[00:00:53] Hello, dear friends. Welcome to the episode number nine of the Health and Science podcast. I'm Dr. Elaine Barretto. Super happy to be back. If you've been following me for a while, you might have noticed that there was no episode last week. That's because we are switching now to biweekly episodes, so I'll be releasing a new podcast every two weeks for now. This is because I need to dedicate some time and focus to a new project. We'll be releasing a digital platform very soon, and I'm so excited to share more details with you guys when the right time comes, but I think it's gonna be so impactful and be able to help so many people. Bring integrative and personalized medicine to you at your hands and your fingertips.
[00:01:37] So I hope it's okay for now that I'm dedicating a little bit more of time to that. I still want to produce the podcast and I want to bring relevant and applicable information here to you guys. So stay tuned. Every two weeks, we'll still be around. This week is very special to me, very close to my heart, the topic, because we'll be talking about brain health.
[00:01:57] So if you have anyone in your family, anybody close to you, or you yourself suffering from dementia, you know what a devastating diagnosis that is. Right? Sadly, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and so many other brain disorders and dementia are non reversible, right? So even though there's still a lot of science and many studies being done, and we've come a long way. There are new drugs that are able to slow down some of the mechanisms and the symptoms. It's still sadly non reversible. So there is no cure and it comes with age, right? The amount of people being affected by dementia now worldwide has been increasing simply because we are living longer.
[00:02:48] So we are seeing more people start developing those diseases that are mostly caused by aging. Right? But what I'm here to tell you today in this episode, and really dive into the details is that many people still don't know that dementia is actually preventable. You can severely reduce the risk of developing dementia by addressing your lifestyle.
[00:03:15] And I almost feel like I sound like a broken record because most of the episodes we're always gonna end up discussing the effects of lifestyle in your health. But the fact is just this is the truth that, lifestyle have has an impact on everything from your body to your mind.
[00:03:34] And in my opinion, and I know this might sound a bit controversial, but in my opinion, mental health and brain health comes above it all. When you're dealing with problems with your body, with your physical health, of course it can be severely impactful to your quality of life, but if you have a problem with your mental health or with your brain, basically the impacts are so much more dramatic.
[00:04:03] You see this, if you really look at what happens to people that are suffering from dementia, right? How they start changing their personalities and losing themselves basically, and slowly stop being the people or the person that they were before. So it's a very heartbreaking condition and that's why I care so much about it.
[00:04:26] That's why I want to bring this science far and wide so that you and your family can start preventing it right now. Especially if you have people in your family, you have a history of dementia in your family. Even the more important for you to start addressing those risk lifestyle factors right now. Right?
[00:04:48] You can even start with your children. It's never too early and it's never too late. Okay, so let's start diving in. First of all, I want to talk about what is cognition, because we're gonna be mentioning this word quite a few times, and cognition basically is related to the processes that take place in our brains that allow us to basically understand the world around us and also our inner world, right?
[00:05:20] So it has to do with attention, being able to pay attention. With learning, any type of learning, right? Learning from experiences, learning a new language, learning new information, learning basically anything. might support you and your family and your loved ones. If you have any suggestions for topics that you want to hear about, also drop me an email and take care of yourself, of your brain, of your loved ones.
[00:05:54] I'll see you on the next one.
[00:07:11] And it has to do with memory, short term and long-term memory. And it has to do with perception, and by perception here also, regarding our senses, right? So how our brain interprets the information that is coming from our environment. So from all our senses, from our touch, our smell, our sight, and also our inner sensations.
[00:07:40] Those are all part of perception, right? So cognition is literally us. It's the very essence of our brains, because if you're not able to understand the world around you and your inner world, basically, it's the same as not existing, right? If you've been watching a person slowly progressing with dementia and seeing how their cognition decline, you understand what I mean.
[00:08:09] And there is a branch of science called cognitive fitness, which is how we can basically exercise our cognition in order to keep it fit and healthy and active. It's a bit like going to the gym and doing your fitness exercise. You can do something similar to your brain. And we're gonna be discussing a little bit about that as well.
[00:08:30] Okay. So going back to the statistics. On the lifestyle in dementia. Almost 50% of dementia cases can actually be explained by modifiable lifestyle risk factors. This is crazy. Nearly 50%, nearly half of the dementia cases can be connected to one of those risk lifestyle factors that we'll be discussing here.
[00:08:55] This is a lot, right? Which means governments, public health institutions and other healthcare practitioners as well should be making sure to address those risk lifestyle factors so that we can reduce the incidence of dementia, or at least reduce the risk of it.
