Do your lifestyle choices put you at risk for Alzheimer’s? This is one of the questions being investigated by scientists at the KU Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Kansas City. A recent news release from the center states that Alzheimer’s is now the costliest disease in the US, and as the population ages it is poised to become a national crisis: socially, medically and financially. Today’s topic centers around this area of research and how the lifestyle interventions being studied through science can affect our future in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
In this podcast episode, we talk with Dr. Jeffrey Burns, a lead researcher and co-director at the KU Alzheimer’s Disease Center, which has received international attention for work that looks at how our brain uses energy and how this energy production changes with age and Alzheimer’s. One of the largest impacts on energy production is our metabolism, which is simultaneously affected by many of our lifestyle choices. Can things like diet, exercise, and quality of sleep really reduce our risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia? Dr. Burns mentions that research is pointing to the fact that Alzheimer’s may not be a simple disease, caused by one, singular thing, but instead by a number of factors. In the future, we’ll need various combinations of therapies that are based on an individual’s profile in order to better treat this diagnosis. And that’s exactly what research is doing – going after multiple targets and interventions to investigate.
So what are some of those targets and what can you about it?
- First, If you’re in the KC area and interested in participating in studies or research, please go the kualzheimer.org and look at their currently enrolling studies. While research is still ongoing regarding the effects of lifestyle and its ability to reduce or prevent Alzheimer’s, it’s obvious that all signs point to this being an important target area to focus on at the individual level. What am I really saying here? Let’s break down some of those lifestyle interventions Dr. Burns talked about:
- Diet: Pay attention to the quality, not just the quantity, of food you’re ingesting. There are certain foods that are better for our brain and I’ll give you a clue – sugar is not one of them. This is hard for me to adhere to, the person who puts sugar and cream in my coffee every morning. But hey – limit where you can! Take a look at various diets that reduce inflammation in the body. Dr. Burns and his team are studying different ketogenic and Mediterranean diets. And there’s a great book out there called: Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about wheat, carbs, and sugar – your brain’s silent killers.
- Exercise: how much are you exercising? Are you encouraging your metabolism and improving cardiovascular health? Dr. Burns highlighted 150 minutes a week was the recommendation. This doesn’t mean it has to be something you HATE. (You won’t ever find me running). Nor does it mean you have to sign up for a gym membership. But, instead, find ways to work in exercise on a more regular basis; take the stairs more often than the elevator; spend 20 minutes chasing your kid around – for fun, or dance in the living room with your grandkids while they’re over. Work in some minor resistance training using your body weight by doing some squats or lunges. This also improves our balance. These are all small, yet powerful ways we can encourage how our body and brain uses energy to keep us healthy.
- Now, let’s talk sleep: if this isn’t something you value, you better start. If it is, and you just have a hard time getting quality sleep, investigate options that could improve that. Need suggestions? Try some prayer and meditation before bed or other ways that wind your body down. Don’t use your computer or phone within the hour before bedtime – or if you do – make sure your using evening screen filters to block the blue lighting. Drink some herbal tea or look into CBD oil, as was mentioned in a previous podcast episode; find what works for you. The important thing is improving the quantity and quality of your sleep so your brain can rest, restore and repair itself.
A huge thank you to Dr. Jeffrey Burns and the KU Alzheimer’s Disease Center for being on the podcast. Go to kualzheimer.org for more information.
Join us next time on Life With Dementia, the solution-driven podcast sharing relevant research, personal stories, and practical tips for living well with dementia.
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Photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash
Music: Blue Dot Sessions “OneEightFour”
- KU Alzheimer’s Disease Center, Kansas City, KS, USA http://www.kualzheimer.org/about-the-ku-adc.html
- Book: Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about wheat, carbs, and sugar – your brain’s silent killers by David Perlmutter
- Psychology Today. What You Need to Know About Sleep and Alzheimer’s.
- National Institutes of Health. Mediterranean Diet May Slow Development of Alzheimer’s.
- University Health News. Ketogenic Diet Shows Promising Results for All Dementia Stages.