Today I watched Episode 03 of Alzheimers – Science of Prevention, a groundbreaking documentary series, featuring David Perlmutter, MD, board-certified neurologist and #1 NYT bestselling author, along with leading experts in the field of brain health. For my notes on Episode 02, click here.
This fantastic series reveals the powerful ways we can decrease our chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease. According to Wikipedia, Alzheimer’s is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that usually starts slowly and worsens over time. It is the cause of 60–70% of cases of dementia.
With Alzheimers reported to be the fastest growing epidemic among the aging, I want to know what I can do now to optimize my brain health long-term. I took copious notes while watching this episode and want to share these important insights from the series with you below.
For full access to this series, as well as for bonus interviews not included in the free series, check out access to the series here.
Episode 03 Notes:
Your Brain’s Destiny Is In Your Hands.
Alzheimer’s Prevention Toolkit
Our body can heal in the following powerful ways:
- Ability to change the expression of our genes through a process called epigenetics
- Grow new neurons in our brains through a process called neurogenesis
- Rewire our brains through a process called neuroplasticty
- Prevent diabetes by maintaining healthy blood sugar levels based upon the foods we eat
- Choose a diet that nourishes and optimizes our brains
- Nurture our gut microbiomes
- Reduce stress and thereby reduce inflammation in the brain
- Exercise to create healthier brains
- Get good sleep
- Avoid environmental exposures
- Support our bodies through smart supplementation
Our genes do not determine our future: we have a say in which genes are expressed.
The idea that we can influence our gene expression is called epigenetics.
- Every step you take is a positive step. Eating an apple instead of a donut affects the epigenetics. Walking to work instead of driving affects epigenetics. Meditation and mindfulness reduces the stress which affects the hormones which affects the genes. A good night’s sleep significantly affects the toxins that affect the genes. So all those factors can significantly affect those factors which can push your risk way back. That’s what epigenetics is – it’s how you work with those genes.
Neurogenesis: we can grow new brain cells.
- Another amazing tool we possess is the ability to grow new brain cells. This is called neurogenesis.
- Research shows we can grow new brain cells throughout our lifetime. Yes, well into our 90s.
- Neurogenesis is the formation of neurons in the brain. And different areas of the brain have more robust neurogenesis rates.
- Through diet and exercise we can stimulate this neurogenesis process which is the formation of new neurons which can contribute to preserving and enhancing brain function and brain energy and metabolism too. – Dominic D’Agostino, PhD USF
- We have the ability to grow new brain cells.
Neuroplasticity: our brain can rewire, reshape and create new connections.
- We can rewire and reshape our brains through a process called neuroplasticity. The neurons in our brain gather into a complex network. There are more than a hundred billion neurons communicating through trillions of connections in the human brain. And this vast network is modifiable. It can grow new connections throughout our lifetime. – Dr David Perlmutter
- No matter what happens to you, your brain is plastic. No matter what your genetic burden is, your brain is plastic.
A brain-smart diet is one that is low in sugar.
- One of the ways to prevent cognitive decline and full-blown Alzheimers is not becoming diabetic. We know that becoming a Type 2 Diabetic is associated with more than doubling the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. Some have actually called Alzheimer’s Type 3 Diabetes because these two diseases share so many similarities. Some of the metabolic imparities we see in Type 2 Diabetes are actually to be found operating in Alzheimer’s disease as well. – Dr David Perlmutter
- So how can Alzheimer’s be thought of as a Type 3 Diabetes? Basically, insulin is needed in the brain to keep neurons and cells working. And this is not just the thinking cells, there are all kinds of support cells, the blood vessels, etc – they all need insulin. That turns out to be true in most of the body – you need insulin. So if the problem is only in the brain, then you could call it diabetes of the brain. And so, insulin resistance means that no matter how much insulin you have, the brain is not obeying. That’s like knocking on the door and no one responds to it or hears it. So the brain cells cannot hear the insulin knocking away and they ignore it. – Suzanne de la Monte, MD, Brown Medical School
- Type 2 Diabetes is largely a disease based on lifestyle choices. The most important of these choices is diet. But a healthy diet can do much more than prevent or treat diabetes. It can supply the fuel to your brain that your brain needs to function optimally. A brain-smart diet contains all the life-supporting nutrients your brain needs; it’s a diet that’s low in sugar, refined carbohydrates, and high in fiber and containing plenty of healthy fat. – Dr David Perlmutter
A brain-smart diet is one that has a strong plant base and a keto-green type of focus.
- For people who are concerned about cognitive function and memory, I recommend a diet that has a strong plant base and one that is keto-green. It has healthy fats for neurologic function such as avocado, salmon, nuts, seeds – these are all incredibly beneficial. As well as micro-greens, the cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli sprouts and alfalfa sprouts, and crucifers like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage. And healthy amounts of these on a regular basis. – Anna Cabeca, DO, OB/GYN
- We have to address that metabolic problem at its source. Yes, weight loss is helpful. But the quality of the foods we eat, reducing insulin levels, calming chronic inflammation, the right balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates, can turn the situation around in rather advanced stages of chronic disease. – David Ludwig, MD, Author of Always Hungry?
Nurture your gut microbiome for brain health and overall health.
- Eating to support brain health and cognitive function is something we can all do every day. When we eat we are also feeding our gut bacteria, also called the microbiome. – Dr David Perlmutter
- The microbiome is the community of life-supporting microbes that live in your gut and play a pivotal role in your health and in your brain health.
