What are your top concerns as you age?  For me, it’s the loss of my mind, my memories, my sense of who I am.
This clinical study I’m in (and Dr. Bredesens’ book) looks at Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) as not being caused by amyloid plaques or neurofibrillary tangles, but instead as a protective response to three different processes…
  • Inflammation (from infection, diet, or other causes)
  • Suboptimal levels of nutrients, hormones and other brain supporting molecules
  • Toxic exposures (like heavy metals and mold)

Dr. Bredesen uses the analogy of a roof with 36 holes. When you’ve patched enough of the 36 holes, it will be sufficient to protect the house from water damage.  Similarly, there are 36 factors that affect whether the brain goes down a synapse-destroying pathway that ends in AD.

We don’t know which holes will make the most difference so you want to address as many as possible to affect a change.  This analogy makes it clear that no single pill can address or patch all the holes that contribute to AD.  That’s why the ReCode approach is multimodal addressing sleep, nutrition, intermittent fasting, diet, hormone balancing, toxicity, infection, brain training, and mindfulness training.  People may have difficulties with one or more of these approaches but they’ve found that if you plug enough holes, it will make a difference.

I feel fortunate that I was accepted into this clinical study and receive excellent all-around support. When I started this 9-month trial, I fell squarely in the category of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) which is a precursor to AD. After just 3 months on this protocol, I tested out of MCI, so much so that I wouldn’t have qualified to enter the study with the new score I got.

If you’re wanting to try this approach, I’d recommend that you start with the NY Times bestselling book,  The End of Alzheimer’s: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline as a great first step.

I’d then google Bredesen protocol trained practitioners in your area.  The protocol can be overwhelming but doable with the right guidance. Everyone’s treatment is individualized for that person’s unique biochemistry so there’s no blueprint treatment plan. With specialized tests that need to be run and interpreted by a medical professional, it’s daunting to even consider doing on your own.

 

 

Our brain, our sense of who we are is priceless.  We know now that AD is a silent disease with pathology in the brain starting decades before clinical symptoms become apparent.  I think it benefits all of us to start plugging those holes as soon as we can and as best we can!

 

 

 

I recently presented a webinar for a Wellness Wednesday Series on the subject of Brain Power: Protecting against cognitive decline through a targeted research-based exercise program. Plainly speaking, it explores how to exercise and help your brain simultaneously.  The material in this webinar comes from my own research and what I’m learning through the ReCode (Reverse Cognitive Decline) clinical trial that I’m in.

Key takeaway: Aerobic exercise is critical for brain health but there’s moreOur ability to dual task-deteriorates with age. That’s our ability to perform two tasks that have separate goals-a necessary part of our complex life. With increased age, we see slower reaction time, reduced walking speed, increased run-ins with objects, and increased fall risk.

Research-based solution?  Dual Task Training– combining cognitive activity with physical activity to promote neuroplasticity!  Check out the webinar for demonstrations.

“We assume, that physical exercise increases the potential for neurogenesis while cognitive exercise guides it to induce positive plastic change”
~ Bamidis et al, 2014

 

Month 4 Installment

So people wanted to know if I had cake on my birthday. Well, I didn’t but I savored every drop of wine in my glass at the last restaurant that we ventured out to before shelter in place.  Almost at the 4-month mark now, I wanted to update you on my 3-month benchmark appointment with another round of cognitive testing to check progress.

The results were remarkable!

In Dec. of 2019 for my baseline testing, I came out positive for mild cognitive decline in both the Mocha 19 and the CNS test. These are standardized tests that quantify cognition. What is encouraging to me is that I improved in 3 months’ time with brain training, exercise, diet, mindfulness, and supplementation to the point where I no longer am in the range of mild cognitive decline. If I had these results in December at baseline I would not have been accepted into the study. The clinical team is very encouraged and excited at my progress.

Someone asked me what my doctor thought about the recent study showing bone loss with race walkers on the keto diet.

Here’s the doctor’s response:

  • We don’t know what kind of ketogenic diet the participants were on. In our study, we are encouraged to do a more plant-based keto diet.
  • The study didn’t actually measure bone loss. They did not look at the participants’ Dexa results before and after. They used just a blood marker which doesn’t measure the actual change in bone.
  • The study was short term, just a few weeks, so it’s difficult to assess the effects of a keto diet on bone, longer-term.  Clearly more research is warranted.

