22 May 2017


Dementia, and its most common form, Alzheimer’s disease, is well recognised as another chronic degenerative disease. While most of us are pretty worried about developing dementia, and many families really struggle when it affects one of their members, the good news is that it is highly preventable.

This week, we investigate Alzheimer’s specifically and examine proven ways to prevent it. There is a crucial need to act. A 2007 study published in the Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association estimated that 26 million people throughout the world at that time were affected by Alzheimer’s (the most common form of dementia), and that by 2050, the prevalence will quadruple; by which time 1 in 85 persons worldwide will be afflicted with the disease. But first,

                  Thought for the day

               Beginning today, treat everyone you meet 
                As if they were going to be dead by midnight. 
                 Extend to them all the care, kindness, 
                  And understanding you can muster, 
                   And do it with no thought of any reward. 
                    Your life will never be the same again. 

                                   Og Mandino

In the 2 previous posts on dementia (follow the links below), we examined what dementia is, and its causes. Clearly, there are many causal similarities between AD and other chronic degenerative diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Just as those conditions are all highly preventable, the good news is that AD is also highly preventable. Here is how…

1. Avoid smoking
Enough said.

2. Avoid excess alcohol
Safe limits are being constantly reduced by the authorities. Anything more than occasional social drinking is a risk factor for AD.

3. Plant based, wholefood diet 
This is a lot simpler and tastier than many might think. A diet rich in vegetables, fruits and other plant-based foods, with minimal or no animal protein and minimal or no processed and refined foods is anti-inflammatory and regenerative. It both prevents and reverses chronic degenerative disease. Research says this dietary approach prevents AD, we do not know yet what potential it may have for reversing it.

We do know this approach prevents obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes, and, as we have seen, the rise in these health issues has paralleled the rise in AD.

Eating lots of green vegetables provide plenty of folate (derived from the word foliage), and other phyto-micronutrients.

These are the foods with the most powerful degree of protection.

Berries, especially blueberries, contain a purple compound called anthocyanins, which have been shown to be particularly beneficial for the brain.

In fact, September is World Alzheimer’s Month, and purple is the colour theme, and this was not co-incidental.

Also important for proper brain function is to avoid known food allergens and foods you are sensitive to. Gluten is notorious for triggering not only physical symptoms, but also cognitive loss in those sensitive to it.  As is lactose, found in most dairy foods. These poorly digested molecules can cross into the blood leading to meta-inflammation (systemic, low level, chronic inflammation that is a recognised pre-cursor of all the chronic degenerative diseases) that also affects the brain.

4. The special case of the elderly
Many elderly people often eat very poor diets, even if cared for in specialised facilities. Tea, coffee, biscuits, sweets and cakes, meat and other animal protein eaten more than once a day, with only a few vegetables and very little fruit, are all common.

Combine all this with many drugs routinely given to the elderly, low vitamin D through little sun exposure, constricted life space and very little activity, and we have a recipe for metabolic dysfunction, including Alzheimer’s and cognitive deterioration.

The elderly often suffer unnecessarily through eating an appalling diet, not getting out of their constricted environment, no sun exposure, little exercise and profligate drug prescriptions.

We need to make sure we not only encourage ourselves to go more plant-based, but also the elderly. Their brains and minds depend on it!

5. Exercise
Regular exercise significantly reduces the risk of developing cognitive impairment and AD (17)

Combine aerobic activity with some anaerobic (lifting, pulling etc), as this provides a more complete health benefit. ). Aim to combine exercise with forms of activity you enjoy. Walking, running, cycling, rowing, tennis, golf, gardening, gym – whatever you enjoy and can sustain. Regularity and consistency is the key, more so than the intensity.

6. Avoid Copper, Iron and Aluminium
These heavy metals are implicated in the development of plaques and tangles in the brain, particularly when the diet is also high in cholesterol and saturated fat (op.cit ref.2). There seems to be an accelerated oxidative effect on cholesterol in the body when inorganic copper from sources previously mentioned is present. The organic copper found in trace amounts in natural foods is, however, essential.

7. Sleep
Make it a priority to get regular, adequate sleep. This is more easily achievable when alcohol and caffeine are minimised or avoided and when we get regular moderate exercise.

8. Use it or lose it

Evidence bears out what we all intuitively know.

The brain responds to what we do with it.

Neuroplasticity has confirmed the benefits of exercising the brain.

Crosswords, Scabble, good books, uplifting music, thought-provoking movies, meaningful discussion.

Show an interest in other people and the world around you.

Limit newspaper- reading and television time and be mindful of spending too much time on technology like mobile phones and computer games and screens. The long-term effect on the brain of all this technology remains to be seen, although it would appear to be undesirable.

As life moves on take a pride in developing new friends, hobbies and interests. Explore new things. Ask questions.

9. Mindfulness and meditation
Many people’s minds today are continually “psychobabbling”, never still. This drains the nervous system and is a real problem.

Lean to focus on one thing at a time. Learn to meditate or learn relaxation techniques. Think more positively and less negatively. This happens as a matter of course when you read less newspapers, watch less television and listen less often to radio talk- back, all of which seem to thrive on negativity.

