By Nina Huang
Northwest Asian Weekly
Sugar is one of the greatest culprits of Alzheimer’s disease, said Dwayne Clark, founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Aegis Living.
Clark stated that the disease is not really preventable, but there are ways to slow the process.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association website, dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Memory loss is an example, and Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia.
In the 1700s, people ate about four to five pounds of sugar, and the amount of sugar consumed quickly increased to an average of about 180 pounds a year today.
The problem with that is the human body can only process 80 pounds of sugar. The sugar develops into very unhealthy things and can cause excessive inflammation all over the body including the brain and can cause vascular constriction.
An expert in the industry, Clark has been taking care of the elderly for almost 30 years. Through Aegis Living, he has housed about 60,000 people who had a form of dementia or cognitive impairment over the course of his career.
On a personal level, his mother lived with Alzheimer’s for 11 years, and their journey was the subject of his book, My Mother, My Son and Saturdays with G.G.
Clark said that not enough sleep is another factor that can cause the disease.
“Only one percent of the whole world can be OK with less than seven hours of sleep. The rest of us need a minimum of seven to eight hours and a half of sleep,” he said.
The brain is one of the only parts of the story that doesn’t have a lymphatic system. The brain needs a full cycle of sleep. He likened the process to how a washing machine works. You put the dirty jeans in, turn on the washer for five minutes, and if you take out the jeans, they will still be dirty.
“That’s what happens when you don’t get enough sleep,” he said.
Drinking water hydrates the brain, and helps people function optimally. If you don’t get enough sleep, the brain will store proteins in an unhealthy way because the proteins clump together and create gummy, plaque substances that block neuropathways, he explained.
It takes about seven hours for new cells to generate and that makes you more alert and awake. Other ways to keep the brain active is by exercising on a regular basis; this helps your circulation and blood stream.
“Little things like flossing a few times a day, can help relieve the brain of bacteria,” he recommended.
Getting proper nutrition can help prolong the onset of the disease. Superfoods like blueberries, kale, and seaweed are known to be great brain foods. They provide certain nutrients for the brain to be healthier and more cognizant, Clark said.
The quality of life and life expectancy has changed remarkably over the last few decades. Thirty years ago, if somebody had Alzheimer’s disease, they would pass away within four to six years, but now a person could actually live with the disease for as long as 20 years with the right medication, he said.
A recent study explained that people with purposeful hobbies live longer.
After the age of 50, training the brain to work differently by working on a puzzle or taking a foreign language class, for example, can help build new pathways in the brain, and surpass the passages that are blocked.
In addition, people who are still engaged at work like working on fundraisers or renovating homes in their 80s will be more alert and have greater brain function, Clark added.
“If you walk five miles a day, then you have pretty good heart health, but if you sit on the couch, eat popcorn and watch movies, then you have worse heart health; the same applies to the brain. The brain needs to get used,” he explained.
Twenty-five percent of people under 80 have Alzheimer’s disease, Clark reported.
“Right now, when you turn 80, there’s a 25 percent chance of having a form of dementia, when you get to 85 that percentage doubles. The fact is, the longer you live, the greater chance of getting a form of dementia,” he said.
Now, there are blood tests and brain scans that can tell you if you have the propensity to getting dementia. There are drugs that can slow the deterioration of the disease down as noted in people that Clark has known over the years, he added.
In his own experiences, far more women have had some form of dementia than men, likely as a result of women living sedentary lives as housewives during the post-World War II era, but these theories haven’t been tested.
For some, there’s a possibility that early onset dementia in the late 40s can be genetically linked. Clark’s mother was from a family of 12 kids, and two of her sisters had the disease.
There are also studies that show certain ethnicities live longer than others. For example, Clark said that Chinese people tend to live longer than Americans, the average African American male lives to 76, the average American male lives to 78 and the average Chinese male is about 80.
Though the Aegis Living facilities welcome and cater to all communities, Clark and his team are excited to open the groundbreaking Chinese-themed facility that will be located in the Somerset/Newport Hills area next year. (end)
Nina Huang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.