If you could protect yourself from the illness you fear most, what would it be?
Cancer? Heart disease? When I ask my patients this question, I almost always get the same answer: memory loss.
The brain is the very essence of your being. Every day it fires up all your senses, brings you pleasure (and yes, pain), catalogues a lifetime of memories, solves an array of problems, and connects you to the world around you. It makes you human. You can live with a mechanical joint, without kidneys on dialysis, with a transplanted heart, liver, or other organ, but nothing can substitute for a healthy brain. Without memory, we require constant care from family, friends, or total strangers, and we become a burden on the people we love the most. Like many other physicians, I put memory loss at the top of the list of conditions I wish we could permanently vanquish.
Despite billions of dollars of research, we’ve had no significant cures for medical problems such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (the most common form of memory loss). In the United States, we now have nearly 6 million people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and the annual bill for dementia care now tops $215 billion, more than is spent on cancer or heart disease. The number of victims is predicted to increase 200 percent by 2030, and to increase 400 percent by 2050—that’s 24 million Americans with this disease—when the cost of Alzheimer’s care will exceed $1.5 trillion yearly. On a global level, the numbers are even more staggering. In 2010 there were 36 million people with Alzheimer’s; in 2015, at its current rate, there will be 115 million men and women worldwide with disabling memory loss—a 320 percent increase.
On a more personal level, if you have experienced a loved one struggling with dementia, you will undoubtedly agree it’s a disease that unravels the life of the sufferer and upends the lives of family and friends as well. Its costs are far more than financial, and it can last for years. With Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for up to 70 percent of all dementias, the end result is the same. It is always fatal, as we do not have any effective treatments or cures.
In fact, we’re facing two urgent epidemics right now: escalating rates of disabling memory loss, and rapidly increasing rates of diabetes and pre-diabetes. As research has now proven, these conditions are intimately connected. But here is a life-changing fact: Diabetes and memory loss are largely preventable.
Before I tell you more, let me explain how my work as a heart guy led me to the brain. I don’t think of myself that way, but because I’m known for my work in preventing and reversing heart disease, some people do. (I’m the author of The 30-Day Heart Tune-Up
and created the PBS special 30 Days to a Younger Heart.
) It’s true that as a physician and a nutritionist, I’ve dedicated much of my professional life to showing people how to stop heart disease. Now I want to help prevent another looming health crisis.
Thirty years ago as a medical resident, I focused on cardiovascular research, though I ultimately chose to become a family physician. I wanted to help heal the whole person
, not just the heart, and I was more interested in preventing people from developing heart disease than in treating heart disease itself. Decades later, when I designed my medical clinic, the Masley Optimal Health Center, to assess and optimize aging, I knew that cardiovascular disease was—and still is—the #1 killer of Americans. I wanted to create treatments that would help with its prevention, and in some cases, its complete reversal.
We’ve come a long way in our fight against heart disease, and it’s possible to prevent 90 percent of all heart attacks and strokes, if people follow a simple plan like mine. If someone comes to me with existing heart disease, I’ve also been able to help shrink their arterial plaque, the dangerous inflammatory substance that builds up in the arteries as a result of diet and other lifestyle factors—and in the process prevent memory loss.
I’ve studied arterial plaque growth and its connection to various lifestyle factors that accelerate or reverse this deadly condition. I’ve presented my data to the American Heart Association, the American College of Nutrition, and the American Academy of Family Physicians, and my book and PBS program are based on my findings.
Simply put, arterial plaque growth leads to heart attacks, strokes, and sudden death. We know it causes heart disease, but it belongs in this discussion about the brain because it has emerged as one of the most powerful predictors of memory loss and cognitive dysfunction, including Alzheimer’s disease. Longitudinal data collected in my clinic powerfully illustrates this link between arterial plaque growth and the loss of cognitive function and brain speed.
Here’s another key connection between arterial plaque growth and brain health decline: both are closely linked to poor blood sugar control, which is triggered not only by diet but by a variety of lifestyle choices. Uncontrolled blood sugar isn’t just an issue for those with diagnosed diabetes. Many people with abnormal blood sugar levels, including those who are insulin resistant and pre-diabetic, seek a doctor’s care only when they’re in crisis. (Insulin resistance is the body’s inability to respond to insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels.) But tens of millions of Americans are utterly unaware of their elevated blood sugar levels, caused by diet and lifestyle, and they are at much greater risk for advanced memory loss.
The risk of dementia is escalating at epidemic proportions precisely because of the insulin resistance, prediabetes, and diabetes that results from out-of-control blood sugar, brought on by the Standard American Diet (known as SAD, high in sugar and bad fats, making it sad indeed). Nearly 30 million Americans have diabetes (1.2 million have type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disorder); another whopping 86 million have prediabetes, meaning they are at risk for full-blown diabetes (plus accelerated memory loss and heart disease) unless they adapt healthier diets and lifestyles. On top of that, likely one-third of the U.S. adult population has undiagnosed insulin resistance, and if you are a baby boomer, there is a 50 percent chance that you are afflicted.
