Yesterday, I was very fortunate to attend the "Reclaim your brain" conference with world-class speakers Professor Robert Lustig, neuroendocrinologist and known for speaking out against sugar, Professor Michael Crawford, Imperial College and Director of the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition, and Professor David Smith, Department of Pharmacology at University of Oxford.
Both the rise in mental health problems in children, teenagers and adults, and the massive increase in cognitive decline in the last 100 years were discussed. Much evidence was shown to demonstrate the efficacy of nutrition and lifestyle interventions in managing these sorts of conditions, and to show the association of low levels of particular nutrients with the rise in different mental health conditions.
I learnt a lot yesterday but one message particularly resonated with me and that is that dementia is not an inevitable part of ageing. It is associated with decline in specific parts of the brain not found in everyone. Genes play one factor in the development of dementia, but its development is multi-factorial affected by a number of genetic and non-genetic risk factors, many of which are modifiable.
Non-genetic risk factors include head injury, low cognitive activity, depression, low social activity, age, low physical activity, periodontal disease, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, smoking, cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, low vitamin D and poor diet.
What can we do about this? Practice prevention!
1. Stop smoking
2. Exercise at least 30 minutes walk every day
3. Manage your high blood pressure and diabetes (with medication and/or diet)
4. Eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables daily
5. Eat fish at least once a week
6. Make sure your vitamin D and vitamin B12 levels are optimal
7. Keep active, mentally and socially
8. If you are having memory problems, consult with your GP and/or a nutritional therapist to ensure all important nutrients are in optimal range.