Evidence-Backed Lifestyle Habits to incorporate for Long-term Brain Health [Episode #837]
This week’s topic is: Evidence-Backed Lifestyle Habits to incorporate for Long-term Brain Health
I’m very excited to share about this topic today because just last week I spoke at the Alzheimer’s Association event in LA with different experts and business executives and people that were part of the Alzheimer’s Association and in the health world. What I was speaking about was different lifestyle measures for our long-term brain health.
And what the evidence is showing is there are many other brain disorders that we want to protect ourselves from, including dementia, epilepsy, Parkinson’s, and others. What the evidence is showing is that the earlier that we start in our lives to make lifestyle shifts and changes, the more we protect ourselves. It’s really important. This is not just an old person’s disease, however, something that we want to start thinking about in our twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, earlier in life because our brain health is affected over all these decades.
There are 4 main areas of lifestyle habits that we want to incorporate, and they very much fit into our Four Cornerstones that we speak about so much here, food, body, emotional wellbeing, and spiritual growth. I love that this conversation is coming up because it’s really, really important. And these are all doable, simple measures that we can incorporate.
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Kimberly: 00:00 Namaste loves and welcome back to our Monday solocast show where our topic today is Evidence-Based Lifestyle Habits to incorporate for Long-Term Brain Health. And I’m very excited to share about this topic today because just last week I spoke at the Alzheimer’s Association event in la. It was a beautiful ballroom event, sort of like a wedding with all the round tables filled with different experts and business executives and people that were part of the Alzheimer’s Association, people in the health world. And what I was speaking about was different lifestyle measures for our long-term brain health. And what the evidence is showing is that, of course, this was specifically an Alzheimer’s event, but there’s many other brain disorders that we want to protect ourselves from, including dementia, epilepsy, Parkinson’s, and others. What the evidence is showing is that the earlier that we start in our lives to make lifestyle shifts and changes, which is what we talk about here so much on our show at Sauna, the more we protect ourselves.
01:19 So it’s really important. This is not just a old person’s disease, but something that we want to start thinking about in our twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, right earlier in life because again, our brain health happens over or it accumulates. It’s affected over all these decades. So we’ll talk about it today. There are four main areas of lifestyle habits that we want to incorporate, and they very much fit into our four cornerstones that we speak about so much here, food, body, emotional wellbeing, and spiritual growth. So it was really exciting to be at this event and most of the health experts and the board, even of the Alzheimer’s that came, and their main chapter I believe is in Chicago, but there was people from the organization from all around the country. There were different doctors, there were executives from different businesses, there was a lot of young people. And I love that this conversation is coming up because it’s really, really important. And these are all doable, simple measures that we can incorporate.
Before we go even deeper into the show, just a little reminder that if you’d like to ask me a question, you can submit it in the podcast tab over at mysolluna.com/askkimberly/, which is our main hub. You’ll also find our digestive based supplements, our courses, articles, other podcasts I think you would enjoy are hundreds of amazing simple plant-based recipes, meditations, and more. There is so much over there. So I encourage you to take some time peek around, take advantage of all that we’ve created for you and that you can benefit from. So again, that’s on our website, mysolluna.com.
Solocast: Evidence-Backed Lifestyle Habits to incorporate for Long-term Brain Health
03:32 Alright, so let’s get right into our show today. And as I mentioned, it was really exciting for me to be on stage and to speak at this event. I was really honored. So many of us are touched by I family members, relatives, those in our circle that are suffering from Alzheimer’s or other brain disorders. I believe that the statistic that they shared at the event was about 50% of Americans over the age of 85 have some level of Alzheimer’s. Now what’s really interesting is that when you look to the blue Zones, for those of you that have heard my podcasts with Dan Buettner or read any of his Blue Zones books, let me back up for a second. The blue zones are the countries in the world where the people have the longest rates of longevity and experience the least amount of degenerative diseases. And what we notice in these communities is that in particular, they have very low levels of neurological brain disorders. So the fact that the numbers are really high in the United States in general and certain other countries shows us that there are undoubtedly lifestyle factors at play and we want to be aware of them.
