Reducing Your Risk for Dementia
Dr. Daniel Chong -
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Reducing Your Risk for Dementia

Poor sleep habits raise the risk of dementia
Are you a night owl who can’t fall asleep? Are you half dead in the morning without several cups of coffee? If so, you may have an increased risk of developing dementia later in life.

Our “body clock,” or circadian rhythm, regulates our sleep/wake cycles.
A healthy circadian rhythm has you alert in the morning, tired at night, and able to sleep through the night.

When it becomes imbalanced your risk of developing dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases increases.

Dementia and circadian rhythm share same area of the brain
The area of the brain that governs the circadian rhythm, the hippocampus, also plays a role in short-term memory and learning. The hippocampus is the first target of degeneration in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

An imbalanced circadian rhythm could point to problems in the hippocampus and an increased risk of dementia later in life.

Studies link circadian rhythm imbalance with dementia risk
A recent study found the risk of dementia was higher in older women with weaker circadian rhythms.

A 2008 study also found that tracking circadian rhythms over time could predict cognitive decline in healthy older adults.

Circadian rhythm balance goes beyond dementia
Dementia isn’t the only risk. Studies have also linked an imbalanced circadian rhythm with cardiovascular disease, weight gain, mood disturbances, constipation, prostate cancer, and breast cancer.

Are you at risk for dementia later in life?
How do you know if your circadian rhythm is off balance? Look at whether you suffer from any of the following symptoms:

•    Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
•    Difficulty waking in the morning
•    Not feeling rested after sleep
•    Poor recovery from exercise
•    Drop of energy between 4 –7 p.m.
Preventing dementia naturally
How can you normalize your circadian rhythm and lower the risk for dementia? The answer lies largely in regulating cortisol, an adrenal stress hormone. Studies show high cortisol from physical or mental stress degenerates the hippocampus.

The stress from inflammation in particular has been shown to be associated with atrophy of the hippocampus. This has been evidenced on blood panels by higher levels of homocysteine, a telltale sign of inflammation.

Lower inflammation to prevent dementia
One of the best ways to normalize the circadian rhythm is to reduce inflammation; your diet is the first place to start. Avoiding food sensitivities, such as to gluten, eating regular amounts of high quality protein to stabilize blood sugar, and eliminating inflammatory foods like sugar, white flour, processed oils and most processed foods will go a long way towards helping. You can also me about an anti-inflammatory diet program.

Other extremely important steps I can help you with to reduce dementia risk include:
·      Tips for establishing healthy sleep habits and reducing lifestyle stressors will also help lower cortisol levels and normalize your circadian rhythm.
·      Detoxification and elimination of major neurotoxic agents like mercury from dental fillings and environmental chemicals
·      Ideas for reducing or eliminating high exposure to electromagnetic fields in your environment, a known hormone disruptor that affects cortisol and melatonin output
·      Adrenal adaptogens, herbs that help modulate adrenal cortisol levels, can significantly balance the circadian rhythm and protect the hippocampus

20 Comments to Reducing Your Risk for Dementia:

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Genia Fontenot on Saturday, March 03, 2012 9:13 AM
Enjoyed your Paleo Summit presentation very much. That is how I got to this article. I am a shift worker working 12hrs for 36 and 48hr stretches with alternating nights and days with as little as 48hr break to 7days off. Other than changing jobs, is there any advise you have or studies you can direct my way. I started Paleo 6 months with intermitant non-compliance but getting much better. I excercise when I can, mostly days off and occassionally at work. I do tabata on elliptical trainers and while walk/run and strength training both isometric and with weights. Any additional tips or advice would be greatly appreciated.
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Dr. Daniel Chong on Friday, March 09, 2012 11:40 AM
Hi Genia, Glad you liked the interview. First thing I would say is- Can you change jobs? Nothing will work as well for you as simply not doing that to yourself. That said, I understand that life is life and you may not be able to do that. I'd suggest trying to always go to bed and wake up at the same time, regardless of if you are on a work day or not. What you don't want to do to yourself is constantly change bedtimes. Also make sure you are sleeping in a completely dark room or with cover on your eyes to mimic that, and that you get natural light exposure every day. Beyond that, their are specific medicines, etc but I cannot make such recommendations without more evaluation. I do offer long distance consultations if you would like to do that. Good luck!

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