10. Fasting
New evidence suggests fasting carries benefits not just for the body but also for the brain (18).

Dr Richard Isaacson stated: “ There is evidence that fasting (through ketosis) may have anti-ageing effects on the brain. The ketone bodies that are produced while fasting can actually be protective of the brain. You are doing something protective to slow ageing which can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease”(19).

Further, from another source: “ It is clear that fasting can change brain chemistry, mood and mental function to the point of reducing risk for neurodegenerative diseases”(20).

Fasting is the voluntary and complete abstinence of all food, except water, while nutritive reserves remain intact. It must be emphasised that fasting should be done under qualified supervision, especially if the person has a serious health issue or the fast is longer than a few days.

11. Avoid Drugs As Much as Possible

This includes over the counter drugs and recreational drugs.

Stay away from painkillers, anti-inflammatories and antibiotics as much as possible.

If in ICU do your best to minimise the intake of sedative drugs. Delirium is closely linked to sedatives. These drugs can scramble the brain and cause long-term physical and cognitive problems and need to be minimised wherever possible.

12. Special mention for turmeric and possible reversal
Turmeric has been used in India for over 5,000 years, which is related to India’s rural and urban populations having some of the lowest prevalence rates of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in the world.

Incorporating small, high-quality culinary doses of turmeric into your daily diet may be enough; ‘adding to taste,’ in a way that is truly enjoyable, may be the ultimate standard for determining what a ‘healthy dose’ is for you for prevention. 

But reversal? A recent small study on patients with AD found that less than a gram of turmeric daily, taken daily for three months, resulted in ‘remarkable improvements’. Turmeric is attracting huge interest from the scientific community, and more trials are needed in this arena to be confident of how useful it may be.

For details of what type of turmeric to use therapeutically, and how much, link to the 2 posts below.

Dementia and AD, like most if not all diseases, are not “just bad luck”. Alzheimer’s Disease and cognitive decline is not an inevitable consequence of ageing.

We know a great deal about what causes these conditions and we know the biggest factor is how we live our lives – our lifestyle. This is good news as we can control how we live.

Make poor choices, get into tough habits, and old age could be very scary.

Make wise choices, get into healthy habits and not only today, but old age could be full on delightful – and free of chronic degenerative disease including dementia and AD

REFERENCES   (this is a complete list that includes references from the previous 2 posts)
1) Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, Feb, 2005,7(1); 63-80;
2) Physicians Committee of Responsible Medicine Special Report: Dietary Guidelines for Alzheimer’s Prevention, July 2013;
3) Dr Lori Laffel, CNN.com, 15/04/2003 ;
4) National Review of Medicine, Dec 15, 2005, Vol 12, No 2;
5) Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, Nov, 2005;
6) NEJM, Aug 8, 2013, 369: 540-548;
7) Neurology, 16/09/11;
8) Science Daily, November8, 2007: “Copper damages protein that defends against Alzheimer’s”;
9) Dr Fuhrman’s Healthy Times Newsletter, Jan, 2008 “ Dementia is Not a Natural Part of the Ageing Process”;
10) Archives of Neurology, 2003; 60: 194-200 “ Dietary Fats and the Risk of AD”;
11) Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease,  Aug, 2013;
12) NEJM, Oct 3, 2013;
13) American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, April, 2011;
14) op.cit reference 1;
15) British Medical Journal, May 20, 2010;
16) Archives of Neurology, 2006; 63: 1545-1550;
17) Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, August, 2013;
18) Scientific American, January, 2013;
19) “The Alzheimer’s Diet” by Dr Richard Isaacson;
20) Mind The Science Gap.org, April 2013;
21) “ Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” by Dr Caldwell Esselstyn, 2010
22) “ The Complete Program for Preventing and Reversing Heart Disease” by Dr Dean Ornish, 1990;
23) “ The Brain That Changes Itself”, by Dr Norman Doidge, 2007

Special thanks
Greg Fitzgerald - Health for Life Clinic & Seminars. www.healthforlife.com.au
email: info@healthforlife.com.au   Phone  02 9544 0445

Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease easily explained? Can we prevent or cure them?

Alzheimer’s Disease, Type 3 Diabetes and its causes

What form of turmeric is best?

How much turmeric how much curcumin?


June 5 – 9th Deepening Your Meditation

Our only 5 day meditation retreat, this program is all about taking time out, entering into a meditative environment and being supported to deepen your experience. Then, with this deeper experience, being able to take it with you so that your ongoing practice is more rewarding, more beneficial, more enjoyable.

July 1 -7th Mindfulness and Meditation in Daily Life

We have had many requests to present a meditation retreat in Queensland, so this is it. This retreat will focus on integrating mindfulness and meditation into daily life.

I know when I first started, meditation was something I did for a few minutes (or hours) every day; but at first, I then went back to my day as if nothing much had happened. The real benefit of these practices is in how they inform our daily life, so this retreat will be very practical.

We will practice mindfulness and meditation together formally, and then use the rest of our time to bring the qualities of the practice into our daily experience – in a way that we can take them home and maintain them. My sense is that for many this could well be life changing.

We are fortunate to be able to use the facilities of the Chenrezig Institute – a purpose built Retreat Centre in the hills back of the Sunshine Coast.

October 9 – 13th Meditation Teacher Training – Module 2

In this training we use a fully documented manual to learn how to teach 2 4 week programs one on guided imagery; the other contemplation. These training have been booking out, and like all our retreats, it is wise to register early.

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