- The ability to live in a way that nurtures our gut microbiome is one of the most powerful tools we have for helping to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. – Dr David Perlmutter
- There’s a lot of research emerging in the area of Parkinson’s disease and to some extent, also in Alzheimers as well, which is finding that toxins start in the gut and then travel through the vagus nerve to the brain. So, these degenerative diseases are ones that start in the gut and travel to the brain because the toxins follow the route of the nervous system and they’re able to do this because inflammation creates excessive permeability of the brain barrier. And that’s what Leaky Gut is. The microbiome plays a role in maintaining healthy permeability and the healthy functioning of that barrier. There are a number of species of bacteria that are normally found in the gut that help to maintain the integrity of the gut lining. – Leo Galland, MD, Foundation for Integrated Medicine
Manage your stress to protect your brain.
- We mentioned earlier that stress can harm the gut bacteria. But stress can have many other detrimental affects. Levels of our hormones, levels of inflammation and even blood sugar are also negatively influenced by chronic stress. And all of these are connected to brain health. Reducing chronic stress therefore is critical when it comes to preventing Alzheimer’s. – Dr David Perlmutter
- Chronically elevated cortisol caused by stress leads to smaller memory centers in our brains. It’s also a great way of reducing Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor BDNF which is a powerful growth factor that the brain uses to stay plastic. And it’s bad in other ways too – it’s a catabolic thing, it breaks down your muscle tissue, which is not good because we know how stronger muscles relate to brain health over time. – Max Lugavere, Author of Genius Foods
Exercise has a significant impact on your brain health. At minimum, go for a walk each day.
- One of the best ways to reduce stress is through exercise. Exercise affects virtually every organ and system in the human body.
- Benefits of exercise include:
- Stress reduction
- Improved insulin sensitivity
- Increased neurogenesis
- Increased neuroplasticity
- Increased blood flow to the brain
- 12 months of brisk walking is capable of increasing the size of this important region of memory function. What this indicates is that this brain area – the hippocampus – that is so closely linked to memory formation and Alzheimer’s disease, remains really plastic. It’s malleable – even in older adulthood. What’s really remarkable is that only 12 months of brisk walking was capable of actually reversing decay that we found in the brain structure. – Kirk Erickson, PhD, University of Pittsburgh
Make your sleep a priority to support your brain health.
- Exercise also helps you get a really good night’s sleep. And this is important because when we sleep, our brains are restored and rejuvenated. Sleep is the period during which our brains literally flush out all the waste that builds up during the day. Getting enough quality sleep is critical for optimal brain function and helping to reduce your risk for getting Alzheimer’s disease. – Dr David Perlmutter
- Though our detox systems are especially active during sleep, they’re also basically running 24 x 7. Although we have an innate ability to detoxify, certain compounds can still be harmful. Toxic environmental exposures are very common. If we learn what they are and where they are found, we can better avoid them.
Eat organic, non-GMO, non-processed foods.
- The impact of environmental toxins on the microbiome I think is one of the most exciting and interesting areas of research. First of all, everything that enters your body … is presented to your microbiome. And many of these substances alter the function or the growth of the microbiome. Glyphosate, which is a toxic substance, an herbicide that contaminates food that’s not organic and is GMO food. So, glyphosate inhibits the growth of certain bacteria. There are various antimicrobial disinfectants that we’re exposed to, that also kill bacteria. Sometimes they don’t kill bacteria in the way that you expect. And what they do is they weed out a population of bacteria that you actually want which then makes it easier for bacteria that you don’t want to grow faster, to occupy a little space or niche that it wasn’t able to occupy because these bacteria that have just been killed were in it.”– Leo Galland, MD
- Toxins are any substance that interfere or negatively affect our body. For example, we can have toxins from chemicals that we’re exposed to, whether it’s in our skincare products, our makeup, etc. If it disrupts our normal physiologic functions, it is toxic to our body. And we are exposed to so many types of toxins on a daily basis – whether it’s in the air we’re breathing, off-gassing from furniture, carpets, paint, chemicals that we’ve used to clean – we’re absorbing toxins from that. What’s really interesting is that it’s estimated that by the time a woman leaves the house in the morning, we’ve put on over 160 chemicals. It’s the cumulative effect of toxins that is really the problem. – Anna Cabeca, DO, OB/GYN
Alzheimers disease is a multi-factorial disease.
There’s not just one single thing that’s going wrong. So you can’t use one single intervention. There’s not going to be one single magic bullet. You need multiple strategies addressing it from different angles. – Amy Berger, MS, Author, The Alzheimers Antidote
Thank you, Dr. David Perlmutter and experts featured in this series for sharing your life-changing knowledge, practical tips and habits to help us optimize our brain health. It’s incredibly empowering and inspiring to know that we have more control over our cognitive health than statistics suggest.
Here are some takeaway actions from Episode 02 that we can implement today:
- Prevent, manage or even reverse Type 2 Diabetes by optimizing blood sugar through dietary change.
- Eat a brain-smart diet (low in sugar and refined carbohydrates and processed foods). Prioritize whole foods, vegetables and healthy fats.
- Nurture your microbiome.
- Reduce chronic stress.
- Exercise regularly.
- Get good, high quality sleep.
- Reduce toxic exposures.
- Support your body through the use of important supplements.
- We are learning that the health of our brains in largely in our control which is very empowering because we now know what kinds of things affect the brain that we have control over. It also makes us accountable. We need to take responsibility. – Lisa Mosconi
- Supplements (to look into and consult with your medical team): Omega-3, DHA, Whole Coffee Fruit Concentrate, Prebiotic Fiber, Fish Oil, Multivitamin, Vitamin D