Strengthen your body and mind: women and Alzheimer’s

Did you know that two-thirds of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease are women? And that we don’t know why? Maria Shriver founded The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement™, a global alliance, to help find out. This month I participated in her annual Move for Minds event, a day focused on the mind/body connection and raising funds to wipe out Alzheimer’s. As Maria says, “Women are at the epicenter of the Alzheimer’s crisis. That’s why we must be at the heart of the solution.”
 
This year Move for Minds events were held on June 4th in 8 cities across the US — Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Orange County, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. I was so honored to speak about food and the mind for the second year in a row at the San Francisco event, and to provide brain-healthy recipes for participants to enjoy. Move for Mind has grown so much, so quickly! From just a few cities to 8 sold-out days!
 
A fun video overview of Move for Minds
 
Jessica Aguirre, the Emmy award-winning evening anchor for Bay Area NBC news moderated our panel in San Francisco, and talked about the picture we have in our minds of what the person with Alzheimer’s looks like — someone in their 70s or 80s, right? But when Jessica shared an inspirational story about a woman with Alzheimer’s who was in the audience and asked her to stand up, we all gasped. She was a fit-looking 58 year-old with early onset disease, there at the event with her family, educating herself and all of us about ways to extend and expand quality of life for people with Alzheimer’s. 

The new face of Alzheimer’s

We used to shudder at the “A” word, and sweep the diagnosis under the rug. Not any more. Now that we know this is a major women’s health issue, many of us are tackling it head on and helping empower people with the knowledge of what can help. In my recent post Good food is memory: the extraordinary Paula Wolfert, I wrote about this ground-breaking cookbook author’s decision to speak up about her own Alzheimer’s diagnosis and her use of food as medicine to help enrich and prolong her quality of life. 

What we know now

Researchers are saying that changes in our minds can begin 20 to 30 years before the disease manifests; and that the choices we make NOW can have a deep impact on delaying disease and influencing our quality of life. Yes, our genetics, ability to detoxify, hormones, environmental and other factors hold risk factors for Alzheimer’s. But the empowering news is that lifestyle — nutrition, exercise, sleep, stimulating cognitive activity, community and stress relief especially — are keys to health that we have in our hands. 
 
At Move for Minds, I spoke about the role food and nutrition plays in helping create a healthy environment in our mind. In my own little private Idaho it’s simple. You’re cutting out refined foods, refined carbs, diet sodas, any sugars that don’t come from a natural form. You’re eating whole foods, painting your plate green, and turning your black and white food into technicolor. For many in the audience, this was an awakening! I am so grateful to be spreading this important news: people who have shifted their way of eating have experienced some success in delaying disease or improving quality of life. 
 
More great information:
 
My recent interview with Dr. Annie Fenn of Brain Works Kitchen
 
Memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s reversed for first time and the work of Dr. Dale Bredesen at UCLA and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging.
 
25 Ways to MEND Memory - UCLA’s personalized program to reverse memory loss.
 
My Healthy Mind Cookbook connects the latest food and brain science straight to the plate. What should you eat to promote a healthy mind? CHECK. Delicious? TOTALLY. My success as a cookbook author is the simple knowledge that if it doesn’t taste good, you won’t eat it. I’ve got you covered :) 

 Healthy Mind Recipes

A popular offering at Move for Minds San Francisco! I use chard and collards, but kale or spinach would be brilliant too — in fact, put it this way: if you think Popeye would eat it, it’s in. The flavor enhancers are onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, and lemon zest, with a yellow potato thrown in for creaminess. The whole pot gets blended, and you’ll swear you’re eating emeralds! It’s a smart, calming, mind-loving soup.

Some foods just look like they should be good for the mind. Take cauliflower. Kind of like walnuts, it visually reminds you of the brain. And sure enough, cauliflower is a brain-boosting superstar, filled with B vitamins, omega-3s, phosphorus, and manganese. It helps in liver detoxification, and a happy liver—the body’s vacuum cleaner for toxic metals—makes for a happy brain. And this dish is A+ for color, texture, and flavor. 

Yes, you can still eat VERY delicious foods to promote a healthy mind! Lime juice, cumin, coriander, jalapeño (za-zing!), olive oil, and avocado provide thrilling flavor for shrimp in this popular recipe. Yum, yum, yum.

A frittata is an Italian omelet but, unlike the French version, you don’t have to figure out how to do that funky half-flip with the eggs in the pan. Frittatas bake, and in Italy they’re often eaten at room temperature: they really are a good on-the-go food. The eggs are also a great binder for the greens, which include kale, chard, and spinach. Add some red bell pepper, marjoram, thyme, and feta, and you’ve got a super protein hit for lunch on the go—just the thing to keep your brain working optimally throughout the day. And man, I love the leftovers :)

FEEL EMPOWERED! THE ELEPHANT IS COMING OUT FROM UNDER THE RUG. WHETHER YOU ARE DEALING WITH THE DISEASE OR HELPING AS A CAREGIVER, CONCERNED ABOUT CONTRACTING ALZHEIMER’S OR EAGER TO HELP A FRIEND — STAND UP! STRENGTHEN YOUR BODY AND MIND. BE PART OF THE SOLUTION :)