The world’s population is ageing. Combined with a longer life span, this creates increased health issues. Chronic diseases come with a high price in health care terms. They also come with a high price for family members and carers who need to shoulder the extra load and take care of their loved ones.
In my daily practice of seeing patients (and day to day life in general), it seems to be almost a given that anyone over the age of 60 feels that they should expect some kind of memory loss. This absolutely should not be the case. Cognitive decline is not normal. It’s not part of healthy ageing.
What causes dementia?
This can depend on who you speak to. Lots of mainstream doctors will say it’s just genetic, there’s nothing you can do it about it. Rubbish. It’s true that there are genetic abnormalities that make the brain more susceptible to defective Tau proteins and beta-amyloid plaques, but with the right diet and lifestyle, this outcome can be avoided.
There are specific genetic conditions that result in dementia, including Parkinson’s & Huntington’s disease, but for the most part, the more common forms are largely associated with lifestyle, diet, diabetic conditions and poor gut function due to overconsumption of processed foods.
Types of dementia
There are several different types of dementia, the most common being Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. Azheimer’s disease is largely characterised by abnormal Tau tangles and plaque deposits, resulting in increasing difficulty remembering recent events, conversations, names, places and gradually progressing to loss of speech, ability to walk, confusion and disorientation.
Vascular dementia was previously known as ‘post-stroke’ dementia and is caused by damage to the blood vessels of the brain, blockages and microscopic bleeding. This is characterised initially by reduced ability to plan or organise, which can then progress to memory issues more commonly associated with Alzheimer’s disease. 1
Early diet and lifestyle interventions slow progression of the disease
Fortunately, it’s becoming better known that diet and lifestyle make a huge impact on the development of dementia. A diet high in saturated or trans fats from processed food, and particularly those high in sugar are far more likely to result in cognitive decline of some description. Having diabetes immediately puts you in the high risk category. Numerous clinical studies have proven this. Sedentary lifestyles are a massive issue for the development of nearly all chronic disease. I can’t stress it enough: poor diet and lack of exercise will result in chronic disease of some description. This may be cardiovascular (hypertension, stroke, etc), diabetes, arthritis, metabolic syndrome, dementia, and the list goes on and on. Smoking and alcohol consumption are also strongly implicated. Smoking in particular, because of the damage it does to microcirculation throughout the body, and the multitude of inflammatory cascades it activates.
Dementia affects more than just the individual
It’s a horrible disease. I speak from experience here, because my father has a mixed form of dementia. He’s had it for some 12-15 years, probably much longer. He managed to hide it very well. My family watched him slowly deteriorate, until eventually he had forgotten all our names, and could no longer talk. He doesn’t remember my daughter; she can’t yet understand why.
I feel blessed that when I got married, he was still able to walk me down the aisle, even though he had no idea where he was or why he was there. If I had known what I know now, I feel sure I could have given him a few extra years. If he had known about the dangers of smoking, not getting enough exercise or eating fresh food, he may never have got it in the first place.
My goal now is to get the message out there – People, look after yourselves! Eat fresh food, get fresh air, and exercise every day! Avoid sugar, processed foods and teach this stuff to your kids. The next generation is already addicted to sugar, showing signs of diabetes, and childhood obesity is out of control.
If we can get a handle on this stuff now, and feed our bodies the food it needs to repair itself instead of food that poisons it, these issues will largely become a distant memory.
1 – http://www.alz.org/dementia/types-of-dementia.asp