According to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, in 2020, 124,000 Canadians were diagnosed with dementia. By 2030, it is projected that upwards of one million Canadians will be living with Dementia. These are staggering numbers.
There are many causes and multiple types of dementia, including vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. While there is no cure, there are factors that can be addressed to reduce one’s risk. As a naturopathic doctor, my aim is to help you identify risk factors and develop a plan with you to address them. A comprehensive bloodwork panel can test for a number of risk factors, including blood sugar, inflammatory markers, homocysteine, and more. Genetic tests can also be ordered as a part of Alzheimer’s disease risk.
Reducing risk factors is an important step, including making dietary changes to support blood sugar and heart health. One particular way of eating called the Mediterranean diet, reduces inflammation, is rich in antioxidants, and is known to improve both diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk. All of these are aspects to address with dementia.
A Mediterranean diet includes fish as a major component, many of which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. One consideration when eating fish is to avoid those that are higher in mercury. This is because mercury has toxic effects on the body, especially on the brain. Lower mercury fish include shrimp, salmon, pollock, and canned light tuna.
Lifestyle choices can also be impactful for dementia, including eliminating smoking, reducing excessive alcohol consumption, and exercising. Exercise can improve memory, brain function, and increase blood flow to the brain. Not to mention, exercise can improve blood sugar and heart health (those risk factors I talked about above). There are different ways to exercise and various types to enjoy, but enjoyment is the key factor. Like anything, the chance of you continuing to exercise is highly dependent on whether you enjoy the activity. So, the first step with exercising is picking something you enjoy doing.
One of the key aspects that I address with patients looking to prevent dementia is to reduce chronic inflammation. This is because inflammation that affects the brain is a contributor to the progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s. When thinking about a foundation for optimal brain health, we turn back to what we eat. A diet that is rich in plant foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds) tends to include more antioxidants, which reduces inflammation in the body.
On top of diet, there are herbal medicines and supplements that are anti-inflammatory. Two examples include curcumin and fish oil, both of which help to reduce inflammation. There are various types and qualities of curcumin and fish oil on the market, so ensure you pick the right one for you. If in doubt, your naturopathic doctor can clarify.
Dr. Shawn Peters, ND is a naturopathic doctor practicing in downtown Courtenay.
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