[00:09:13] Right? And also has been shown in a recent study that living a healthy lifestyle not only leads to a longer life expectancy but also leads to adding more years that you live without Alzheimer's. So it is not enough to say that you want to live until you're 70 or 80 or 90, but the real question is how well can you live when you're aging, when you're older, right?
[00:09:39] So how many of those late years are you gonna be able to live without dementia is also directly connected to how many healthy lifestyle factors you adopt in your life. Okay, so when we were talking about aging, aging is not necessarily a bad thing. Actually, I think that aging is a blessing.
[00:10:06] That means we're getting to live in this planet longer, right? And experience life. So I know that there is huge stigma around aging and all this anti-aging creams and treatments and here, especially in Singapore, there are so many clinics dedicated to anti-aging and I wish the focus would be on healthy aging, instead of anti-aging. And what do I mean by that? We all want to age and trying to reverse or slow down this process in terms of beauty or looks, seems almost like a waste of efforts, right? We should embrace and appreciate our aging, but we should do so by honoring the bodies and the minds that we are inhabiting, that we are living in, right? So if you really want, truly want to have a healthy aging process, you should take care of your body and of your brain. This is what we are talking about here. We're not talking about anti-aging. We are embracing aging and we are talking about healthy aging. Let's live longer, but let's thrive and live healthy, happy late years.
[00:11:15] Okay? So in terms of cognitive fitness, there are some things you can do to address, to train and to recover your cognition, right? So in terms of recovery, how we can allow our brains to recover. We're talking about sleep hygiene, so how we can promote better sleep in order to have all the functions of the brain take place, right? Including the removal of debris and so on. Also, good for cognitive recovery would be techniques like meditation. Which allow you to slow down the stream of thoughts in your mind and pay attention to it in a different way without being dominated by them. Right? Definitely very important. Many studies have shown how the brain literally rewires when you're a long-term meditator.
[00:12:12] So this is what we call neuroplasticity, right? This ability to rewrite the connections in our brains by changing the way that we use our brains. For example, meditating. What has another huge impact on cognitive recovery is nutrition, and we'll be talking a little bit more about that, and also social support. When you feel supported, I also bring this up a lot here in the podcast, because we are social beings, our brains are wired for social connection. You can literally see these in scans, right, in functional MRI scans, for example, how the different areas of your brain will light up when you're participating in true social connections, feeling socially supported. So really important also for our cognition.
[00:13:07] And a way you can train your cognitive fitness, like exercise your brain muscle so to speak, would be by developing and working on techniques such as self-awareness, attention, decision making, and resilience. So there are also simple things you can do starting from a young age and also as you're aging, to play more, right? For example, doing activities such as playing cards or crosswords, puzzles, all these type of board games, if you include playing with other people, then you also have the benefit of the social interaction. Things like reading, visiting a museum and so on. Those are activities that will enhance your cognition for sure. And you should strive to include more in your routine and in your family activities.
[00:14:02] Okay, so there has been for a while this Lancet Commission working on Dementia Prevention, Intervention, and Care, and they release reports. They've been listing these risk factors that we've discussed since the beginning of the episode. There used to be nine factors, but now we are up to 12 risk factors and modifying those 12 risk factors might prevent or delay up to 40% of the dementia worldwide. Right. So let's dive in directly into what are those risk factors that we've been mentioning so many times now.
[00:14:44] So one of the risk factors is having less education. For that reason, you'll immediately see that countries that have low or middle income will be more affected by dementia. And as this the case, the data is really showing us that, because that tends to be a bigger problem for them. Right? So addressing education is something very important that should be done from a young age, having the kids go to primary and secondary school at least, right?
[00:15:13] Another risk factor for dementia is hypertension. So what is important as you're taking care of your health is to really make sure that you find means to keep a healthy range of your blood pressure, and that is directly tied up with another risk factor, which is diabetes. So if you're taking care of your metabolism, those are two things that you really have to keep an eye on and do checkups often, which will be your arterial pressure and your diabetes. So having a look at your blood markers to make sure everything is okay. And of course those can be addressed as you know by now. We've also been talking about that. If you haven't listened to my episode on diabetes type two, please go back there and have a listen. And there was also this other episode on how changing your lifestyle can save your life. There we've talked a lot about things that you can do to improve your metabolism in terms of blood markers. So keeping your sugar level in check by avoiding insulin resistance, and also by taking care of exercise and dieting and so on to keep your hypertension in check. So keeping your blood pressure in check.
