“The Alzheimer’s Solution,” by Drs. Dean and Ayesha Sherzai, is available by clicking here.
If you are looking for ways to address cognitive impairment, God knows there are easy answers out there. Fad diets. Pseudoscience. Anecdotal alchemy.
Well, for people looking for that kind of thing, they’ve come to the wrong place.
Because I don’t believe in any of that. More importantly, my special guests today don’t believe in that either. What they offer you instead is a comprehensive, science-backed approach to healthy lifestyle choices that they are using it every day to help their patients with MCI slow, halt or reverse cognitive decline.
So if that’s what you’re looking for, then let’s hear from them right now.
Hi, I’m Tony Dearing of GoCogno.com, the website for people with mild cognitive impairment.
My guests today are Drs. Dean and Ayesha Sherzai, co-directors of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Program at the Loma Linda University Medical Center and authors of the book, “The Alzheimer’s Solution.”
This is the third of three videos drawn from a Facebook Live I did with the Sherzais in a private Facebook group for people with MCI.
The conversation I had with them was profound and I think life-changing for the people who saw it. And today, I’m saving the very best of that discussion for last. Today, we’re going to talk about how you can take their NEURO Plan, which stands for Nutrition, Exercise, Unwind, Restore and Optimize, and apply it to your life in ways that give you the best possible chance of seeing the kinds of amazing results that they are achieving with their patient.
So let’s dive in with what I consider to be seven essential takeaways from the Sherzais.
Takeaway #1: Anyone with MCI is capable of making changes in health behavior.
Me: You say, “We don’t agree that people are lazy or incapable of change. The people we meet every day are terrified and they’ll do just about anything they think will help.”
Ayesha Sherzai: Doctors have very little faith in people, for them to be able to change their lives, change their lifestyle. And I think that’s one of the reasons why they withhold from sharing that information, knowing that people may not be able to change their lifestyle. But we don’t think that way. I think everyone has a right to know what they need to change in their lives and we empower them.
Dean Sherzai: Each individual has a range of risk factors that vary from person to person. For Jane Doe it’s exercise for John Smith it’s sleep, for Bill it’s mental activity and so on and so forth.
What does personalization mean? Where your weaknesses and where your strengths lie is where one has to start. Your No. 1 is different that my No. 1. Where I need to focus on the most at this point in my life, where I’ve been plant-based all my life, well not all my life but for the last 15 years, but you know I’ve fallen off the wagon a little bit on exercise because I’d recently injured myself, so guess what my No 1 just became? Exercise.
So do you understand, if we are talking about personalization, all five of those elements are extremely important and the No 1 has to be your No. 1. Because if you don’t focus on that, if you have sleep apnea and and you’re not addressing it, you could be eating a truck full of kale and avoid all the butter on the planet and you still won’t heal your brain. So you have to address your needs and your strengths.
Takeaway# 3: Your goals are to cleanse and heal your brain and to grow new connections.
Ayesha Sherzai: Right, I would like to actually start by saying that out of the five elements, nutrition, stress management and sleep, they are the providers of the right environment for the brain to cleanse itself and heal itself. Exercise and optimization of cognitive activity actually grows brain connections. You need all of these elements at the same time for the brain to start to you know getting better, and for mild cognitive impairment to either be halted or reversed.
Takeaway #4: What you eat will either make the brain or break the brain
Ayesha Sherzai: Nutrition seems to be a very quick and an easy way to improve brain health because it’s something that we do on a regular basis. It’s the most important environmental exposure. We are exposed to food three or four times a day.
So whatever you eat will either break the brain or make the brain, and from all the studies, whether it’s the MIND diet or DASH diet or Mediterranean diet, it’s the plant components that stand out. I studied this in a large population, the California teachers study, I actually got an award from the American Heart Association for it, too.
Because when you think of, say, a Mediterranean diet, most people think that it’s essentially fish and cheese and some wine and sitting next to a lake and listening to some you know Greek music. But it happens to be the unprocessed greens, the beans, the berries, the vegetables, the fruits and whole grains that provide the right kinds of carbohydrates, the right kinds of proteins, the right kinds of fats.
