I first became interested in brain health when my father, Harry S. Dent, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). One in ten Americans are diagnosed with AD age 65 and older, and one in three age 85 and older. Recent research in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease reveals that as a person’s weight goes up beyond normal, all regions of the brain go down in activity and blood flow. Considering that obesity is also the number one risk factor for all cancers, this is wakeup call for all of us.
In this largest study to date looking at body weight in relation to brain blood flow and activity, scientists analyzed over 35,000 neuroimaging scans using single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT) from more than 17,000 individuals. Low cerebral blood flow is the #1 brain imaging predictor that a person will develop AD. But it is also associated with all neuro-degenerative and mental health diseases such as ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression and Parkinson’s.
“This study shows that being overweight or obese seriously impacts brain activity and increases the risk for Alzheimer’s disease as well as many other psychiatric and cognitive conditions,” explained Daniel G. Amen, MD, the study’s lead author and founder of Amen Clinics, one of the leading brain-centered mental health clinics in the United States. And Dr. Amen is one of my favorite psychiatrists.
Unfortunately, 72 percent of Americans are overweight with 42 percent falling in the obese category. For the future of our country and our brain health, this needs to change. The top ten countries who are most affected by Alzheimer’s include (in the correct order of highest rate): Finland, United States, Canada, Iceland, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, and Belgium.
Amidst the bad news, there is good news. According to the author of the study, Dr. Amen, “One of the most important lessons we have learned through 30 years of performing brain imaging studies is that brains can be improved when you put them in a healing environment by adopting brain-healthy habits.”
And those brain-healthy habits can be found in my book, “Unleash Your God-Given Healing.” Yes, the same eight steps that prevent cancer also prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Think about it. Hydration, exercise and maintaining the proper weight for your body are all key to increasing blood flow to the brain—just to name a few. When weight goes up, brain activity and blood flow goes down. No thanks.
What my family went through because of my dad’s decline with Alzheimer’s disease drove me to begin my research into health and wellness. My cancer journey just caused me to dig deeper. We now know that our brains never lose their capacity to heal and regenerate. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to form new connections and pathways and change how its circuits are wired. Neurogenesis is the even more amazing ability of the brain to grow new neurons. But we must have proper blood flow.
After learning all this, losing that extra 10 to 15 pounds never looked so good! I’ve already lost 10 pounds after hearing the words, “You have cancer.” But there was no need for me to be up 25 to 30 pounds from my weight in my 20’s. Those extra pounds are not helping my body. They can also contribute to higher risk for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, higher risk for cancer, and now decreased brain blood flow and function. This inverse must be reversed. Like the scarecrow, we all have a brain. What we really need to ask is, “Do I have good blood flow?”
How many of you have been touched by dementia or Alzheimer’s disease? How many of you would like to get back to your weight in your twenties?
For Your Heath and for Your Brain,