 

Gems to Share

  • Eating mushrooms is good for the immune system and the brain.
  • A recent study showed that people who consumed more than two standard portions of mushrooms weekly may have 50 percent reduced odds of having mild cognitive impairment. My nutritionist told me any mushrooms are good but Portabello and Lion’s Mane mushrooms are best for the brain while Shitake and Mytaki mushrooms are excellent for the immune system.    I’ve since added mushrooms to my veggie omelets a few times a week.
  • The “Ketoterrian” cookbook is the closest to what we’re trying to do by Will Cole. It’s a mostly plant-based cookbook. Here’s the Amazon link if you’re interested.
  • When this study is over, I plan to start a program of carb cycling, which is being keto for a week or so, then allowing more higher carbs for a day then repeating that cycle. There are two things I’ve noted that influence my decision.
    • There are no long-term studies for being on a keto diet. We don’t know how the body, in general, will react over several years.
    • The second thing I’ve realized is that people in the Blue Zones, those who live very long healthy lives, include beans in their diet so as a Puerto Rican, that makes me very happy. Beans and brown rice will definitely picture into my carb cycling.
    • For the sake of the study though I’m sticking with the guidelines for the 9-month duration.

This is my clinical study general recommended workout regimen

  • Strength training minimum 3x week (I do Pilates and when the Y is open, I add weights)
  • Aerobic 6 days/week  (walk, run, hike)
  • (minimum of ½ hr of each of the above)
  • HIIT (high-intensity interval training) 2x week (I’m teaching this in my Friday noon virtual online Quarantine class!)

My doctor recommends the following for just about everyone as baseline support.

  • Fish Oil, Vit D and B Complex.  No matter how good our diet is, it’s difficult to get all the nutrients we need from our food. She also has me on, among other supplements,  Curcumin and Avmacol which have bone saving effects.

 

Anti-Aging Asparagus Soup Recipe

Thanks to my clinical study nutritionist for sharing this delicious, hearty keto-friendly recipe with me.  I love soup and this soup makes an excellent meal all on its own thanks to healthy fats from coconut milk, protein from healing collagen powder, and phytonutrients from asparagus, leeks, and garlic. Those benefits also make it a great way to fight the aging process and support a resilient body.  Recipe serves 4, Cook time 20 min.

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches of asparagus
  • 1/4 cup of pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 3 TBS avocado oil
  • 1 medium white onion finely diced
  • 2 TBS grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 3 1/2 large leeks chopped (my first time cooking w/leeks!)
  • 3 TBS coconut aminos (this is a liquid in a small bottle you can find at Trader Joes or Whole Foods)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup of full-fat unsweetened coconut milk
  • 4 scoops (about 1/4 cup) collagen powder (optional, not vegan friendly)
  • freshly ground pepper
  1. Cut 4 of the asparagus spears into thirds and set aside for garnish. Roughly chop the remaining spears.
  2. Heat a medium saute’ pan over medium-high heat.  Add the pepitas and continuously stir and shake until the seeds are fragrant and toasted, for about 5 min. Remove from heat and set aside (I skipped these, my nutritionist just adds them to the blender at the blending point of the recipe)
  3. Heat the 3 Tbs avocado oil in a large pot over medium heat until simmering.  Add the onion and saute’ for 5 min.  Add the ginger, leeks, and coconut aminos, stir well and cook down for 5 min.  Add the chopped asparagus, broth, paprika, garlic powder, and salt and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and add the lemon zest and coconut milk.
  4. Remove the soup from the heat and allow to cool for several minutes. Pour into a blender, add the collagen powder (if using) and blend until smooth.
  5. Heat a little avocado oil in a small saute’ pan and add the reserved asparagus spears and lightly saute’ until tender, about 3 min.
  6. Divide into bowls and place pieces of the sauteed asparagus in the center of each bowl and sprinkle the toasted pepitas and freshly ground pepper.  Enjoy!

 

That’s it for now. I’ve been preoccupied, as most of us are, with staying safe and healthy in this age of COVID 19 prevention. Be well. Be safe. Be strong.   As always note your questions or comments below and/or email me.

2nd Installment

Read 1st Installment Here.

Since the start of my ketogenic lifestyle journey on Dec 7th, 2019, I’ve lost 9 lbs and 2 1/2 inches off my waist. Though brain and metabolic health is my primary goal, this is a welcome byproduct and actually an expected result on a ketogenic diet.

I’m consistently in nutritional ketosis confirmed by daily prickings/blood readings. This was not easy at first as I don’t like needles or eliciting pain on myself.  With that said, the lancet is tiny and relatively painless and has become so easy now that I take multiple readings daily to monitor how my food is affecting my body.

