by healthy life choices
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Caree! Thank you so much for sharing this article because it points out that the authors of this book stress…and that is that most people are never told that there is anything that can be done to help keep the problem from happening to at least reducing its effect. The authors are very clear that most doctors haven’t studied it enough to really realize the connections between lifestyle and symptom so in their haste (at least in the U.S.) they just prescribe the few available drugs that drug companies are pushing and tell the family to expect the worst. These authors are very proactive and believe they can not only help, but in the less severe cases they can reduce some of the symptoms. This isn’t “alternative medicine” they are suggesting, these doctors are very well researched and doing it within scientific protocols. They are just pushing the edges of what is understood about the disease and trying to suggest options (and hope!) I personally like knowing that there may be things I can do to help rather than just sitting back and keeping my fingers crossed. But again, we each have to decide (design) how we will live. ~Kathy
Second time around typing and submitting my comment (what is with WordPress lately?).
Great information, Kathy! Lately, I seem to keep being hit with the message – in article after article – that sugar is the devil. I don’t think I overdo it, but I know it’s hidden in a lot of the food we eat. Maybe that “Universe” is trying to send me a sign 🙂 The good news is – even though we may never be unlucky enough to get the diagnosis of dementia – all of these recommendations support a healthier lifestyle overall… so why not?
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Janis! Sorry you had troubles leaving comments 🙁 Liesbet did too. I will put you both on my whitelist to see if that helps but I’m not sure where the problem is coming from. Oh to the mysteries of WordPress!!!
And yes, the author’s (along with others I’m reading this day) are really warning against all the sugar that is in most products (not to mention straight up) and how that is so detrimental to our health on so many levels. I’ve been watching mine for years now due to my blood glucose levels. My payback from years of riotous living! The authors are equally adamant against meat though. While most other research recommends cutting way back, I believe these authors have a definite preference for vegetarianism. I do think different bodies adapt well to certain things. In the end, I think it is being willing to adjust to how our bodies behave. Yes to rightsizing EVERYTHING! And as you say, if it leads to a healthier lifestyle overall, why not? ~Kathy
As always, a very informative post, Kathy. I volunteer at my MIL’s aged care home and there are a couple of dementia patients who are only in their sixties. I was interested to note the point about partners of dementia sufferers have a 600% chance of developing the disease – I wonder why? I read a study that showed people who took dance classes had a lower rate of developing alzheimers than those doing gym workouts. This was because the dancers had to learn a new routine every week and cope with different choreography. The gym workouts were repetitive with no pressure to use the brain to continually learn. Fortunately, I’m a great believer in your N.E.U.R.O. and know that although there are many illnesses we can fall prey to, especially as we age, we have a much better chance of avoiding them if we live a healthy life with a holistic approach to being physically, mentally and spiritually healthy. Thanks again for the information and have a beautiful weekend.
Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & BeyoSizzling Towards 60 & Beyond
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Sue! I agree that it can be very, very sad when someone gets Alzheimer’s at such an early age. And yes, isn’t that interesting that research says that if you partner has Alzheimer’s you have a 600% chance of getting it too! Thom and I talked about it and we are guessing that it is likely because as couples we tend to encourage (or discourage) behaviors in each other that are either healthy or not. We tend to eat the same type of meals, watch the same amount of tv, do activities or sports (or exercise) that is similar, and our mental education and learning patterns are often very similar. Other studies show how much the people around us influence what we eat and when we are happy or not. So that made sense to me. So what’s the takeaway! Make sure the person you live with lives a healthy life! Thanks for your comment Sue. ~Kathy
Interesting subject and approach, Kathy. Both my grandmothers suffered from Altzheimer, due to old age. Luckily, my dear Oma never ceased to recognize me when I returned to Belgium to visit her. She passed away last year.
As with cancer, I think anyone can try their best to remain healthy, mentally and physically, but, when you’re dealt bad genes, I don’t believe you can totally avoid Alzheimers and dementia. So, for the authors to state that we can avoid either is wrong, I think. Sure, they and we can generalize solutions or preventions, but every disease seems to be a personal matter, as in it affects individuals differently, as in the disease’s origins and its treatment.
