We received this really important question from one of our listeners,

“I’d like to know about reducing dementia risks when not on HRT and in early menopause because of cancer treatment. I’m really worried about my brain health.”  

So we invited the brilliant Barbie Boule to dive into the topic of long-term brain health and the concerns surrounding the development of Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive impairments. Barbie is a passionate dietitian specialising in cognitive health, to explore the risks and proactive solutions for maintaining optimal brain health.

Understanding the Whole Picture:

When it comes to brain health, it’s essential to look at the person as a whole, rather than just focusing on one aspect such as diet. Barbie emphasises the importance of nurturing connections and engaging in lifelong learning to support overall health and well-being. By fostering relationships and continuously acquiring new knowledge, we stimulate our brain and create a positive impact on our cognitive abilities. Many women whose cancer treatment put them into early menopause worry about their future brain health and so it is reassuring that there is a lot we can do to reduce our risks of cognitive decline. 

Exploring the Mind and Diet Connection:

Barbie highlights the significance of researching how our mind and diet intersect. She introduces the MIND diet, a modified version of the Mediterranean diet that has specific components targeting Alzheimer’s and neurodegeneration. The MIND diet places emphasis on consuming green leafy vegetables and a variety of colourful vegetables, which have been shown to promote better brain health. Additionally, berries, especially blueberries, have strong evidence for their benefits on brain health. Studies show, that people who adhere most to the MIND diet had a 50% reduction of cognitive decline – that’s great news!

The Power of Nutrition:

Proper nutrition plays a crucial role in maintaining brain health. Barbie advises incorporating ample amounts of fibre, particularly soluble fibre, into our diet. Soluble fibre helps clear LDL cholesterol, regulates glucose levels, and reduces inflammation. Staying well-hydrated is also crucial as it supports optimal brain function. Barbie recommends incorporating fatty fish or algae supplements, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, into our diet. However, she cautions listeners to ensure the quality of omega-3 supplements and advises consulting with a healthcare provider before starting supplementation.

Moving Towards an Active Lifestyle:

In today’s modern world, it’s easy to forget the importance of physical activity. Barbie reminds us that even a few minutes of movement can have a significant impact on our overall health, including brain health. She stresses the harmful effects of prolonged sitting and encourages listeners to incorporate physical activity into their daily routine. Engaging in simple exercises and activities can go a long way in supporting brain health.

Building Cognitive Reserve:

Barbie introduces the concept of cognitive reserve, which explains why some individuals with brain abnormalities can still function normally. She stresses the importance of engaging in preventive activities to help mitigate the risk of developing certain diseases. Managing chronic stress, a common factor that negatively impacts brain function, is essential for preventing illness. Barbie provides various stress-relief techniques such as breath work, meditation, and engaging in activities that bring joy and relaxation. Having a list of stress-relieving activities can be incredibly beneficial.

Prioritising Sleep for Optimal Brain Health:

Sleep is often an underrated factor in overall brain health. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to a shrinkage of brain tissue, particularly in the hippocampus, affecting memory. Furthermore, sleep is a crucial time when the lymphatic system cleanses the brain, removing beta-amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Barbie emphasises the significance of prioritising sleep by adopting healthy habits, managing stress, avoiding screens before bed, and making mindful dietary choices.

The Holistic Approach to Optimal Health:

Barbie discusses the 4 pillars of wellness: nutrition, sleep, exercise, and managing stress. Each pillar is equally important for overall health and well-being. She emphasises how Western medicine’s compartmentalised approach has hindered holistic healing. To achieve optimal health and well-being, we must treat our bodies as interconnected systems and address the whole body, rather than focusing on isolated symptoms or conditions.

In this episode of the Menopause and Cancer Podcast, Dani Binnington and Barbie Boule delve into the topic of long-term brain health. They highlight the risks of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease, focusing on a holistic approach to mitigating these risks. By incorporating strategies such as a brain-healthy diet, regular exercise, managing stress, and prioritising sleep, listeners can take proactive steps towards promoting optimal brain health. Remember, nurturing our brains is essential for maintaining a vibrant and fulfilling life.

Tune into the episode on the Menopause And Cancer Podcast here:

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