04:48 We want to live them. We want to encourage our family members and loved ones to adopt some of these habits because again, we’re all in this and there’s nothing more heartbreaking than having family members that start to decline cognitively. So part of this event, as I mentioned, it was like a wedding. There was tray past. It was very fancy, it was very beautiful when it was beautifully dressed. You can go over my Instagram and check out some of the pictures. Getty was there. There was a step and repeat. And it was really this emphasis and then this intention to spread awareness that this isn’t something that we want to think about when we’re in our sixties, seventies, eighties. It’s something that we want to think about now. And I give a lot of credit to the Alzheimer’s Association for really being so research focused and evidence-based, but also very broad.
05:50 I was happily surprised to hear about some of their recommendations and how lifestyle based they were. So in the lead up to the event, I studied their research, we had many calls and zooms and talked about the evidence that was coming out. And I also discussed it with Dr. April Thames, who is a neuropsychologist and leads the research on brain health at UCLA. So it’s an exciting time where we have a lot in our control. And so we want to feel empowered that we can do something. There’s actually a lot we can do for our brain health. It’s not out of reach. It’s not just waiting until, oh, this can happen to me or family members. We want to take it. We want to use our own power to shift our lifestyle. And it’s very exciting. As I mentioned, there’s countries in the world where there’s a lot of people over 85, 95, a hundred, over a hundred that are experiencing very sharp cognitive functioning and memory recall and so on.
07:06 And so we know this is possible. So I want to talk about the four lifestyle factors and expand on them a bit that were the ones that the Alzheimer’s Association found in their research to be the most important in brain health and preventing.
The 4 Lifestyle Factors for Evidence-Backed Lifestyle Habits to incorporate for Long-term Brain Health
So the first is diet. And we’ll go into great specificity about exactly which diet protocols were most recommended. Number two is exercise with an emphasis on cardiovascular exercise, which we’ll also dive into. Number three is excellent sleep and we’ll talk about that. And number four was community, which I thought was really interesting and maintaining a sense of connection to others, which is also an attribute that we see so beautifully displayed in the blue zones where the elders are maintaining an important position in the community. They’re teaching, they’re respected, they are spending time together, they’re spending time with family members, they’re eating meals together.
08:15 And there’s a lot of research around isolation and depression now and what that does to the brain that fits into our emotional wellbeing cornerstone. And also as we discussed that part, I would argue our spiritual growth cornerstone as well because it’s really important that we feel connected within ourselves before we can connect more deeply to others, connect to the true self inside of us. Let’s dive right in.
#1 Evidence-Backed Lifestyle Habits to incorporate for Long-term Brain Health Lifestyle Factor: Diet
The first lifestyle factor that we want to make sure that we’re really paying attention to is diet. And as I was speaking on stage to the guests the other day, there’s so much confusing and conflicting information about diet today that many people do still do not know what to eat for dinner. They do not know what they are supposed to be eating. I’m going to give you some broad strokes here that we’ve discussed in different ways, but I just want to emphasize it from this perspective of brain health.
09:15 So the first thing to remember is that the heart and the brain are really connected. And this has a lot to do with coherence. This has to do with our clarity, which I actually discuss in great length in my new book, which delves into these topics. The more aligned our heart and our brain are, the more we’re able to be resilient against stress and the better decision-making we have and so on. More healthy we are, the more energy efficient we are. And not surprisingly then the foods that are great for your heart are also great for your brain. So let’s start with omega fats, really healthy fats. So in countries, as I mentioned, the blue zones, especially in Greece and Italy, they’re blue zones there where they’re following the Mediterranean diet and they’re ingesting olive oil. And we want to make sure as well that we are using really high quality oils.
10:18 This is why I’ve always emphasized it’s great to learn some simple recipes and cook them at home because when we’re out in restaurants, we don’t have control over what oils are being used. And a lot of the times cheaper oils or seed oils, vegetable oils are being used, which can be inflammatory and have high amounts of omega sixes. And this creates inflammation in the body, which can create inflammation in the brain. So we want to use olive oil, we want to cook with coconut oil, which is metabolized. Well, we want to, especially this is, I recommend across the board as taking A-E-P-A-D-H, a algae based supplement as I do every day to make sure that we’re getting the proper amount of omega threes that our body’s able to utilize, that we can utilize for our brain health and our heart health. And we can also ingest chia seeds.