The fact that I’m preferentially burning more fat for fuel and less glucose is good for brain health, decreasing inflammation and improving energy levels.  I feel strong, alert and am not experiencing the dips in energy I used to feel during the day from erratic blood sugar levels.  I don’t feel deprived or hungry at all. My sleep has improved dramatically which helps my body to heal and my brain to detoxify and regenerate.

An unexpected bonus, I just got back from the dentist and my hygienist was amazed at the improved status of my gums. She asked what I was doing differently and when I told her, she said the gum improvement was a direct result of the anti-inflammatory effects from the Keto diet.

Nuggets to Share with You

Intermittent fasting is something that helps boost your metabolism, healing, and weight loss.  We need to make sure we don’t eat for 3 hrs prior to going to bed. Our goal in the study is 12-16 hours of fasting each day. That may sound draconian at first but it’s really not that bad. If you have your last meal at 7 pm, you can eat 12 hrs later at 7 am the following morning. It also helps with sleep as your overactive digestive system won’t wake you up.

Sleep  Install f.lux (a free app) on your computer so that the blue lights will dim as the sun goes down. This helps your natural melatonin to do its job.  I started wearing a light-blocking eye mask ($10 for three on Amazon) at night to help with sleep and it’s helping tremendously. I had to get beyond the fact that they look like training bras for the eyes but the comfort and effectiveness won out! I’m going to try earplugs next.

Sauna is great for sweating out toxins. I’ve discovered through my lab work, that I have a high toxic load and because I don’t naturally sweat, even when I exercise at normal ambient temperatures. Because of that, I don’t detoxify well. I’ve now added with my doctor’s recommendation, 4 days of hot sweaty yoga and  1-2 days of dry sauna to accelerate the removal of my toxin burden.

I found the following quite interesting and pertinent to my goals.  A 2016 study done in Finland found that among those who used a sauna 4-7 times a week, the risk of any form of dementia was 66 percent lower and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease 65 percent lower than among those taking a sauna just once a week.

You can read more about the study Here

Online Brain Training is one of my daily requirements as a study participant. The program we are using, BrainHQ.com is the most scientifically validated program on the market. This is way beyond crossword puzzles in sophistication and the exercises get harder as you become more successful so it’s continually challenging your brain.  Check it out!  You can do it on your phone, iPad or laptop.

Favorite Keto Foods
Thankfully I love avocados and eat them daily with olive oil as they are a keto superfood. Packed with healthy fats, antioxidants, fiber, potassium, and magnesium, you can eat them on their own or put them in salads, smoothies or enjoy some guacamole.

Eggs have gotten a bad rap but they’re one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet – especially the yolk! I’ve been advised to only purchase ” Pasture Raised” eggs as they are the safest and healthiest.

My two new favorite snacks are macadamia nuts and raw cauliflower florets dipped in Trader Joe’s Mixed Nut Butter, a delicious blend of almonds, cashews, walnuts, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, and pecans.

In January we had a gathering of the clinical study participants with our doctor, nutrition coach and fitness coach. This allowed the participants to meet each other and share insights and challenges. The highlight of the meeting was a call in from Dr. Dale Bredesen, the creator of the protocol that we’re using. He was inspiring, answered all our questions with wisdom and humor and let us know through our participation in this study, that we were becoming a part of history.

Keto 101 Basics

If you’re interested in trying a ketogenic diet here are some of the main points.  You can also find plenty of info and recipes on the web.

Under normal circumstances, the cells of our body rely on glucose as their primary energy source. Glucose comes from dietary sources and from the breakdown of glycogen in the skeletal muscle and liver.  When glucose is in short supply, the cells tap into fats as an alternative source of fuel. The breakdown of fats leads to the production of ketone bodies and a metabolic state called ketosis.  The benefits of being in ketosis are listed at the end of this post.

Keto diet principles:

  • Fat: 60-75% of daily calories of daily calories
  • Protein: 20-35% of daily calories
  • Carbs: roughly 5% of daily calories

Most people are in chronic sugar burning mode due to a diet high in carbs for many years. That’s why it can take days to weeks on a low-carb, high-fat keto diet to get keto-adapted as the body learns to preferentially use fat/ketones for fuel.

What to Eat

Your diet should be a majority of healthy fats, polyunsaturated fats, and some saturated fats such as avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, fish oil, and ghee. This increases ketone bodies making the body crave fat instead of sugar.

