16 Dec

10 Brain Healthy Foods

Different foods can help protect your brain from Alzheimer's Disease.

Although there is no current treatment proven to cure Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, there are foods that play a positive role in overall mind health. The Alzheimer’s Association has declared that a “brain-healthy diet” can be defined as “one that reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes, encourages good blood flow to the brain, and is low in fat and cholesterol.”

Here is a list of 10 delicious items that will keep your mind nimble!

1. Blackberries

2. Coffee

3. Apples

4. Chocolate

5. Cinnamon

6. Spinach

7. Extra virgin olive oil

8. Salmon

9. Curry/Tumeric

10. Concord grape juice

Boost your memory, think more clearly, and stay healthier with these foods!

16 Dec

6 Nutritional Considerations for a Healthy Brain

Nutrition is essential to maintaining a healthy brain and combating Alzheimer's disease.

Maintaining a brain healthy diet can help prevent disease and promote health. There are six categories of nutrients that the body needs to acquire from food: protein, carbohydrates, fat, fibers, vitamins and minerals, and water.

Category 1: Proteins

Protein supplies amino acids to build and maintain healthy body tissue. There are 20 amino acids considered essential because the body must have all of them in the right amounts to function properly. Twelve of these are manufactured in the body but the other eight amino acids must be provided by the diet. Foods from animal sources such as milk or eggs often contain all these essential amino acids while a variety of plant products must be taken together to provide all these necessary protein components.

Category 2: Fat

Fat supplies energy and transports nutrients. There are two families of fatty acids considered essential for the body: the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Essential fatty acids are required by the body to function normally. They can be obtained from canola oil, flaxseed oil, cold-water fish, or fish oil, all of which contain omega-3 fatty acids, and primrose or black currant seed oil, which contains omega-6 fatty acids. The American diet often contains an excess of omega-6 fatty acids and insufficient amounts of omega-3 fats. Increased consumption of omega-3 oils is recommended to help reduce risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancer and alleviate symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, premenstrual syndrome, dermatitis, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Category 3: Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy and should be the major part of total daily intake. There are two types of carbohydrates: simple carbohydrates (such as sugar or honey) or complex carbohydrates (such as grains, beans, peas, or potatoes). Complex carbohydrates are preferred because these foods are more nutritious yet have fewer calories per gram compared to fat and cause fewer problems with overeating than fat or sugar. Complex carbohydrates also are preferred over simple carbohydrates by diabetics because they allow better blood glucose control.

Category 4: Fiber

Fiber is the material that gives plants texture and support. Although it is primarily made up of carbohydrates, it does not have a lot of calories and is usually not broken down by the body for energy. Dietary fiber is found in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains.

There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber, as the name implies, does not dissolve in water because it contains high amount of cellulose. Insoluble fiber can be found in the bran of grains, the pulp of fruit and the skin of vegetables. Soluble fiber is the type of fiber that dissolves in water. It can be found in a variety of fruits and vegetables such as apples, oatmeal and oat bran, rye flour, and dried beans.

Although they share some common characteristics such as being partially digested in the stomach and intestines and have few calories, each type of fiber has its own specific health benefits. Insoluble fiber speeds up the transit of foods through the digestive system and adds bulk to the stools, therefore, it is the type of fiber that helps treat constipation or diarrhea and prevents colon cancer. On the other hand, only soluble fiber can lower blood cholesterol levels. This type of fiber works by attaching itself to the cholesterol so that it can be eliminated from the body. This prevents cholesterol from recirculating and being reabsorbed into the bloodstream. In 2003, the World Health Organization released a new report specifically outlining the link of a healthy diet rich in high-fiber plant foods to preventing cancer.

Category 5: Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins are organic substances present in food and required by the body in a small amount for regulation of metabolism and maintenance of normal growth and functioning. The most commonly known vitamins are A, B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folic acid), B12 (cobalamin), C (ascorbic acid), D, E, and K. The B and C vitamins are watersoluble, excess amounts of which are excreted in the urine. The A, D, E, and K vitamins are fat-soluble and will be stored in the body fat.

Minerals are vital to our existence because they are the building blocks that make up muscles, tissues, and bones. They also are important components of many life-supporting systems, such as hormones, oxygen transport, and enzyme systems.

There are two kinds of minerals: the major (or macro) minerals and the trace minerals. Major minerals are the minerals that the body needs in large amounts. The following minerals are classified as major: calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, sulfur, and chloride. They are needed to build muscles, blood, nerve cells, teeth, and bones. They also are essential electrolytes that the body requires to regulate blood volume and acid-base balance.