Our brain function hinges on normal insulin activity, but when we make diet and lifestyle choices that impede insulin from regulating our blood sugar, we seriously damage our cognitive function and starve our brain’s nerve cells. We actually kill off a part of our brain as these cells shrink and die. That is how poor blood sugar control can lead to memory loss and dementia. The connection between these conditions is now irrefutable. The evidence is overwhelming that if we want to prevent memory loss and disability, we need to achieve better blood sugar control.
Having insulin resistance or pre-diabetes can make you up to 60 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s—the most common cause of dementia—than someone with normal blood sugar and insulin levels. And our current health care system is set up to intervene and “help” only those who suffer from advanced dementia; those treatments, for the most part, are limited to drug therapies that have shown no meaningful success.
Unfortunately, none of the current drugs used to treat advanced memory loss actually stop the progression of the disease. (As of this writing, about 200 drugs have received approval from the Food and Drug Administration for fighting memory loss, but none seem to do so effectively.) The only solution, therefore, is to focus on methods that can enhance our cognitive performance now
and to either stop or slow early cognitive decline before it’s too late. That is precisely why my results with my clinic patients are very good news for anyone
with a brain.
For over a decade, I have been measuring brain function and more than one hundred aspects of aging in my clinic, plus I have watched thousands of patients who follow my program become mentally sharper and quicker and turn back the clock on aging. I have the published results to prove it: the men and women who follow my Better Brain Solution—the same plan I’m going to share with you—experience a 25 percent improvement in executive brain function, improve their heart health, shrink arterial plaque, get their blood sugar under control, and have much more energy than before. In many cases, weight loss is a beneficial side effect. And these improvements aren’t fleeting. In patients I’ve tracked over the years, the changes are lasting.
The key is identifying memory loss ten, twenty, or even thirty years in advance, well before you even notice that you forgot why you walked into the dining room, what your neighbor’s name is, or where you parked the car. With my early intervention to slowing and preventing memory loss and cognitive decline, you too can experience a major boost in brain function, heart health, and energy and a whole host of other benefits. What to Expect, Brain and Body
My Better Brain Solution provides all the tools you will need to protect your brain, but it’s up to you to use them. If you do, you can expect some fantastic results—including being mentally sharper and more physically fit and drastically reducing your risks for memory loss and heart disease. I will be asking you to move your body a little more and say goodbye to SAD, the Standard American Diet (filled with everyday foods like juice, cereal, and toast for breakfast; sandwiches and chips or fast food for lunch; candy or soda for a pick-me-up; pizza or burgers and fries for dinner). Whether we’re talking about diet or lifestyle, if your current comfort foods and old habits set you up for serious health problems and decrease your performance at work and at play (even in the bedroom), it’s time to find a new path. You may have to take some things off your plate, but you will be adding some delicious alternatives, including specific nutrients that will boost your health and performance.
It all comes down to change. I want to help you change how you feel, for the better. I want to change our health-care system from its current focus on end-stage therapy to prevention, and I want to change how we as a society think about food and health.
The information in the book will be backed by the most current research, as well as compelling data from my own clinical practice, and include fifty nourishing recipes. (If you’re concerned that these brain and heart-healthy recipes will taste like cardboard, fear not. As a physician, a nutritionist, and someone who completed a chef internship at the Four Seasons Restaurant in Seattle, I can assure you that this food will be easy to prepare and delicious, and that your family and friends will love it.)
No matter how old you are or what your state of health may be, ask yourself: Who among us wouldn’t benefit from being 25 percent mentally sharper and quicker? If you follow the Better Brain Solution, you can look forward to feeling focused and getting more work done in less time, and growing trimmer and fitter, while preventing heart disease and protecting against memory loss. Your stamina will increase, and you will have more fun, including better romantic function. You can look forward to the pleasures of a long, rich life, made possible by a healthy brain and strong body.
When it comes to brain health, it’s not too late to reverse damage, and it’s never too early to prevent it. (And the same can be said for heart health as well.) Promises
Here are my promises to you. I will offer you:
• An easy-to-understand connection between blood sugar control, heart disease, and memory loss
• A practical way to assess your cognitive function
• A list of factors that increase your risk for memory loss and tips to stop them in their tracks
• A medically sound program to improve your brain function
• A scientifically proven plan to help prevent memory loss
• Recipes that are easy to prepare, with foods that are great for your brain and body, and that your family and friends will love to eat
• Activities that will tune up your brain, rev your metabolism, and help you get trim and sexy
• A program that you can share with your partner, spouse, children, and/or parents, that is safe for all ages
• A plan that is realistic if you have a busy schedule
• Results that you can feel and measure within thirty days
Copyright © 2018 by Steven Masley, M.D.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.