The XX Brain: The Groundbreaking Science Empowering Women to Prevent Dementia: Dr Lisa Mosconi
This blog post is an overview of Alzheimer's, women's health and that with this condition prevention is better than cure.
I hope that the information below gives you something to consider. The changes we make today and onwards can help reduce our risk of Alzheimer's. It is something which can be hard to contemplate, but your future self will thank you for it.
If you would like more information about Alzheimer's I can highly recommend The XX brain (mentioned above) and there are also more resources here.
If you have any questions at all, please leave a comment or message me directly.
Love your fave (Letchworth) acupuncturist
Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia in the UK and will manifest over several years.
Signs and symptoms can include:
forgetting recent conversations or events
confusion or disorientation in familiar places
personality changes such as becoming aggressive, frightened or suspicious
difficulty planning or making decisions
issues with communication or language
2 out of 3 people with Alzheimer's are women.
Research suggests that the hormone, oestrogen, plays a protective role in brain health. That as this hormone naturally declines as people age then this super-power also declines.
It should be very clearly noted that menopause does not lead to Alzheimer's, but that it is a possible trigger.
Other possible risk factors include:
Whilst a familial history is not necessarily a pre-determined outcome it can mean you have a predisposition. This is especially true if your mother had the disease.
Ethnicity is also a risk, with Black women more than twice as likely than white women to develop dementia.
Heart disease, diabetes, brain injuries, inflammation and depression are all risk factors for developing dementia
Thyroid disease can mimic the signs of mild dementia.
It is also understood that the longer your reproductive years are i.e. the longer duration between menarche and menopause the less risk you have of developing dementia. This correlation relates to the role of oestrogen being a source of protection for the brain.
Diet, exercise, stress, sleep, smoking and education can also impact your risk of Alzheimer's. In the section below I will look at how these risks are the ones in your control. The changes you can start to make to help your future self.
Prevention better than cure
This quote made me smile. It is the basis of Chinese Medicine, that an individual is unique and therefore they should be treated uniquely.
That allopathic medicine is only come to realise this is difficult to comprehend. It has taken too long to consider your uniqueness as important. We should continue to consider prevention rather than cure and I rejoice that the Western world of medicine is finally thinking about this.
What can you do?
Health isn't always guaranteed. We cannot predict our future.
The risk of Alzheimer's is known to start developing decades before the first signs and symptoms occur. But making changes, at any stage, isn't too late.
Alzheimer's has no known cure, but the best medicine you have is the environment within which you live.
A Mediterranean diet, exercise, not smoking, managing stress, good sleep and engaging your intellect can all be beneficial for your brain. I urge you to read the XX brain for further insights.
The Mediterranean diet is one which is colourful, fragrant and vegetable-centric. It is also high in fibre, complex carbohydrates and plentiful in vitamins and nutrients.
It isn't rocket science that fruit and vegetables should be making up a considerable amount of our portion sizes. But where quick and rushed is normal (I am using myself as this example) I have stopped considering what I feed myself so it has been good to revisit how best I can help myself.
Fruits and vegetables are carbohydrate-rich plus with a plethora of vitamins and minerals (if you are local to Letchworth, I highly recommend a veg box from Seasons Fruit & Veg or the Best Before Cafe which rescues food waste from supermarkets and frequently has lots of vegetables)
Eat more fibre
Grains are good (unless of course, you cannot eat them due to coeliac)
Good quality soy which is fermented and organic, in small quantities, is beneficial
Feed your gut microbiome.
Try and eat organic where possible. I wish organic was cheaper. At the moment I would cut down on meats and replace with vegetables which are cheaper.
Drink plenty of fluids
Antioxidants are good for brain health
Know your fats - which ones are good (omega 3 and mono-saturated) and not so good (trans)
The book has a wide variety of resources on food including meal planning, supplements and guides as to which foods are the most beneficial.
Below is a possible day's meals. For me, considering how I cook these elements is key and what fats I am using. Swapping out my vegetable oil for flaxseed will be one of the first actions I take. This oil should be limited too.
Omelette with mushrooms and spinach
Salmon and brown rice
Chicken with roasted vegetables and quinoa
With my, acupuncturist hat on a lot of the recipes suggested as part of a Mediterranean diet can be cold in nature i.e. salads. I would ask that you consider foods suitable for the season you are currently in.
In Chinese Medicine too many cold and raw foods, especially in cold climates, will dampen the digestive fire which is needed for so many of our physiological processes.
If you would like more information about eating seasonally you can read my blog post on eating in Winter.
Exercise for Alzheimer's
Studies have shown that there is a benefit for partaking in exercise and slowing cognitive decline.
I have included some exercises that you (and definitely me) will be able to incorporate into daily life.
Before menopause, it is recommended to incorporate some interval training i.e. periods of faster and higher intensity and then slower and more moderate intensity and keep switching between the two.
Weight training is also beneficial and will be covered more when talking specifically about menopause.
Sleep for Alzheimer's
I know sleep isn't always easy. You will have your own natural rhythm.
But it has been shown that too little sleep has been linked to an increase in Alzheimer plaques.
Below are some tips for working with sleep and I also have a post here with more helpful suggestions.
Memory loss in traditional Chinese medicine
For acupuncture, the three Yin organs we might consider when looking at memory loss would be Kidneys, Spleen and the Heart.
The Kidneys and Jing would be responsible for your short term memory.
The Spleen and Qi would be responsible for your ability to concentrate and study.
The Heart and Shen would be responsible for your long term memory.
Depending on other signs and symptoms, with Alzheimer's, you might be considering a Heart deficiency.
Treatment principle: tonify Heart, strengthen the Mind and Memory
Heart 5 (Luo) and Bladder 15 (Back Shu of the Heart): tonify Heart Qi and strengthen the Mind
Bladder 44 (Hall of the Spirit): strengthen the Mind and memory
Ren 6 (Sea of Qi) with moxa: tonifies Qi
Du 14 (meeting point of the Du channel and the 6 Yang channels): tonifies the Heart and brightens the Mind
Stomach 40 (Luo) and Ren 14 (Front Mu of the Heart): resolve Phlegm from the Heart