11:22 This morning I made pancakes for my kits and as an egg replacer, I always use the chia seed egg, which is basically chia seeds mixed with water. So chia seeds get a lot of play in my family. They’re wonderful. When you soak them in water, they create, it’s this gel of soluble and insoluble fiber that’s really great. You can work it into your kids’ recipes. As I mentioned, you can make chia pudding. There’s also flax seeds and walnuts and other wonderful sources of omega fats. We want to avoid saturated fat from red meat and trans fats, which are in processed foods as well. Those foods have been shown to be inflammatory and clogging to the heart and to brain health. And so when we look at these regions in the world, once again, the blue zones where people are experiencing low levels of degenerative brain diseases, we’re seeing very low levels of red meat consumed.
12:28 They all have in fact high plant-based diets and they still do eat animal products, but when they do, the amounts are much, much smaller. The next component of diet that we want to focus on is antioxidants. So colorful, beautiful plant foods. And in particular what was shown to have a protective effect was vitamin E and vitamin K. And these foods you can find in green leafy vegetables, you can find them when you’re, again, you don’t have to hyper fixate, but just think seasonal, think fresh. Lots of plant foods which also contain fiber, different colors, carrots and beets. And when I look in our fridge, I always want to see a rainbow of colors when I choose our foods at the market. I think in rainbow terms, which is how Ayurveda has also taught about eating, is making sure you’re eating the rainbow and all these beautiful colors.
13:31 And then we get the nutrients that we need naturally simply from eating closer to the earth’s bounty. And then thirdly, we want to limit salt. And I mentioned this already, saturated fatty red meat and trans fats. We want to make sure that we’re eating in a way that our body is best able to digest the foods. So I had the pleasure of creating the menu for this event. I believe there was 150 people there and I worked with the chef. They were quite accommodating. We added plant-based options, including a little avocado toast bruschetta. One of the mains that was offered was an Indian style kebab. It was delicious and curry rice, and there was a salmon option for those that wanted to eat some animal products. And there were some other options. But when I first looked at the menu, it was quite heavy. I have to admit, there was New England style clam chowder with lots of cream.
14:40 And I said to them, Hey, we need to make sure that we’re only cooking with olive oil here. They took out all the seed oils from the menu. We took out the heavy dessert. There was a trio of fruit-based sorbet, nice light dessert as well. So it was nice to see how people enjoyed the food. And people felt really great after eating lunch and they didn’t feel weighed down. They had more energy. And this is possible for all of us just to look at our diets and say, Hey, where can I make this more fresh or tighten things up or use better oil or eat out less, or whatever it is. And it’s small, simple steps that really add up.
#2 Evidence-Backed Lifestyle Habits to incorporate for Long-term Brain Health Lifestyle Factor: Exercise
So the second lifestyle component I want to talk about is exercise. And cardiovascular exercise in particular was shown to help blood flow to the brain, which allowed more nutrients to come to the brain, which created new brain cells and it helped to reduce waste.
15:44 Sometimes we think about cardiovascular and we think, oh, I have to do these super intense workouts. It’s going to be really hard to fit in or to keep up with. But there was a fitness expert speaking there as well. And she said that even 10 minutes a day is really beneficial. And I will say again that we note this with the blue zones, they’re not going to gyms, they’re gardening, they’re walking to their friend’s house or to the church up the hill. They’re simply living more naturally active lifestyles. And I can say for myself, I used to live in New York City, some of, and I used to walk to everything. Now I do a intentional walk. I will say I’m not walking to errands and I do use a fair amount of Instacart because we live here and it’s just so much time saving to have groceries delivered and other items.
16:43 But I do walk for an hour a day. I try to, or let’s say at least four days a week, five days a week in my neighborhood, which is quite hilly. And it gives me a chance to be outside in the fresh air to get a break from screens to reset mentally and emotionally. So I think there’s a big, yes, the research shows it’s helping to cleanse our brain cells, but also these intangible factors, which I also spoke of at the talk, these things that can’t necessarily be measured, they’ve attempted to measure. There’s forest bathing from Japan and grounding and all these things, but there’s so much benefit, I believe, to being out in the fresh air just to simply walk around nature. And if you have access to living near hills and you can get a bit of a more intense cardio workout that way, that’s wonderful.
