Smorgasbord Health Column 2023 – The Body our Greatest Asset – The Brain – Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease by Sally Cronin

I have featured this series over the last ten years on a regular basis for new readers who might have joined the blog. Our bodies are are greatest asset. It has a long road ahead of if from birth, through the teen years, work life, parenthood, middle age and then into our 70s and beyond.

At every stage of our life healthy nutrition is essential to help the body develop and remain as disease free as possible. I appreciate that many of you may have read this series before three years ago, but I hope it will be a reminder of how amazing our bodies are, and simply eating the right foods, exercising moderately and not doing anything too reckless…will go a long way to enjoying later life to the full.

In this first series of posts I am going to be exploring the brain and its functions. 

Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease and other related conditions are rarely out of the headlines and it is probably everyone’s worst fear. There is a genetic link to some forms of dementia,but it is not as common as lifestyle related deterioration of the brain.  Even though we are living longer, dementia is not an automatic progression and understanding how this amazing organ works and what it requires to be health, is vital.

Part Two: Development from conception to old age

The Brain – Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

Some links to the latest research on dementia..

Magnetic stimulation of the brain improves working memory, offering a new potential avenue of therapy for individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, according to new research from the Duke University School of Medicine: : Science Daily

In a records review of 290 people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease, scientists at Johns Hopkins say they have identified an average level of biological and anatomical brain changes linked to Alzheimer’s disease that occur three to 10 years — some even more than 30 years — before the disease’s first recognizable symptoms appear. Science Daily

High blood levels of primary fatty acid amides (PFAMS), a class of fatty molecules involved in sleep and movement control, are associated with increased accumulation of beta-amyloid protein in the cerebrospinal fluid of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, a study finds. Researchers believe that this class of fatty molecules may represent a new blood biomarker that can help physicians diagnose Alzheimer’s earlier. Alzheimer’s News Today

Dementia is actually a collective name for progressive degenerative brain diseases, which affect our memory, thought, behaviour and emotions. It is not a normal result of ageing and it does not seem to have any specific social, economic, ethnic or geographical links. It can effect different people in different ways, which makes it difficult sometimes to diagnose and to treat

Certain dementia, such as vascular dementia, where plaque is blocking the blood vessels in the brain are linked to lifestyle related causes such as heavy alcohol consumption. Most dementia is likely to have an element of environmental, diet or lifestyle involved in its development.

There is no known cure, but there are ways that we can modify our lifestyle to reduce our risks of brain degeneration and to slow down any process that has already begun.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and accounts for around 60% of all cases. The disease is degenerative over a period of years and destroys brain cells and nerve cells causing a disruption to the transmitters, which carry messages in the brain, particularly those that are responsible for our memories.

As the disease progresses, the brain shrinks and gaps develop in the temporal lobe and hippocampus. These areas are responsible for storing and retrieving new information. The damage results in a reduction in a person’s ability to remember events that happened in the short term, to speak, think and to make decisions. All this is both frightening and confusing, as a person will be aware of these lapses in the early stages of the condition.

What are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s

In the beginning, there may be infrequent lapses in memory, forgetting where keys have been left or perhaps failing to switch off electric cookers or other equipment. A person will start to forget the names of everyday objects or people that they are usually very familiar with. They can also suffer from mood swings and panic attacks.

As the disease progresses these symptoms worsen and there is an element of confusion over completing every day tasks such as shopping, cooking and more dangerously driving.
The changes in personality are often attributable to fear and the awareness that something is very wrong. In the earlier stages people tend to try and hide the symptoms. This happens because, much of the time, they will be aware that there is a problem and will not want to accept that this could be as serious a condition as dementia.

In the advanced stages it is not only extremely stressful for the person concerned but also very distressing for their immediate family. We have experience of the problem with a close family friend who was in his 80’s and was looking after his wife who had Alzheimer’s for two years before she went into a home. At that point he was no longer able to cope. She was in danger of hurting herself as she was wandering off in the middle of the night, falling over and hurting herself as well as becoming terrified and disorientated. My own mother in the last two years of her life became increasingly confused but she was nearly 95 when she died. She had family and remained in her own home but for future millions who perhaps have not surviving family it will be a challenge for them and the care services.

What are the risk factors?

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of dementia, but there are several probable links that have been the subject of research in recent years.

