Every year, 25,000 Canadians are diagnosed with dementia. Currently there are 564,000 Canadians living with dementia and there are more than one million Canadians affected directly or indirectly by the disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is one type of dementia and the most common.
In recognition of Alzheimer awareness month, I dedicate today’s column to understanding the connection between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, and how you can minimize your risk of developing the disease.
Diet and disease
You may have heard that Alzheimer’s disease is being called “Type 3 diabetes.”
Dr. Mark Hyman says, “New research shows insulin resistance, or what I call diabesity (from eating too many carbs and sugar and not enough fat) is one of the major factors that starts the brain-damage cascade, which robs the memory of over half the people in their 80s, leading to a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.”
Dr. Joseph Mercola says, “Mounting research suggests our modern diet is playing a significant role in the skyrocketing prevalence of Alzheimer’s. Processed foods tend to be nearly devoid of healthy fat while being excessive in sugar, and this combination appears to be at the heart of the problem.”
Dr. David Perlmutter says, “There’s so much in the news these days calling attention to the fact that diabetes is associated with a profoundly increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease … but there’s an important point that is absolutely critical to understand. While it seems like a good idea for diabetic patients to take medication to control blood sugar, the research seems to indicate that diabetics taking these drugs do not improve their situation, in terms of lowering their risk for Alzheimer’s.”
Connected, but how?
On their website, Mayo Clinic staff write, “Diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease are connected in ways that aren’t yet fully understood. While not all research confirms the connection, many studies suggest people with diabetes, especially Type 2 diabetes, are at higher risk of eventually developing Alzheimer’s dementia or other dementias. Taking steps to prevent or control diabetes may help reduce your risk of cognitive decline.”
Further from the Mayo Clinic, “Diets rich in carbohydrates are associated with an 89 per cent increased risk for dementia while high-fat diets are associated with a 44 per cent reduced risk. This combination of very little sugar and carbs, along with higher amounts of healthy fat is essential not only to address Alzheimer’s, but diabetes and heart disease as well, since all of these conditions are rooted in insulin and leptin resistance.”
The good news is that diet and lifestyle choices can have a significant impact on your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
The thing to remember is that diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease don’t happen overnight. Symptoms and damage start earlier in life and take decades to develop and worsen.
Five ways to minimize your risk of Alzheimer’s disease:
1. Reduce processed refined carbs. The number one dietary strategy is to remove the processed refined carbs and sugars — things like candy, desserts, sweets, pastries, cookies, etc. Your focus should be on getting healthy amounts of carbohydrates primarily through vegetables.
2. Eat healthy fats to nourish your brain. There is plenty of research to support overall health benefits, and specifically for the brain, of eating healthy fats like avocados, grass-fed butter, olives, organic virgin olive oil, coconut oil, nuts like walnuts, pecans and macadamia, free-range eggs and wild fatty fish.
3. Exercise daily. Studies show physical activity can prevent and even slow down the progression of cognitive decline and brain diseases like dementia. And it doesn’t mean you have to join a gym or run a marathon. In fact, even a 30-minute walk each day will help. If you are more active, things like high-intensity interval training or weight lifting are great. Find something you love to do that gets you moving and do it regularly.
4. Control your stress levels. Chronic stress takes a toll on your body and brain, so if you want to stay healthy, find a way to reduce stress and relax. Common strategies include deep breathing, meditation, yoga, mindfulness practices, walking in nature, reading a good book, enjoying a hobby, taking a hot bath and massage.
5. Get a good night’s sleep. Poor sleep is another risk factor for cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease, so you’ll want to make quality sleep a priority. Aim for between seven to eight hours each night. Minimize television and blue light from computers right before bed. Develop a calming routine for winding down in the evening.
While there is no guarantee these tips will prevent Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive conditions, implementing them is a good start toward providing your brain and your body with the nourishment they need to be healthy and well.
If you would like further support to keep your brain healthy and well through a low carbohydrate diet and healthy lifestyle activities, I have a variety of ways we could work together. From private coaching packages, to food diary reviews, one-time nutritional consultations and online group programs, we’ll find the right support to fit your budget and health needs. Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll schedule a free 30-minute phone conversation to discuss.
This post first appeared here in the Halifax Citizen on January 30, 2017.