He explained that these cognitive disorders are diseases of inflammation. Inflammation is responsible for the pain of arthritis and has also been implicated in heart disease. Until last night, I didn't realize it was also part of cognitive disorders.
Dr. Perlmutter said obesity is a big contributor to inflammation, because fat can store toxins that contribute to inflammation, plus excess weight is a major cause of Type 2 diabetes, which causes severe inflammation and is destructive to the body and brain. An insulin-dependent diabetic has 4 times the normal risk of contracting Alzheimer's. I didn't really want to hear this, since so many of my family members already have this disease. Still, knowledge is power. This gives me more incentive to follow my food plan and get rid of the excess weight.
He also suggested that people with cognitive disorders get tested for the antibodies associated with celiac disease. Apparently about 1% of the population is sensitive to gluten and the disease doesn't always manifest as G.I. distress. Sometimes it just causes inflammation in the brain that contributes to cognitive disorders like ADHD, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's.
He said that everyone can take four simple steps to protect themselves against these disorders:
- Reduce calories by 25%. "Since most people eat 33% more calories than they need, this shouldn't be a hardship." My guess is that most people who follow Weight Watchers or other diet plans would be restricting calories by at least that much.
- Get regular physical exercise
- Exercise the brain with lifelong learning, games, and puzzles
- Supplement with DHA (fish oils are one source)
What strikes me about all of this is that many of these steps are the same steps suggested for healthy aging, good general health, weight maintenance... The main message of last night's talk was that rather than taking prescription drugs (each with its own potential risks) for each individual symptom we have, we should be taking care of our general health in a way that prevents the diseases in the first place.
Now I just need to find a doctor who has the same philosophy. I don't think it's Dr. Pill Pusher.