There is some evidence of a genetic link to the disease, but that is not proven. Lifestyle most definitely will have played a contributory role as exposure to toxins from smoking, excessive alcohol consumption or work environment will cause damage to the body as a whole and certainly to the brain.

There is obviously natural age related degeneration of the entire body and its systems to take into account and any previous head trauma may be part of the problem. There are links to chemical contamination including poisoning from mercury – which can be found in some of the fish that we eat – and also from aluminum, which is most commonly linked to the metal in some of our cooking utensils.

Some recent statistics suggest that at least 10% of those over 65 and 50% of those over 85 years old will be suffering from varying degrees of dementia. We unfortunately have no control over natural ageing, or our genetic background, which means that we should be looking at ways to prevent or minimise the risk of us developing the disease from a much earlier age than our 60’s.

What preventative measures can we take – starting today?

  1. The key factors to reducing your risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in particular are very simple and effective.
  2. Your brain is a major organ of the body that requires nutrients to function efficiently and to repair and protect itself. There are specific foods that provide those nutrients and including them in your diet on a very regular basis will be effective.
  3. You need to keep your heart and arterial system clear of oxidised LDL cholesterol and working efficiently to enable vital nutrients and oxygen to reach the brain. However, cholesterol is essential for the body and is involved in many processes including the production of hormones and therefore brain function. Reducing total cholesterol can therefore impact your brain health. Healthy fats are essential in various forms.
  4. You must work the brain as you would any muscle in your body. Stimulating activities strengthen brain cells and the connections between them and may even create new nerve cells.
  5. We all need people around us and it is even better if we involve ourselves in activity that requires mental and physical co-ordination.
  6. Physical exercise maintains healthy blood flow to all our organs including the brain where it will prolong the health of existing brain cells by preventing any further damage.

The one way to deal with an overwhelming fear is to face it and take control of it. For me that has meant a radical change in lifestyle. At one time I smoked over 40 cigarettes a day and drank more than was good for me. My diet was atrocious and I was morbidly obese. I was certainly in a high-risk category for declining brain health, if I had lived long enough to develop the disease.

That is not to say that you have to totally abstain from everything that gives you pleasure. We only have one life and whilst I am totally anti smoking these days, I do believe that we should balance our lifestyle with our pleasures factored in. You will often find me quoting my 80/20 rule. If you follow a healthy lifestyle 80% of the time and the other 20% indulge yourself a little then you will be on the right track.

Reduce the Risk

  • Good Nutrition and hydration.
  • Low levels of plaque in our arteries so that oxygen can get to the brain
  • Exercise your brain as well as your body
  • Social interaction

©sally cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2023

Next week – caring for someone with dementia and a shopping list of foods that could maintain your brain health during your lifetime.

A little bit about me nutritionally. .

About Sally Cronin

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-four years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain.

Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 21 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines, radio programmes and posts here on Smorgasbord.

You can buy my books from: Amazon US – and: Amazon UK – Follow me :Goodreads – Twitter: @sgc58 – Facebook: Sally Cronin – LinkedIn: Sally Cronin


Thanks reading and I hope you will join me again next week…Sally.


56 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Health Column 2023 – The Body our Greatest Asset – The Brain – Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease by Sally Cronin

  1. This is an issue I’m quite passionate about. It’s one of the reasons I volunteer at assisted living by reading to seniors. An active mind and body are the only way to live. My mom had dementia for the last five years of her life and started to confuse me with my dad near the end—someone she was married to for 58 years.

    Liked by 3 people

    • It is an issue that is very distressing Pete and I know that you have a lifestyle that is geared towards both brain and body health. Reading to those seniors is a key benefit for them and it will make a difference. In my mother’s mind she was a small girl and I was her mother during the last year of her life and at least for them it brings comfort. hugsx

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Thanks for this, Sally. Interesting. My stepfather suffered from dementia. My mum looked after him for a long time until she could no longer cope. Then he went into a home. I think she always felt a little guilty about it, though.
    There are times when I, and my husband, too, forget words, but this seems to affect many people we know of our age. Similarly, forgetting where I’ve put things is something I’ve always done.
    This must make the diagnosis of dementia very difficult.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sorry about your stepfather Viv but your mother had no need to feel guilty, there comes a time when love is not enough and it is safer for them to be in a place where there is more specialised care on hand. It is natural to become a little more forgetful, and there is also other issues such as urinary tract infections that can result in simialar symptoms to dementia and unfortunately, those who are beginning to suffer from dementia are very good about covering the slips up. Of course too we are all living longer and so that adds to the complexity. hugsxx

