“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
It must have been a special occasion almost thirty years ago when I opened the front door of my parents’ home and walked inside. It had been awhile since my last visit and I could smell food preparation coming from the kitchen. The dining room table was set with all the special table settings - plates from the china cabinet and silverware from the velvet lined wooden box. It might have been Passover, Thanksgiving or someone’s birthday; I just remember that that night was a gathering to come together in celebration of something.
There was something about the energy in the house that night that was different. As we sat down to eat, family and friends gathered around and instead of avoiding my father and turning my body away from his - something I did habitually without realizing it - I faced him at the table. Instead of averting my eyes so as not to be noticed by him, I looked at him, squarely. I had spent years trying to stay out of his way so as not to be a target of his rage and not to be within his line of fire, which could come at any time. On this night, I faced him, looked at him, without fear, hardly recognizing him. Who was this childlike man who sat there, shy, a little sheepish without speaking. The quieter he was, the more my mother talked, filling in the gaps of his emptiness. What was happening? Was I in the wrong house?
Dr. Dale Bredesen, author of The End of Alzheimer’s, has spent the last forty years researching the brain. In the book, he says that at the beginning of his research, his intention was to create a medication to stop, or reverse, the damage that comes from the ravages of cognitive decline. Over those many years as his research continued, instead of discovering a medication, he came to the realization that there would never be one medication that would stop the progression of the disease; there can not be just one medication because there is more than one type of Alzheimer’s disease. He realized that the only way to stop, prevent or reverse the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, was to change lifestyle habits. This stunning reality is not only important for those of us worried about the possibility of sinking into the heartbreak of Alzheimer’s as we age; it turns out that this group of lifestyle habits will also successfully treat or prevent all the diseases of our time - cancer, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders and Alzheimer’s dementia - successfully. Instead of compartmentalizing body parts and seeing specialists that are only good at one thing, when we live holistically, the body becomes healthy - All of it.
It’s often the simplest solutions to the most difficult problems; sometimes, they are so simple that we miss them altogether. After I heard Dr. Bredesen speak, I bought his book and have so far read through it twice. This information is groundbreaking, but also profoundly basic. The recommendations in this book can be found in the habits of the healthiest, most long lived people in the world, many of whom have no formal education. Instead of a laundry list of medications to take, visits to specialists and assisted living homes, the recommendations are those healthy habits that we seem to have left behind in our digital world. Yet, if we don’t go back to them and live as our ancestors did, we may not survive.
Yes, it takes more effort to change your diet, learn to prepare meals from scratch out of real food that doesn’t come out of a package. There is no quick fix medication for this. Yes, it takes an effort to design a movement plan, put it in your schedule every day and avoid sitting for hours at a time. There is no medication for this. Yes, it takes an effort to minimize stress by learning Mindfulness practices, but the outcome is wonderful when you get your life back and instead of losing your mind, you gain a spontaneous, sharp brain. It may not beat you over the head the way a medication does, but the subtleties are worth it. And, finally, it takes an effort to reach out to friends and family, create community and practice kindness. There is no medication for this, but our brains significantly heal for the better from this behavior and isn’t your brain worth it? Humans are tribal; our brains thrive when we connect face to face with one another. Put down your phone...
Give me your hand...
My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease when he was my age; he died shortly after. In his book, Bredesen leads us, step by step through the process of defining the types of Alzheimer’s disease and ways to avoid them. Along the way, you will not only learn to side step this terrible disease, but create a thriving body at the same time. The genetic factors of the disease are only one cause; even if you don’t have the ApoE4 gene, there are types of Alzheimer’s that have nothing to do with a genetic tendency. For instance, one type is caused by inflammatory factors which can be avoided by staying off sugar and treating Insulin Resistance. Another is chronic toxicity caused by exposure to mold or toxic chemicals that over time will damage the brain. Most importantly, all types can be avoided and treated successfully by creating lifestyle habits that rid your body of inflammation and toxicity.
This is a big subject, but an important one. What is more important than how your brain functions? In the next few blogs, I will take you along with me, defining the different types of Alzheimer’s more completely and showing you how to live in ways that will keep your brain and the rest of your body working optimally.
As I was leaving my parent’s home that night almost thirty years ago, dining room cleared and fine china washed, my mother met me at the door. “There have been some changes in your father. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed,” she said. I had noticed.