Veggies preferred are non-starchy above-ground low carb veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, cabbages, and leafy greens. I’ve substituted spaghetti with zucchini noodles using my spiralizer and honestly don’t miss the pasta!

Onions, garlic, cilantro, and basil are all great additions.

 

Fruits: best are organic berries such as blackberries, blueberries, raspberries. strawberries, as well as lemons and grapefruit. Other fruit like bananas and oranges and tropical fruits like pineapples and mangoes are higher in carbs and should be avoided or minimized.

Alcohol is not recommended on this clinical study diet although red wine (1x /wk is permitted later in the study protocol)  Woo hoo!

We’re instructed to stay within 50 net carbs per day.  To calculate your Net carbs,  look at the label for Total Carbs and subtract Fiber and that = Net carbs.

For example: 1 serving of my Mixed Nut Butter is 7g carbs minus 3g of fiber so it’s 4grams total Net Carbs.

 

Are you afraid that eating fat will make you fat? 

That has been proven scientifically as incorrect. One of the major causes of fat accumulation is inflammation. Being in ketosis reduces inflammation and helps you lose extra fat weight as I’m experiencing first hand.

What to Buy

We’ve been advised to buy organic as much as possible with grass-fed meat and pasture-raised eggs to minimize toxic exposure of antibiotics and GMO’s. Grassfed animal products have the proper ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 to support optimal brain health, fat burning and keep inflammation levels down.  You’d be surprised how much affordable organic food you can find in Costco and Trader Joes.

Measuring Ketone Levels

There are several ways to measure your level of ketosis such as urine strips, breath monitors, and blood meters. The blood ketone reader  (I use Keto Mojo) is the gold standard, most precise and is what we’re using in the study. Here’s a link to the Keto Mojo kit on Amazon.  Although nutritional ketosis is defined as above 0.5 ml/mm, in the clinical study we’re shooting for a ketone level of 1.0 or above ml/mm as that level has been shown to better improve brain function and cognition.  Though it took me a while, I’m now pretty consistently at or above 1.0

Benefits of Ketosis as quoted by Dr. Jockers from DrJockers.com

  1. Reduced inflammation                                                 
  2. Enhanced mitochondrial health
  3. Reduced oxidative stress
  4. Increased mental clarity
  5. Abundant energy levels
  6. Reduced cravings
  7. Accelerated fat burning and Weight Loss
  8. Improved insulin sensitivity
  9. Reduced risk of chronic desease
  10. Improved mood and emotional balance
  11. Healthier Skin
  12. Anti-aging effects

Comment or post your questions below (rather than emailing me) to consolidate things and I’ll answer them as best I can and will try to include them in my next installment!

1st Installment

Do you find yourself forgetting appointments, names, where you put your keys, why you walked in that room you’re in? This is a concern for me.

My family history is steeped in Alzheimer’s Disease. It’s been difficult to witness my 94 y/o dad’s symptom progression. He is the last living sibling of a dozen brothers and sisters, more than half afflicted with this particular disease.

I’m certainly cognizant of my own risk especially as I begin to see my own decline in word recall, orientation, name/faces, etc.  But here’s the good news!

I just qualified to be in a national clinical study that’s administering a multi-modal approach to prevent or reverse cognitive decline. This approach was spearheaded already successfully by Dr. Dale Bredesen, author of the book “The End of Alzheimer’s: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline.”  This is a must-read if you have cognitive concerns. The link above takes you to the book on Amazon. I get no personal gain for recommending this. The science is cutting edge.

As a ReCode (Reversal of Cognitive Decline) clinical study participant, I’m required to be on a gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free, alcohol-free, Ketogenic diet, am being closely monitored by a physician, have had a slew of genetic tests, MRI, blood, poo and pee tests and everything in between. I prick myself daily to check my ketone levels. I’m on bioidentical hormones. I’m also supported by a nutrition coach and fitness coach with specific fitness parameters. Daily I’m required to do brain building games on the computer, and a computer program that promotes mindfulness and stress reduction.

This is a 9-month study and though I miss my latte’s, rice and beans, chocolate and wine/cosmos,  I’m committed to the long haul and choose to focus not on what I’m giving up, but on what I stand to gain.

If any of you are well versed in Keto diets, ping me. I would love to acquire more knowledge and favorite recipes. I can use all the support I can get!

I anticipate learning tons on this journey and will assimilate key learnings into the classes I teach. I look forward to sharing with you here on this platform, any nuggets that might help you on your journey to physical and cognitive health.