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you very much, Sally, for your insights on this subject. A dear friend of mine suffered from dementia and it was no fun to see her like that and not have the tools to help. Hugs

    Liked by 2 people

  4. My mother-in-law and mother both had Alzheimers and it was painful to watch that descent into Shakespeare’s ‘second childishness and mere oblivion’. My mother also had Lewy body dementia which causes vivid hallucinations that are very, very real to the sufferer and some of hers were nightmarish but it became impossible to reassure her because she knew the sinister people were still there, whatever we said, because she could see them. Most people of my generation have personal experience of someone with dementia and would do anything to try to prevent it – which is where this advice is so very valuable. Thanks, Sally. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As you know Sally my mother has Vascular Dementia and Lewy body Dementia and yes the hallucinations are vivid and you cannot tell her that’s what they are as to her they are real but as a non-smoker who didn’t drink and ate healthily, I’m at a loss as to what has contributed to this although as she is registered blind and her hearing is not good I believe as she couldn’t read or knit etc that had an effect and then covid where she was isolated from church and her clubs I feel all that played a part in that we need to keep active in both body and mind …either way, I’m doing my damndest to keep everything working and these posts are extremely helpful and informative..scheduled to share tomorrow Hugs xx.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for adding your experiences Carol and I would say that you are right about the lack of interaction with others and also the loss of her sight limiting her activities. It also could be connected neurally to the loss of her sight and hearing problems and hearing loss in particular has been found to probably increase the risk of developing the disease. There is research indicating that cataract surgery and hearing aids do slow down the progress but much more needs to be done. ♥♥

      Liked by 3 people

      • That’s interesting about the hearing she also had 2 operations for macular degeneration I remember she had to keep her head down for a few weeks after to aid recovery but in all honesty long term the operations didn’t seem to help that much with her sight…it seems there are quite a few triggers that can set off dementia and Alzheimer’s Hugs xx

        Liked by 1 person

  6. This was really helpful information Sally. As Larry and I age up we consider these issues much more frequently. I was lucky. My parents had healthy brains to the end but not so healthy bodies. Larry’s dad is showing early signs of dementia and its disheartening. I appreciate all the information you shared, how you revamped your own lifestyle, and now champion healthier lifestyles for others. Hugs, C

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Great information, Sally. Sadly I’ve around this on both sides of my family. It is the one thing that terrifies me. I do what I can health wise to avoid it.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Sal, as scary as the thought is of losing my mind, I appreciate all the info you share with us in all your health talks. The brain disease are exceedingly frightening to me the older I get. I think I’m living on the 80/20 scale. I hope that is good, and of course, writing, reading, researching keeps the brain busy. Hugs ❤ xxx

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Pingback: Smorgasbord Health Column 2023 – The Body our Greatest Asset – The Brain – Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease by Sally Cronin | Retired? No one told me!

  10. Pingback: Smorgasbord Health Column 2023 – The Body our Greatest Asset – The Brain – Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease by Sally Cronin | Retired? No one told me!

  11. Thank you, Sally. I try to shut off my mind to this. With both my mother and the two aunts I cared for ultimately having extreme dementia – that lasted around three years for them all, the thought of it being hereditary terrifies me. But this is a sensitive and well thought out post with good advice. Thank you again. x

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Thank you for this very thoughtful post.
    My husband had cancer for over 20 years (still here luckily), dementia is certainly the new Cancer.
    We have come a long way with Cancer treatment and now we need to see more done for dementia and altzeimers too.
    I’m lucky that my mum, now 94, is not in any way suffering other than the usual laps which comes with age.
    I think for my mum, as a keen historian, it is definitely this that keeps her mind awake. she’s not only a whizz on the computer bus has so much history…
    The memory is certainly key.

    Liked by 2 people

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  14. There are so many studies about dementia and Alzheimer’s, and so much we don’t know yet, Sally. Thanks for sharing those. There are new theories, but the importance of a good diet, exercise, and of keeping he mind alert and exercised as well are not in dispute. ♥

    Liked by 1 person

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