All that being said, we stand behind our plant-based diet for many reasons, and regular exercise, mentally and physically, can only benefit each one of us.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Liesbet! Thanks for being very honest about your reaction. I agree that it is very bold of the author’s/doctor’s behind this book to say that 90% of all cases of dementia and Alzheimer’s can be avoided. I don’t ever read a book and completely agree with what is said, but I do think that these doctors have much to offer if we can just pick out the nuggets. Plus, they do make a big case that suggests that most of the approach to Alzheimer’s and dementia comes from outdated approaches to the disease and those outdated approaches seldom include nutrition and exercise (not to mention meditation and sleep therapy!) So the vast majority of people and doctors do not realize how that can influence certain people at different times of our lives.
I think all of us wish that we could just take a pill and be cured (or maybe two or three!) but if I’ve learned anything the longer I’ve lived is that we are ALL more complicated (our bodies and our minds) than a simple solution to anything. I don’t know for sure why some people can eat and do anything and not get sick and others can do everything right and get ill, but I personally feel empowered when I process the best of information available to see if it fits my (rightsized) lifestyle and include it in my life in ways that give me advantages. Ultimately, I think we all do have a choice about whether we “reach” for those possibilities or we just “accept” that whatever happens happens and take what we get. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this because I’m guessing others have these thoughts too.~Kathy
Still the Lucky Few says
My siblings and I work constantly to keep updated on Alzheimer’s research. We are all conscious of what we need to do, and most of us comply. Our mother had this disease for the last three years of her life, and we were dismayed at how she changed under it’s influence. It was very, very tough, and we didn’t always agree about the diagnosis and treatment. Looking back, my mother should never have had the disease—she had an extremely healthy regimen and outlook. So we were all upset about the unfairness of it. Thanks for a great article, Kathy.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Diane! Thanks for bringing up the elephant in the room…and that is that some people seem to do everything “wrong” from what the expert advice is on anything and still live a long and healthy life. Other’s like your mother, seem to do everything right and still suffer. I don’t think there is any one “right way” to do anything including age in a positive way. That’s why –here it is again! I love rightsizing so much!!! To me rightsizing is taking all the best available information and using it to come up with the plan that is RIGHT for us. I can only hope your mom had a good life up until those last three years. Sorry it was so hard on the family (and it ALWAYS is!) but it sounds like she gave you a great example of a healthy lifestyle when you were younger–that seems to be pretty important. ~Kathy
Still the Lucky Few says
Thanks, Kathy! My mother had a long and healthy life, and had lots and lots of love! Those last few years, thank goodness, do not dominate our memories of her!
Joanne Sisco says
Great article with some sobering news. My Achilles heel is sugar. Always has been and continues to be to this day. The only positive for me is that I otherwise lead a very active lifestyle and one that I think incorporates a lot of change and learning. As I take a deep breath and sigh, I have to acknowledge that my love affair with sugar is something I have to finally divorce once and for all.
Thanks for the wakeup call. I hope in this case it’s better late than never.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Joanne. Yes, the sugar thing has become such a big problem without most of us realize. I was a HUGE sugar addict for most of my life but my blood sugar isn’t good so I’ve cut it almost completely out. I get the idea of “divorce” very well. While I don’t think any ONE particular path to good health exists (in spite of any particular book) I do think that too much sugar isn’t good for us. If you can cut it back before it becomes a problem for your body, that sounds SMART to me! ~Kathy
Interesting post as usual Kathy! My Mother died of dementia this year at age 96. She lived 5 years with the disease each year getting worse. There was nothing else wrong with her. Her body just outlived her mind. Of course it is sad but she was perfect until age 90 when she and everyone noticed signs. Those hit under 70 is tragic. I was lucky to have her, all of her, for all those years.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Haralee! So sorry about your mom Haralee. Never easy. And yes, you were so very fortunate that she was with you all those years AND that she stayed relatively clear for so many. Who knows whether the information could have changed her outcome in the end, but I do believe that it is valuable for those of us at our age to be exploring the options. From your blog I know you tend to stay optimistic, even when faced with illness–so it’s never about blaming ourselves when we get sick or experience a challenge, just to have more information to make better choices. Thanks for popping in here with your comment and again, I am very sorry about the passing of your mom. ~Kathy