[00:16:30] Okay, Now another surprising risk factor is hearing impairment. So when I learned this a couple of years ago, I was actually quite surprised because many people probably don't connect that, but elderly people tend to, as everything is aging and declining, also our, capability of hearing starts declining. And it's not as much on how to avoid this because this is a little bit difficult. But it's on providing people these hearing aids as soon as possible because, hearing impairment has a huge impact on cognition decline and on the risk for dementia. Okay. So having a checkup on your folks, on your elderly folks on how they're doing in terms of hearing, the signs usually start showing up quite early. So if you stay tuned to that, and also yourself, if you're approaching already a later age, or if you're noticing that you're having some difficulties hearing, you should get yourself checked and get hearing aids if needed as soon as possible. Cuz that's also one of the risk factors. Okay.
[00:17:36] Another risk factor is smoking. As you probably expect. These toxic substances like tobacco, and alcohol have a huge impact in our health, but also in our brain. So making sure that if you smoke that you find support and means to quit. And if you're consuming too much alcohol that you find also ways to reduce that in your life, or if you can completely remove it, and if you want to have a healthy brain and decrease your chances for developing dementia.
[00:18:09] Another risk factor is obesity. This is directly tied to the diabetes and the hypertension that we just mentioned, so keeping our metabolism in check.
[00:18:19] Another risk factor is depression. So also connected to the social connections, right, to the social wellbeing. So, elderly folks that tend to have less contact with their families, they are at a much higher risk for depression. And also as their loved ones start leaving this world, they start feeling more lonely, that tends to increase their risk for depression, right? As they lose their functionality and their capability to be helpful and useful in the world, to find purpose and meaning. This is really an important risk factor. So finding ways to help our aging population to have some purpose. To feel like they can contribute to the community and the society are very important to also help them reverse this depression scenario.
[00:19:19] And as we mentioned, of course, physical inactivity. So as folks start developing more joint pain, osteo arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and all of that, they start having more difficulties moving, but also in general, as folks tend to be more lethargic and tend to simply start moving less, right? They don't really have to do many things anymore, or they don't have motivation to do it, and then they start decreasing their physical activity. And this has a severe impact on brain health because physical activity produces certain hormones that help us keep our brain healthy. They impact our gut microbiota. Physical activity also impacts most other systems in our body, like our digestion, right? Our circulatory system and our heart capability, oxygen, all of that, not to mention it also helps minimize the depression.
[00:20:19] So everything is connected. When we are listing those risk factors, it's quite obvious that everything is connected like in a mesh, in a network. And when you work on one, you're gonna be working on the other ones as well. So it's important to look at it from a broader perspective, a wider picture, but start addressing them one by one as well. And we mentioned already the social contact, right? So finding ways to keep our social wellbeing in check, even if you're not older yet, but at any time in your life, it is important to keep this in check. Find ways to find connection, groups where you feel a sense of belonging, right? People that share the same interests or someone that you feel safe talking to that understands you. All this is super important for health in general, but especially for our brain health. And we mentioned the alcohol.
[00:21:21] Head injury is something that is quite serious as we age because we start losing also our sense of balance. And also this is also connected in a way to the hearing impairment because if you tend to hear less things, you might also participate in more accidents. And if you have less people taking care of you, you might also end up being in more accident. Older folks are at a higher risk for head injury and traumatic brain injury increases the risk for dementia. Okay? So finding ways to prevent accidents, head injuries, very important as we age.
[00:21:59] And the last factor I want to talk about, one of the three new ones that the Lancet Commission has added as risk factors is air pollution. So there were quite a few studies now showing the correlation between air pollution and dementia. So if possible, I know this is a little bit more tricky for people that don't have the possibility to change the place where they live, but if you can minimize your exposure to air pollutants or to secondhand smoking, to other people that smoke, if you can live away from industrial areas, or at least try to spend more time in nature and breathing fresh air, this would be very impactful for reducing your risk as well.
[00:22:45] So I said I wanted to go back to the dieting aspect of it so that we can talk a little bit more about that and the connection here is multifaceted, right? There are many reasons why diet affects cognition and brain health. There is even a field now that has been gaining momentum called nutritional psychiatry, or a nutritional psychology, which is showing how the foods that we eat can have an impact on our mood and can help prevent mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.
[00:23:21] But also, there is a huge connection there with, simply the process of aging and oxidation, right? So as we age, what happens is that, of course we develop more oxidative stress, right? This is literally what aging is. The process of aging is doing is, like when we expose some living thing to air and it gets in contact with oxygen and it starts molding or rotting, or basically decaying, right? Like a leave. If you think about it, we are similar. We have certain functions in our bodies, in our biology, that's as, as we breathe and we live basically start developing this oxidative process, which we call oxidative stress. This is a normal part of being a human being and being alive. But the problem is the imbalance of oxidation that happens to us as we start consuming less antioxidants and our oxidative processes increase.
