Neurologists, Dean and Ayesha Sherzai, created the Healthy Minds Initiative in response to the helplessness that they felt working within the traditional “sick care” model. After watching all the latest drugs and treatments fail to stop dementia, they set out to discover a better preventative approach.
Currently, approximately six million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S. and 500,000 in Canada. It is the most common type of dementia. Every 64 seconds someone is diagnosed. This number is likely an underestimation of its true prevalence, as many people consider cognitive impairment to be a normal part of aging, and therefore never report it.
Two-thirds of individuals diagnosed are women. The likelihood of a woman developing Alzheimer’s disease during her lifetime is 1 in 6, compared to a man, which is 1 in 11. It is projected that if we do not take measure to slow the current trajectory, the number of people living with this disease will triple by 2050.
The good news is that Alzheimer’s is not a genetic inevitability and a diagnosis does not have to result in a death sentence. In fact, according to these two doctors, 90% of all Alzheimer’s cases can be prevented; and for the 10% with a strong genetic risk for cognitive decline, the disease can be delayed for ten to fifteen years.
Based upon their extensive research, the Sherzai’s have formed the following conclusions:
- Physical exercise increases both the number of brain cells and the connections between them.
- Chronic stress puts the brain in a state of high inflammation, causing structural damage.
- Restorative sleep is essential for cognitive and overall health.
- Meat and animal products are degenerative for your brain.
- Education, learning and other complex cognitive activities protect your brain against decline.
- Social support has an undeniable influence on the way your brain ages.
They developed a plan to promote the necessary lifestyle changes. They call the plan, “NEURO.” It includes:
- Nutrition: A whole-food, plant-based diet low in sugar, salt, and processed foods.
- Exercise: An active lifestyle that incorporates movement every hour.
- Unwind: Stress management in the form of meditation, yoga, mindful breathing exercises.
- Restore: Seven to eight hours of regular, detoxifying sleep.
- Optimize: Multimodal activities that challenge many of the brain’s capacities.
I have included two great interviews with the Sherzai’s below, with Rich Roll, where you can gain a solid understanding of their work. They have also written two books, The Alzheimer’s Solution, and The 30-Day Alzheimer’s Solution, as well as produce a regular blog and podcast on the subject.