I’m not being sexist. Women account for two-thirds of Alzheimer’s cases. In the over-65 age group 1 in 6 women will develop Alzheimer’s by 2050, the figure is 1 in 11 for men. Furthermore, a report published this week revealed that half of all middle-aged women will suffer dementia, Parkinson’s or a stroke. The figure for men is one-third. This research, from The Netherlands and based on a study of more than 12,000 people, found that women at 45-years-old had a 25.9% risk of going on to develop dementia, compared with 13.7% for men.
Dr Carol Routledge, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said of the Dutch report: ‘This large study underscores the enormous impact that neurological illnesses have across society and how women are disproportionately affected, particularly when it comes to dementia.’ To us, as proud feminists, it seems grossly unfair that, having often shouldered the burden of care for much of their adult lives, women are impacted by ill-health just at the time they should be able to retire, relax and enjoy themselves.
The disproportionate impact of dementia on women has been recognised by journalist and activist Maria Shriver, who founded the brilliant Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, in response to her research into the disease following her father’s diagnosis. She told Lenny magazine, ‘I really look at this as a huge women’s-empowerment issue. Women can change the trajectory of this disease. First, by recognizing that a woman in her 60s is twice as likely in her lifetime to get this as she is to get breast cancer. Not to take women away from marching for breast cancer, but women should lead the way on this because this comes to their doorstep in every way. It comes to them as caregivers. It comes to them in terms of their cognitive health. It comes to them in terms of providing.’
With no effective cure in sight, it’s vital we all – men and women – do everything we can to reduce our risk of developing this disease. In my last blog post I referenced a live webinar by Dean and Ayesha Sherzai, authors of The Alzheimer’s Solution. Here are some more tips from that event, based on their handy mnemonic, NEURO:
NUTRITION: the Sherzais believe that a whole food plant-based diet is best for brain health, and animal fats increase inflammation. They describe sugar as a poison of the 21stCentury.
EXERCISE: they recommend strenuous exercise for 30mins, 3-4 times a week. Being sedentary raises the risk of Alzheimer’s as much as genetic factors, so keep moving!
UNWIND: stress damages the brain’s hippocampus and frontal cortex. Don’t multi-task! Learn to be present for every action. Prioritise. Meditate: it reduces stress hormones in the brain. One minute of mindfulness a day is enough to make a difference.
RESTORATIVE SLEEP: sleep is the most important time of your day. It allows for memory consolidation and removal of toxic by-products, like amyloid, which build up in the brain.
OPTIMISE COGNITIVE ACTIVITY: it’s got to be more than sudoku! We should all live at the overlap of complex, purpose and challenge. This means something multi-dimensional like learning to dance (and see our blog post on dancing), mastering a new language, leading a group or writing a book. Having just delivered the first draft of our book, The Age-Well Project, to our publishers we can certainly vouch for book writing as a brain-taxing activity!
With all these new activities to think about you’re going to be busy. Which may mean breakfast on the run. If, like us, you’ve incorporated intermittent fasting to your age-well routine and breakfast late, these biscuits are great with a mid-morning cup of (green) tea. Or, for a more substantial breakfast, crumble a cookie – granola-like – over yoghurt and fruit.
- 250g porridge (rolled) oats
- 50g of flour (I used spelt)
- 5 tbs raw cacao powder
- 3 tbs chia seeds
- 120g mixed nuts and seeds, roughly chopped
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- ½ tsp salt
- 100g coconut oil or butter
- 125ml maple syrup
- 150ml milk – any type
Pre-heat the oven to 180C and line a baking tray with baking parchment.
Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Melt the coconut oil or butter and stir in vanilla, maple syrup and milk. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry and leave for 25-30 minutes for the chia seeds to absorb some of the moisture.
Break off a small clump of the mixture (somewhere between a walnut and a golf ball) and, with wet hands, roll into a ball. Place on baking tray and flatten slightly. Repeat with the rest of the mixture and bake for 15-20mins until the surface of the cookies is dry and a little cracked.
Leave to cool for 10 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack. These cookies keep well in an air-tight tin or the freezer.
A FEW MORE OF OUR FAVOURITE BREAKFAST RECIPES:
Porridge pancakes – easy to prep the night before for easy mornings
Oven-baked porridge – needs a bit more time, but lovely for a lazy weekend morning
No-bake granola – no more burnt granola. It’s a game changer
Chocolate pancakes – actually ridiculously healthy