Unlike the major minerals, trace minerals are needed only in tiny amounts. Even though they can be found in the body in exceedingly small amounts, they are also very important to the human body. These minerals participate in most chemical reactions in the body. They also are needed to manufacture important hormones. The following are classified as trace minerals: iron, zinc, iodine, copper, manganese, fluoride, chromium, selenium, molybdenum, and boron.

Many vitamins (such as vitamins A, C, and E) and minerals (such as zinc, copper, selenium, or manganese) act as antioxidants. They protect the body against the damaging effects of free radicals. They scavenge or mop up these highly reactive radicals and change them into inactive, less harmful compounds. In so doing, these essential nutrients help prevent cancer and many other degenerative diseases, such as premature aging, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, arthritis, cataracts, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes mellitus.

Category 6: Water

Water helps to regulate body temperature, transports nutrients to cells, and rids the body of waste materials.

16 Dec

Early Dementia Screening and Treatment:
“A Rising Tide of Hope”

Early dementia screening and testing.

In a recently published article, “Routine Early Dementia Screening ʻA Disaster in Slow Motionʼ,” Dr. Chris Fox, a dementia expert from UEAʼs Norwich Medical School, is reported as advocating for the avoidance of early detection of dementia. Dr. Fox argues that the diagnosis of early dementia long before symptoms are significant can result in both psychological and practical issues for the patient while placing an undue burden on the healthcare system. His solution is to delay the implementation of routine screening for early dementia.

Reading this article inspired me to respond with a total different perspective where early diagnosis and treatment of dementia is considered critical to maintaining quality of life, reducing disability and minimizing costs. As an Alzheimerʼs Disease specialist treating hundreds of patients at all different levels of severity, aggressive medical treatment of early dementia is one of the most exciting aspects of my practice. The benefits of a comprehensive treatment approach for early cognitive loss are far exceeding my expectations.

Arguments against early treatment are based on the traditional perspective of Alzheimerʼs Disease as a disease of the elderly due to the accumulation of amyloid plaques and treatment is of little value. The traditional position is supported by numerous pharmaceutical trials of medications now prescribed for the treatment of dementia. Consistently, the drug trials demonstrated significant but minimal benefits. Although research continues, few scientist are now predicting any new and exciting treatments in the near future.

From the new perspective, effective treatment already exists and early detection is fundamental to its success.The problem with the pharmaceutical data on dementia medication is the trials were performed on people with severe cognitive deficits and disability due to Alzheimerʼs Disease. It is becoming increasingly clear that Alzheimerʼs Disease is strongly correlated with aging and the cause is multifactorial. Amyloid plaques, long believed to be the cause of Alzheimerʼs Disease, are now considered by many experts to be the end product of an aging dying brain. Cognitive deficits are a product of brain cell atrophy and death. Alzheimerʼs Disease medications impact living cells thus one would not expect much benefit for the original patients with severe cognitive deficits due to severe cell loss.

On the other hand, evidence is rapidly accumulating supporting the position that it is possible to intervene and slow down the aging of the brain thus reducing the progression of cognitive deficits. Patients with early dementia still have an abundance of brain cells associated with cognition therefore one would expect a much greater benefit from medication. Physician who adhere to the new perspective of early detection and treatment are finding significant and obvious benefits.

My patients are benefiting in a multitude of ways. A significant majority are experiencing a marked reduction in the expected progression of memory loss. Psychologically, hope dominates, with the knowledge that their dementia was diagnosed and treated early when treatment is most beneficial. Legal and financial issues still exist but with the confidence that there is time to resolve them appropriately. Healthy lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, are more acceptable due to their positive impact on brain health and longevity. Relationships are more valued, wanting to maximize the quality of time remaining. Early detection and treatment have replaced the stigma of Alzheimerʼs Disease with a sense of control and empowerment.

The extent of the personal, social and financial benefits of early medical treatment of Alzheimerʼs Disease are debatable. My evidence, although based on scientific data, is anecdotal. Some argue more empirical studies need to be done. Those studies would require decades of research. Who will fund the studies when some of the generic Alzheimerʼs Disease medications cost less than ten dollars per month? What will a physician say to a 70 year old with early Alzheimerʼs Disease… I wonʼt know for ten years whether you need medication now? Dr. Fox advocates waiting. Today, my patients with early Alzheimerʼs Disease are receiving a comprehensive treatment protocol with multiple medications. Dr. Fox refers to early screening as “a disaster in slow motion.” As a physician who daily deals with pain and suffering of a horrible disease, I see early diagnosis and treatment as “a rising tide of hope.”

The debate will continue for many physicians until more definitive studies are published, but at my medical clinic, the debate is over.