There are a handful of basic strategies that can substantially reduce your risk for developing cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s dementia, simple strategies that you can initiate on your own. They are certainly far more effective than prescription drugs for dementia which do almost nothing for memory and have NO impact on progression of the disease.
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Let’s talk about some easy things you can do to stop cognitive decline that leads to Alzheimer’s dementia. These are the kinds of conversations we explore in much greater detail in our Undoctored Inner Circle website. We start with the philosophy of the Undoctored book and then we expand it further into areas like dementia and cognitive decline in our Undoctored Inner Circle.
You may know that I’m also helping establish a new program in suburban New Jersey. We’re going to take people with early cognitive decline, early dementia, and we’re going to try to reverse it in these people, using a variety of different methods. The most effective methods are also very basic. The basic strategies of the Undoctored program really add a lot to your protection from cognitive decline. So what are some things you can do to keep your mind intact, and not experience dementia?
Exercise can enlarge the hippocampus
Well, it’s become very clear that exercise is crucial. Exercise is one of the few areas, one of the few strategies in preventing cognitive decline where we actually have brain imaging data. People have undergone MRIs, and the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that converts near-term memory to long-term memory — the size of the hippocampus, can actually increase.
Six months of consistent exercise can reverse the dementia-related-shrinkage of the hippocampus by about one year, the equivalent of one year loss. Exercise is very, very powerful. It means just casual exercise by the way. It doesn’t mean running marathons or being a triathlete. It could mean casual biking, walking, just working up a light sweat — getting your heartrate into the 90s, 100, low hundreds — that’s all. It takes 30 minutes or so 4 times a week. It can even be broken down into small pieces, and add up to that kind of total. Moderate exercise really helps.
Adequate sleep, manage stress to reduce cortisol levels
Adequate sleep and avoidance of excessive stress: now avoiding stress is not always possible, but you try to deal with stress effectively — through meditation, exercise, and other stress management techniques, as well as increasing sleep. These are important because a lack of sleep and great stress raise cortisol, and cortisol appears to be one of the most potent mediators of shrinkage of the brain, like the hippocampus. The higher the stress, the more you are sleep-deprived, the more it shrinks your hippocampus, and leads to dementia. Sleeping adequately, and trying to constructively deal with stress are very very important ways to delay or stop cognitive decline that leads to dementia.
Brain training involving fast reaction and spatial awareness
Brain training, but specifically the kind of brain train that increases your reaction time, and your spatial awareness — these are the kinds of lessons that are coming out and clinical trials. Things like playing video games, of all things, can really help. Remember those old games we used to play like Pac-Man® or Galaxian® — bring those back, and play those kinds of games — games that make you respond quickly, make you aware of multiple simultaneous sensory inputs. That’s the kind of cognitive training that keeps your cognition clear and delays cognitive decline (much less so memory, and such things as crossword puzzles) it’s the kind of exercise, cognitive exercise, that increase or preserve reaction time, and make you aware of multiple inputs (like you need when you drive).
Conventional wisdom is that you cut your fat and cholesterol, which is ridiculous — the brain is made of fat. You may have heard that Alzheimer’s disease is often called Type 3 diabetes, meaning the brain is resistant to insulin.
What diet increases insulin resistance?
A low-fat diet.
The worst thing you can do is cut your fat. We follow a high-fat, no-grain, no-sugar lifestyle in Undoctored, from the lessons learned the Wheat Belly experience.
You could be ketogenic, and the high blood ketones that come from that can also enhance cognition, and help slow decline, but you don’t have to be ketogenic. As you know I’ve talked about how if you’re ketogenic all the time, it has adverse effects. You want to be intermittently ketogenic. You can boost the the impact, the benefits, of being ketogenic by adding medium chain triglycerides (MCT oils or MCT oil powder). If you’ve been following my Undoctored Blog, you may have seen that I use MCT oil powder as a coffee creamer. It’s an excellent coffee creamer. Or you can just add MCT oil to your coffee or other foods. Adding MCTs further increases blood ketones and further improves cognition, and may slow cognitive decline.
Those are five easy strategies you can adopt readily. If you want more conversation like this, on how to prevent cognitive decline, we’re going to explore this at great length in the Undoctored Inner Circle in coming months. We’re going to release a series of several modules that address each and every thing you can do to prevent cognitive decline — or try to reverse it, if it’s already set in.