Adopting a healthier lifestyle is something we should all strive to do. In the long run, it will mean a longer and happier life, because your body will be more capable of dealing with stressors. It will also be better able to resist many of the health issues that affect us as we age.
This is especially important when it comes to brain health and Alzheimer’s disease. People who suffer from mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease have many metabolic imbalances that can be found with the right lab testing (even before symptoms appear). Most of these issues can be improved through lifestyle.
These imbalances are related to a wide range of factors, including nutrient deficiencies, poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle, inflammation, infections, stress, toxicity, and more.
The ReCODE protocol addresses these issues through a functional health approach. This involves lab testing to discover the particular factors that are putting your brain health at risk, followed by lifestyle changes to address them.
Adopting the ReCODE Lifestyle
The ReCODE lifestyle focuses on five major areas, namely diet, rest, exercise, stress reduction, and supplementation. I first learned this model in my FDN training and we call it D.R.E.S.S. for Health Success. It's the same model taught to practitioners in Dr. Bredesen's ReCODE training. And both also include looking upstream for the actual causes of disease instead of trying to medicate a symptom. Lab testing plays an important role, but the basic lifestyle adjustments can be made without it. You see, taking care of your brain health requires taking care of your overall health because everything is connected. There are so many things to consider, and that’s even before you’ve been tested to discover your specific risk factors.
However, just remember that the key to success is baby steps. You don’t have to overhaul your entire life in one go. Start small and work your way up. You’ll have more time to adjust and won’t feel quite so overwhelmed.
If you’re not sure where to start with the ReCODE protocol, or what you should be doing, or you simply want a step-by-step guide, then check out my upcoming course.
Now, let's take a quick look at each of the 5 areas and what they mean in terms of lifestyle adjustments.
Diet: Adopting Brain Healthy Nutrition
What you eat is essential to your brain health and overall well-being. The food you use to fuel your body affects your health constantly. If you aren’t eating the right things, you can end up with serious nutrient deficiencies, inflammation, and oxidative stress.
You can also find yourself suffering from obesity, insulin resistance, and intestinal problems. All these issues are closely connected to what you eat and can have a significant impact on the health of your brain.
Eating the right food can improve all the aforementioned issues.
You can improve your diet in a number of ways, including by eliminating refined carbs, increasing healthy fats, eating more vegetables, decreasing or eliminating refined sugar, and eating high-fiber foods.
When you eat can also help. Time-restricted eating also referred to as intermittent fasting, has been linked to weight loss, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, less inflammation, and improved cardiovascular health, which have been shown to improve brain health.
Some examples of good diets you can follow that promote brain health while also being sustainable include the Mediterranean diet, the Mind food plan, and a mostly plant-based Ketogenic diet.
Just remember, you aren't "going on a diet" for a short-term result. Instead, you're making lifestyle changes that include your diet for a long-term solution.
Rest: Improve Sleep Quality
We’ve all become so accustomed to poor sleep that many of us don’t realize what it feels like to be truly rested. What’s worse is that many people don’t realize the importance of good sleep and how poor sleep can negatively affect health.
Here are just a few reasons why sleep is so critical:
Sleep improves brain function as it promotes autophagy, which is a critical process that regulates memory and detoxifies the brain.
As part of the autophagy process, the body clears amyloid from the brain during sleep.
Good sleep helps to improve cognitive function, including learning, decision-making, creativity, problem solving, and focus.
Sleep is your body’s downtime when it heals and repairs daily wear and tear, including blood vessels.
Good sleep ensures your hormones are healthily balanced and also affects how your body processes insulin, which reduces the risk of insulin resistance.
Sleep improves your immune system.
Many of the health issues people experience today can be tied to poor sleep, which is why it’s so important that you take steps to improve sleep quality.
A few ways you can get better sleep include:
Get to bed earlier so you can get the amount of sleep you need – most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep.
Set up your bedroom properly, including regulating the temperature, making sure it’s very dark, unplugging or removing electronic devices, and so on.
Stay away from electronic screens for at least an hour before bedtime.
Meditate or practice some other form of de-stressing activity before bed to let your brain relax.
Exercise: Get Your Body (and your mind) Moving
Exercise is vital for your brain-body health. When combined with a healthy diet, it has been proven to reduce the risk of many diseases and health conditions. It also helps to improve:
Exercise also promotes the production of BDNF, brain derived neurotrophic factor, which helps in the creation and protection of brain cells.
Exercise falls under three categories, namely lifestyle, structured, and cognitive. Lifestyle exercise refers to the movement you engage in throughout the day while living your life.
Structured exercise refers to any activity you engage in to purposely increase your heart rate, muscle tone, and flexibility. It can mean aerobics classes, strength training, pilates, bike riding, swimming, and so on.
Finally, there’s cognitive exercise. Though we don’t often think of it in these terms, the brain is just like a muscle – the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. The best form of cognitive exercise is to learn a new skill that is completely unrelated to anything you already know, such as learning a foreign language.
The brain exercise program Brain HQ can also be used for strengthening connections in the brain related to memory, attention and processing.
Stress: Minimize the Risks of Chronic Stress
Stress is a natural part of our physiology. On the one hand, there’s negative stress or distress, which is the body’s way of preparing to deal with danger.
When a person is faced with a challenge or threat, the body floods your system with chemicals and hormones that enable you to better respond to the situation. This can either be to stay and deal with the challenge, or to run away, which is why it is also called the flight-or-fight response.
The other side of the coin is the good kind of stress, also called eustress. This type of stress is temporary and positive. It’s commonly the result of nerves caused by an enjoyable challenge. It helps to keep people motivated and feeling good about life.
One example of eustress is that great feeling you get when you buy a house, start a new job, or ride a rollercoaster.
In our case, we have to focus on distress, and not just any distress, but the chronic variety. Distress is not always a bad thing, but when it becomes chronic, it can have many negative effects. In fact, chronic stress has been linked to many health conditions and has been shown to be a contributing factor to Alzheimer’s disease.
Some of the health conditions that are the result of chronic stress, include indigestion, insomnia, headaches, depression, brain fog, memory problems, weakened immune system, and more.
Minimizing stress, therefore, is essential for your brain health.
Some strategies you can adopt include:
Adopting more positive thinking
Practicing meditation and/or yoga
Engaging in mindful breathing
Strengthening your relationships with family and friends.
Supplements: Gain an Extra Edge in Maintaining Brain Health
In an ideal world, you wouldn’t need supplements because you’d get all the nutrients you needed from your food. The reality, though, is that our food isn’t as nutritious as it should be, and most of us don’t eat everything we need to avoid nutrient deficiencies. Poor lifestyle habits also lead to deficiencies and imbalances.
We know that oxidative stress, micronutrient and mineral deficiencies, a poor Omega 6:3 ratio, too much copper and too little zinc, inflammation, high homocysteine, insulin resistance and toxins all play a role in the development of Alzheimer's disease.
The right supplements help to correct these problems. However, everyone has different needs, which is where lab testing comes in.
You really shouldn't load up on supplements without the benefit of your personal data and a good understanding of what it means. For instance, too much zinc increases copper - too much copper decreases zinc. Your copper: zinc ratio is very important for your brain health so you need to know what it is before you start taking those supplements.... you may not even need to worry about it but you won't know if you don't test.
Additionally, the supplement world is confusing and unregulated.
In my online coaching course, you'll learn exactly what you need to know to make better decisions for yourself.
Putting It All Together...
Congratulations on getting through all that information! If it sounds like a combination of every New Year's Resolution you've ever made then you know how challenging it can be to put it all into action.
Here are a few next steps that will get you started...