So we say, try to eat as much as you can of unprocessed plant foods and try to reduce processed foods. Because when you reduce processed foods, you automatically reduce salt, you automatically reduce processed sugar, which is in everything, even hot dogs have sugar in them, you automatically reduce the kinds of processed wheats and grains that increase your blood glucose or they have high glycemic index. And also reduction of bad fats. Fats are not bad. It’s the type of fat that we consume. So reduction of saturated fats and cholesterol that mostly come from animal sources and increasing unprocessed plant fats like nuts and seeds and avocados, those are amazing.
Takeaway #5: Exercise is essential for brain growth and brain protection.
Ayesha Sherzai: The definition of exercise has changed. People used to think just going out for a walk in the park is also exercise and we hear it all the time and we say that’s wonderful, but that’s meditation. Exercise has to be strenuous, strenuous exercise, the one where you have a hard time finishing a sentence and you break a sweat — that’s a beautiful way to define it — is essential for brain growth and brain protection. And doing about 30 minutes of strenuous exercise four to five times a week is a great goal.
But you know the next step of exercise is what people are actually doing. So if somebody hasn’t exercised at all, the first step is to start exercising for five minutes a day. And then slowly, gradually, incrementally increasing it to that goal.
And we always say, bring exercise into your home. Don’t get a gym membership because you know you have to get dressed up and some of these gyms are like quite fashionable and you just have to spend a lot of time getting ready to go and you know external weather or other circumstances may prevent you from doing it. We say, get some dumbbells in your living room, get an exercise mat. See if you can invest in a recumbent bike because that takes care of balance issues and a lot of joint issues that individuals may have and try to do it at home and get it over with so you can resume anything else.
And as far as staying active, the idea of sedentary behavior, sedentary behavior is the new smoking, so if someone exercises for 30 minutes a day but they have a desk job and they sit behind their desk for 7 to 8 hours, forget about the 30 minutes. It actually negates the positive effect of exercise. So getting up every hour and moving around is also very important.
Takeaway #6: Reduce the number of steps needed to make a health behavior change.
Me: Yeah, and let me just say one thing. I just love your book so much, you’re starting to get that impression, but what I love is how real you keep it. So, so it’s very practical, it’s very pragmatic, the things you talk about.
Dean Sherzai: It has to be. I mean, why does behavior not take place? Behavior is abated, stopped because it’s too many steps, too many steps from your comfort zone. So how do you actually start something? It’s by reducing the number of steps. For somebody who hasn’t exercise in months, for them to go get a gym membership, get dressed up, go there, start a whole program and do it on a regular basis. Failure.
You know how we know this? We have actually spoken to three major gym owners and they actually oversell the gym memberships by 80 percent or more, because they know that percentage of people never show up in a gym. Make your living space your gym, anything extra is extra.
Takeaway #7: It’s never too late to start.
Me: So let me ask you this. I was going to ask this question, but one of the people watching jumped in and asked. I think it’s one of the most important questions on the mind of anyone with MCI. It’s this. Is it ever too late to start?
Ayesha Sherzai: No, never, never. It’s never late.
Me: I hope you have found this three-part series as helpful as I did. I learned so much from the Sherzais, and I appreciate their generosity in sharing their message.
Now there are links below to the first and second videos, in case you didn’t see them.
Of course, everything they teach and their entire NEURO Plan, and all sorts of worksheets and guides to help you individualize it for you, are available in their book, “The Alzheimer’s Solution.”
I enthusiastically recommend this book, but I want to make it clear that I do not get any commission or other financial compensation for doing that. In fact, the Sherzais themselves don’t profit from this book. All of the proceeds go to support their Healthy Minds Initiative.
Thanks again for joining me today. I’ll see you next week. Until then, as always, be kind to your mind.
This is the third of three videos featuring the Sherzais.
See the first video, titled “Meet the duo who dare to say cognitive loss can be cured,” here: https://youtu.be/idjmE6IETRY
The second video, “Good stress is your weapon against MCI,” is available here: https://youtu.be/_t1caqGydCU