17:37 Or if you’re in a flat area, you can also try to walk a little bit more briskly. Or if you prefer jogging, swimming, dancing, cycling, whatever it is, we want to get heart rate up. We want to get that circulation going. And again, it doesn’t have to feel super intense. We want it to be consistent so we do it. I know if I had to run, I just wouldn’t do it. I would maybe force myself a few times, but it wouldn’t be something that I would stick to because I don’t enjoy running at all I did when I was younger, only to get skinny, only to try to have a certain type of body shape, not because I enjoyed it, whereas I actually truly authentically do enjoy my walks. So see how you can incorporate that. Oh, before I close out, I want to say with your kids, pushing a stroller, playing outside, playing games. I play different racket sports with my sons or soccer. All this activity counts and it doesn’t have to be so formal, as I mentioned, is doing an exercise class or going to the gym or running on a treadmill. If you enjoy those things, great, but if you don’t like me, you just want to try to live a more active lifestyle, and that’s great for your brain long-term.
#3 Evidence-Backed Lifestyle Habits to incorporate for Long-term Brain Health Lifestyle Factor: Sleep
18:23 Number three is sleep. And many of us don’t sleep well today. I used to be a terrible sleeper. I have since changed my ways. I’m happy to say I’m now a very good sleeper considering that most nights both of my kids end up in the bed with us and there’s kicking and there’s rolling over on mama, but I still sleep pretty well.
19:25 And I’ll talk about that in a moment. Some of the habits I have that have contributed to that. But the reason sleep is really important is that when we sleep, our brains actually detoxify. This is the time where the brain regenerates itself, and there are proteins, amyloid proteins, which can build up in the brain over time. And if they’re not detoxed properly, these proteins can contribute to Alzheimer’s. So again, we want to look at these lifestyle factors much earlier than before. We have a problem. And we want to start to look at our sleep habits now and say, be honest with ourselves. How am I sleeping?
20:10 Is there things I need to work on here? Do I need to rethink my sleep hygiene and my habits? Because we don’t want to rely and over, over-reliant medications, we want to make sure that we are consistent with our good sleep habits. So one of the things that the research in my new book shows is that irritation, anger, fear, which can all be provoked by watching the news too late or having a stressful conversation with our friends. All of this can jar our system and have an effect on our hormones and our immunity for six hours, right? So if we’re thinking about in the evening time, we want to start to slow down and calm down and come towards a restful sleep cycle. We want to be on the news earlier in the day. We want to have those stressful work conversations or family conversations earlier in the day because all of that is disruptive to our sleep.
21:20 And this is where all the cornerstones connect because whilst sleep falls in the body, cornerstone, emotional wellbeing and our emotions, this energy that’s running through us has a profound effect on our sleep, right? Just as food does. If we eat too late in the evening, we will be actively digesting food when we’re supposed to be resting, and our energy can be used for other functions including detoxifying the amyloid proteins from our brains. So everything works together. So what I suggest, and we’ve talked about this in other shows, and we will link to some other shows from sleep experts, is that we want to create a routine. We want to get off screens earlier. We definitely want to stay off the news and anything that feels jarring or stressful, and there’s quite a bit of that right now on the news, isn’t there. If we do have to check our phone, if we are going to be watching something, hopefully light, we do want to wear a blue light blocking glasses, want to create some type of routine to relax.
22:24 For me, it’s taking a shower, drinking a hot elixir, taking detoxy, reflecting, journaling, reading a hard copy book. I don’t like reading eBooks personally. Just another screen for me, restfulness means really stepping away from screens. And we like to do our family’s very touchy hugs. Husband likes to give me massages in the evenings or I like it a lot. So he is compliant and supportive and that just feels really nourishing. Just all these simple things help us sleep better. And there is something really healing about touch. So whether you can trade with your partner or give yourself an Ab Bianca Oil massage or at least rub your feet with lotion. We have some articles and such on ab Bgo, which is something I wrote about in the Radical Beauty book with Deepak Chopra, which is a form of Ayurvedic self massage. These are all resources we have available to you, which I highly recommend.