[00:24:25] That means that we age faster. So what we can do to put this process back into balance or search more equilibrium regarding that, is to increase our intake of antioxidants, so that can be done through a well-balanced diet where we are making sure to have all necessary macro and micronutrients. So we're talking the appropriate amount of carbohydrates, of healthy fats, of protein, of fiber, and also of vitamins and minerals.
[00:25:01] So, as we age it's important to also always have that in check. If we're having enough sun exposure for production of vitamin D. Most people are deficient, if so, you might consider supplementing. The same for vitamin B. The vitamins B, B12, the family of vitamin Bs are very important for neurons, for brain health. So many people are also deficient and might have to supplement. And in terms of diet, from what we can get from nature directly without supplements would be to consume a broad variety of fruits and vegetables, of legumes, such as beans and lentils, chick peas of nuts and seeds, and whole grains. And avoid excess consumption of unhealthy fats like saturated fats, sugar, salt, and highly processed foods.
[00:25:55] It's the basic stuff, right guys? It's no big news here. In terms of when we are talking, always in terms of diet is really increasing our intake of whole foods directly from nature, from plants, from things that come, not from industry and a package, but things that are delivered to us by nature and increasing the variety as much as possible.
[00:26:17] If we are doing this, we are consuming a broader range of anti oxidants naturally. And there might be some things that are deficient here and there because of the seasons of the year, not being able to acquire all ingredients all year round, or depending on where you live, the limited supply you might have of certain things, but this we can definitely supplement.
[00:26:39] But it is important as in your abilities to include as many things as you can in your diet. Have a very broad and varied diet full of whole foods. Making sure to have this good balance of carbs, fats, and protein and fiber because these are all things that our brain needs to thrive. Okay? So avoiding all these restriction diets and all this kind of stuff. As we do that, the third thing that happens is that our gut gets balanced. When we do all those things and we have a healthy, well-balanced diet, our gut will be balanced as well. And when our microbiome is in good health, is in check, is balanced, what happens is that through the gut brain axis, you can see how the effect will reach directly our brain as well.
[00:27:36] We discussed a lot about gut brain access also in one of our episodes. So if you're curious to understand better how this happens and what works there, please go back there and have a listen. Yeah, and by the way, all these studies that I'm mentioning here will be listed in the podcast episode of course.
[00:27:54] So if you are curious and you want to dive deeper on understanding how they were performed, how many people were involved, what are the actual statistics of all those things, please feel free to nerd out and have a look. I don't want to be too technical here because our podcast is made for the broader masses, right? I want people to understand the information that is really relevant to directly apply in your routine, your daily lives without having to worry so much about understanding very technical details. That's always my goal here, but I'm happy to answer questions and further details. If you have anything you would like to discuss, just send me an email to info at mind body food pain.com altogether, and I'll be very happy to share more details and discuss any questions you might have.
[00:28:44] So you see how many things we have covered here in terms of lifestyle, and it's incredible because they are all things that we can do by ourselves, right? They don't require support of any professionals. Those are things that we have full power to address and improve in our lives and in our families. And it's so sad to see all these statistics increasing of dementia. I have several people in my family that suffer from brain disorders, and that's why this topic is so close to my heart.
[00:29:20] So as I'm doing my work here to spread information and educate, but also support people, I want to make sure that you're not only focused on the symptoms that you have right now and dealing with your current health problems, but also that you always keep focus on your longevity, how you're gonna be as you age, and how you can have a long and happy life being healthy, right?
[00:29:44] When we are healthy, we can accomplish more things. We can do so much more. So if we take care of this now, this is like an investment in our future, so make sure to seek support if you don't have anybody that can help you address the lifestyle factors. The most common ones I see are regarding the hypertension and diabetes and also addressing the diet and so on and so forth.
[00:30:13] So if you don't know where to start, what to do, where to go with this, get in touch with me or find any other professional that can support you. Our program for brain health is completely developed for prevention, right? So if you started developing some brain fog and you noticed that something is just off with you in terms of your mental and brain health, of course you should go ahead and check this as soon as possible and start doing something.
[00:30:41] But even if you haven't been feeling anything, it's never too early. It's never too soon to start preventing it and taking care of your whole self. Okay, so I hope this was helpful that you could absorb a lot of information here that might support you and your family and your loved ones. If you have any suggestions for topics that you want to hear about, also drop me an email and take care of yourself, of your brain, of your loved ones.
[00:31:13] I'll see you on the next one.