Q: I know three people in their mid-50s with brain problems — one with Parkinson's, one with early onset Alzheimer's and one with some other kind of brain disease. It's unsettling. What do you think's going on? — Devon B., Covington, Ky.
A: Since 1997 there's been a 66 percent increase in the number of men and a 92 percent increase in the number of women dying from neurological diseases and conditions such as ALS, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's disease and dementia at younger and younger ages! But listen up: You can dramatically improve your long-term brain health by doing what we recommend below.
What accounts for the increase? All indications are that epigenetic changes — that is, changes in gene expression triggered by environmental influences — are making people more susceptible to brain diseases. Just as there's been an increase in autoimmune diseases, a fall in sperm counts and a rise in cancer incidence (even as cancer deaths fall), the increase in younger people developing neurological diseases may come from the explosion in electronic devices; a rise in background, non-ionising radiation from PCs, microwaves, TVs and mobile phones; increased petrochemical pollution; and chemical additives and pesticides in food.
Fortunately, the body responds well to good self-care. You can fight back against lifestyle-triggered health hazards. What we need is a war against brain diseases. Our battle cry:
•Achieve and maintain a healthy weight by eliminating the Five Food Felons (saturated and trans fats, added sugars and sugar syrups, and any grain that isn't 100 percent whole).
•Get regular physical activity: Walk 10,000 steps a day, do 15 minutes of strength training two to three days a week, plus 20 minutes of cardio three times a week (cardio exercise is six times more effective than “brain games” in growing your memory center!).
•Meditate daily for at least 10 minutes. Managing stress may be the No. 1 brain helper!
•Enjoy as much black coffee as you like. It cuts memory dysfunction and Parkinson's risk.