23:34 Touch, helps to soothe the nervous system and bring you into the here and now. This was something that my teacher, Dr. Jay, was so emphatic about, this idea of coming into this moment and breathing. The mind always likes to go into fear of the future, remembrances of the past, but when we’re here, we sleep better. When we’re here, we are relaxed and we can just drop into our bodies and drift off because that’s what our bodies are designed to do is sleep. But it’s the mind that keeps going that keeps us up. So we want to rest the mind and the body being here in the body. Also taking deep breaths and meditating in the evening, which I always do as well after the kids are in asleep. I sit in front of our altar in our bedroom, light a candle, take some time to connect within and to the true self, to spirit, to give thanks for the day and to relax.
24:36 And that’s one of the big things I think is missing from our culture today, is this emphasis on down, what’s the word that I’m looking for? I want to say downplaying, but starting to relax. Shift down the tone of the day. Doesn’t have to be so sensory, so loud that it’s not conducive to sleep. So again, the brain detoxifies at night. One of the most important things is that you focus on sleep now and throughout your life.
#4 Evidence-Backed Lifestyle Habits to incorporate for Long-term Brain Health Lifestyle Factor: Community
25:48 And then number four, what the Alzheimer’s organization brought forward was this idea of engagement with community. So yes, engagement with cognitive functions. We’ve always heard as people get older, they should be doing crossword puzzles and reading and taking classes and learning languages and other ways to keep up the neuro pathways in the brain, and that’s wonderful as well. But the fourth one that they wanted us to focus on when we were talking was this idea of staying connected to community. And there is interesting research around depression, isolation, what that does to our brain functionality, it’s all starting to be measured by western science, which is amazing because I think intuitive. We know that it’s really important for us to stay connected to each other. It feels healthier that way. And it’s also really important to feel connected to yourself if you’re up in your head all the time, as I mentioned, a lot of people don’t really know how to take care of themselves or they’re uncomfortable being alone. They start to feel lonely when you really connect to the true self inside of you. This has been my personal experience. Yes, it’s wonderful to share life with others and it’s fun and it’s great and we have these great experiences, but you don’t need people in the same way because it’s impossible to feel lonely when you’re deeply connected to yourself.
26:47 So we find that connection through stillness, through getting into the spine, the meditations going into our heart. Soon we’ll be publishing our heart align meditations on our website. We did an incredible study with the HeartMath Institute recently and found that we were able to increase coherence 29% by doing this meditation four times a week. What that means is as your heart and your brain sink out more, you don’t feel that loneliness so much. You feel this inner connection, right? If we were able to measure the connection to the true self, this would be one of the closest ways we could do it. So yes, connection to community, staying connected, meeting up with loved ones, making space in your life for that. But I would also say making space to connect with yourself first and foremost, and to feel comfortable and start to love yourself truly, maybe for the first time. And then that opens up the space to connect more deeply with others. Then we can feel safe, then we can feel close to them, then we can feel inspired to show ourselves more and to get out there more. So it really starts with that beautiful inner connection.
28:09 So we will link in the show notes to some of this research from the Alzheimer’s Association, should you want to go a little bit deeper into it. Once again, the four that we really focused on today were diet, especially heart healthy diets for brain health. Number two was cardiovascular exercise. Number three was proper sleep, excellent sleep. And number four was community and staying connected. And so these are four that are doable. We can work to incorporate them into our lives starting today. Again, as we’ve always said here, it’s not all or nothing. Small simple steps. Make your glowing green smoothie. Get that beautiful fiber in. Use healthy oils, use seasonal fresh produce, create sleep rhythms and routines and walk or do exercise and stay connected to community. We can do these things and we have lots and lots of resources for you to support you. So as I mentioned at the top of our show, please head over to my sauna.com, that’s M-Y-S-O-L-L-U-N a.com to check out our many resources to join our mailing list. So you’ll get our newsletter and we have community-wide events and zooms, which we’ll be holding quarterly where we can all connect as a community. So we’ll be sharing about that, and I look forward to supporting you more on your journey.
Kimberly: 29:41 Please be sure to reach out to me if you have anything you want to share, anything you want to ask me. You can also find me on social media at underscore Kimberly Snyder. So I’ll see you Thursday for our next q and a show till then, sending you so much love. Namaste.