Alzheimer’s Disease is the biggest brain disease in our senior citizens globally, it affects Africans too. In Sub-Saharan Africa, we’re a bit fortunate that dementia related diseases have ranged between 1-3%.
This a disease that affects the brain, and it’s mostly suffered by people above 60 years. The person exhibits symptoms like depression, anxiety, sleep and eating disorders, some of them hallucinate, and they become very irritable.
Alzheimer’s disease causes inflammation and insulin resistance, which injures the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain of that person, and inhibit communication between the brain cells. It’s sometimes described as “diabetes of the brain”.
Even though there are various pharmaceutical treatments, the outcome is far from being perfect.
What increases the risk of AD?
Most of the non-communicable diseases that we suffer in Africa increase the risks of Alzheimer and dementia-related diseases. Diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, all increase the risk of Alzheimer’s diseases; these diseases interference with blood sugar and movement to our bloodstreams.
Sportswomen and men must also protect their heads to avoid head trauma. Head trauma at any point in life increases your risk of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
This includes repeated head bumps in sporting activities such as football, rugby, and boxing, or one-time injuries from a bicycle, skating, or motorcycle accidents. If you ride a piki (boda boda) often, make sure you wear the helmet and insist on a helmet before hopping onto the boda. You must protect your head from the risk of injury in the event of an accident.
Too much of alcohol is also a risk factor for Alzheimer’s.
The best way to reduce these risks factors is through making small changes to a person’s diet and lifestyle.
A healthy lifestyle can prevent the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and slow down, or reverse the progress.
Adopt a Lishe Living Lifestyle
Your brain uses 20% of your body’s oxygen, and 25% of its glucose (energy producing molecules). Basically, our brain uses a quarter of all the energy and nutrients you consume. Most of this energy is used to generate and transmit your impulses.
The more you think and act, the more energy your brain burns. Good nutrition for your brain is essential for your survival.
You can adjust your eating habits to ensure that your brain receives the energy it constantly requires. It starts with committing to a Lishe (Healthy) Living Lifestyle, and finding ways of replacing foods that do not work well for your brain, with those that are good for your brain.
Some sugars can over stimulate your brain
Your brain never rests and needs energy to support it, and protein to regenerate its neurons. Apparently, these neurons flash in the brain at the speed of 320km/ hour, 200miles/hour, with chemicals floating in between them sending hundreds of messages at any given time. Now you can imagine the amount of energy your brain consumes and produces!
Your brain gets this energy from carbohydrates and fats. Some types of foods increase your blood sugar so sharply that it negatively affects your brain’s functioning. Keeping a normal blood sugar level is critical for the brain’s function.
Eat carbohydrates that will release sugar into your blood in small and consistent portions. Most of the grains, pulses and nuts are a great source of carbohydrates. Our traditional foods like grains and pulses such as millet, sorghum, njahi (black beans) are good options.
Sugary foods and overly- refined carbohydrates increase your blood sugar abruptly. They can have the effect of overstimulating your neurons, which are already rushing at 320km/hour! You do not need that overstimulation.
The trick is to balance your intake of sugars to ensure your neurons are not over stimulated. In place of white Ugali flour, try whole maize-meal flour, or use alternatives like sorghum, millet and cassava. Avoid drinking sugar-filled energy drinks and also limit your alcohol intake for optimum brain function.
Eat more of Omega-3 fats
Omega-3 is a type of polyunsaturated fat that works to protect your neurons. Omega-3 fats improve the capacity of your brain’s nerve cells to transmit information.
Omega-3 fats are good for brain functioning. They also work to lower blood pressure, improve sleep, and protect against diseases like dementia.
Some of the Omega-3 sources include seeds like peanuts, cashew-nuts and cold-water fish like tilapia, nile perch (mbuta), dagaa/omena, tuna, trout, and sardines.
Avoid or minimize consumption of trans fats. Trans fats elevate the level of ‘bad’ cholesterol in your blood, and when taken in large amounts, can lead to further complications like diabetes or obesity.
Small amount of trans fats are found naturally in some meat and dairy products, but we consume most of it from artificially created fatty foods like margarine, vegetable shortening, packaged snacks, baked foods, ready-to-use cake flour, fried foods etc.
Fruits and vegetables for your brain
Most of the Vitamin C in your body is concentrated in your brain because it’s needed there. Vitamin C and E are good antioxidants for your brain.
As the brain cells metabolise, they generate a reactive oxygen species, free radicals, which must be counteracted through a neutralisation process. Your brain cells perceive the reactive oxygen species as challenging, threatening and demanding of them.
This is why people consume foods that are high in antioxidants, largely from fruits, vegetables and green tea.
Antioxidants are great for your cells’ metabolism, they counter the free radicals. Regular consumption of purple tea is good for your brain because it works as a good antioxidant. Purple tea is a better antioxidant than green tea. Make it a habit to take some of these teas, which work well for your brain.
Nutrients that help prevent Dementia.
Folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin D, magnesium, and fish oil may help to preserve brain health, boost the immune system, promote your blood’s flow to the brain and to repair damaged brain cells.
Studies of vitamin E, coenzyme Q10, and turmeric have yielded less conclusive results, but may also be beneficial in preventing or delaying Alzheimer’s and dementia symptoms.