OK, so I have not quite reached this stage yet but….
That free bus pass, useful though it is, has a down side. In its wake comes the nagging worry that your failure to remember telephone numbers let alone where you left your phone, that you forgot to go to the dentist yesterday morning and what did you do with cat’s health insurance policy…. are the harbingers of worse memory failure to come and a gradual descent into dementia or Alzheimer’s.
So I was delighted to read that respected nutritionist Dr Marilyn Glenville had turned her mind to the subject and was offering us some hope.
Understanding all too well the paranoia of the over 60s about their disintegrating memories, she starts her new book, Natural Solutions to Dementia and Alzheimer’s, with a description of how the memory works (we do not have one but four different memory banks stored in different parts of the brain) – and what is ‘normal’ in terms of memory loss and therefore is not a symptom of creeping dementia. So your inability to remember those phone numbers or to answer that University Challenge question because you can’t put your finger on the right word – or the likelihood that you will get back from the shops having forgotten to buy the one thing you went out for – may be a sign of an ageing memory (in exactly the way that stiff knees are a sign of ageing joints). But they are not a sign that you have early stage Alzheimer’s.
She goes on to tell you what the signs of early stage Alzheimer’s/dementia are – and to describe the many different forms that they can take. Although the two are often seen as synonymous, they are not the same thing. Alzheimer’s does account for over 60% of the cases in those over 65 but there are a number of other forms of dementia, including the quaintly named ‘dementia with Lewy Bodies’. She then quantifies your risk of contracting dementia. Although age is the greatest risk factor, genes, environment, other medical conditions, medications and lifestyle all play a significant role. Finally she takes a brief look at the few drug treatments available, none of which have to date proved very effective.
Which, as she says, paves the way for a holistic approach. And that makes up the rest of the books.
Dr Glenville divides her ‘brain protection plan’ into seven steps, the first and arguably the most important, being diet.
Her diet is nothing revolutionary and would tick all the usual boxes of a ‘healthy’ diet – lots of green leafy veg, whole grains, fish, nuts, unrefined cabs, not much red meat, not too much gluten, definitely not too much sugar, plenty of antioxidants, less caffeine (slightly more controversial), limited alcohol.
Step 1(b) homes in on sugar. ‘A staggering 70% of people with Type 2 diabetes are now known to develop Alzheimer’s compared with only 10% of people without diabetes.’ So, hardly surprisingly keeping sugar consumption under control is a crucial part of the diet.
Step 2 covers nutritional supplementation. She goes into some details about essential supplements (Omega 3 fats, B vitamins, Vitamins C and D, calcium, probiotics etc) emphasising the importance of quality in choosing what to take. For those who, despite munching a handful if vitamin pills every morning, have very little idea of what their vitamin status actually is, you can also book a test through the Natural Health Practice who also supply all the supplements that she recommends. (If you want a more in depth test she also offers a Brain Protection Profile which includes a live/Skype or phone appointment. Check in to her website.)
Step 3 covers exercise (regular without going mad), Step 4 Stress and sleep – the minimum of the former and the maximum of the latter – and the link between them.
Step 5 covers your environment – somewhat less easy to control than your diet or your exercise pattern. However, heavy metal toxicity (aluminium and mercury in particular), pesticide residues, diesel fumes and endocrine disrupting chemicals are all relevant and to be avoided if possible. She also recommends giving up smoking and reducing your alcohol consumption.
Step 6 is ‘brain training’ – based on the theory that the more active your brain remains the less likely it is to descend into dementia. Speaking a second language, playing a musical instrument, singing, crosswords, Soduko, jigsaws – all are worth doing although she is less convinced of the value of the computerised ‘brain training’ games.
And finally, Step 7 is all about testing, although she is somewhat circumspect about genetic testing. (If you do have the genes, given that there may be relatively little that you can do about it, do you actually want to know?) However, she is very keen that you should test for heavy metals, nutrient imbalances, blood sugar imbalances, gluten, adrenal stress etc etc. And, as I said above, if you wish to cover all the areas that she recommends, her clinic offers a Brain Protection Profile test which will be followed up with appropriate recommendations.
If you wish to buy Natural Solutions for Dementia and Alzheimer’s – the Ultimate Guide to Prevent Short Term Memory Loss – you can do so very easily from your local book shop or here on Amazon. And for anyone using that bus pass – I would definitely encourage you to buy, read and follow her recommendations!