Anyone who follows the work of the NeuroNetwork for Emerging Therapies knows that brain health is very much a focus, thanks in part to The Wolfe Healthy Brain Initiative. An invitation from the U-M Alumni Club of Southwest Florida offered the perfect opportunity for Dr. Eva Feldman to share recent research about how to enhance the well-being of the human brain.
The talk was held at The Club at Olde Cypress in Naples, Florida. A crowd of University of Michigan alumni was present to hear Dr. Feldman share “Life Choices Promote Brain Health 2023. Before she took the stage, board member Shirley Gofrank warmly welcomed Dr. Feldman and introduced her to the audience.
Dr. Feldman began by thanking the audience in attendance, the Board of the Florida alumni group for their invitation, and the Gofrank family for their financial support with the Gofrank Family Research Program in Alzheimer’s Disease and Brain Health.
Dr. Feldman started her lecture by discussing the current obesity epidemic, which is increasing at alarming rates. Part of the reason people are becoming larger is that the portions they consume, often consisting of processed foods, are becoming larger as well. In 2019, Michigan had the eighth-largest rate of obesity in the U.S. (36%).
Dr. Feldman spoke about what happens in our body to make us gain those extra pounds and how this excess weight has now been linked to Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Dr. Feldman explained that unhealthy foods are harder for the body to turn into the energy that allows nerves in the brain and body to function properly.
In fact, there are three consequences of obesity that have been specifically linked to cognitive decline: high systolic blood pressure, elevated blood fat profile, and mid (around the waist) obesity. The latter signifies that not only what you eat is an important factor but also where you gain that weight.
Dr. Feldman shared that there is hope and are many actions people can take for a happy brain and nervous system. “You are what you eat,” she noted. “As the saying goes, ‘the healthier you eat, the healthier your brain and nerves are.’ In fact, the Mediterranean diet in particular has been found to lower the risk of dementia.
Also, a healthy brain requires a healthy body. Exercise enhances brain chemicals and their messengers, neurotransmitters. Many brain diseases are linked to deficiencies in these neural messengers. Exercise even increases the birth of new stem cells in the brain and the physical size of critical brain areas related to memory.
Dr. Feldman concluded by encouraging the audience to eat well, exercise, drink alcohol in moderation, and be wary of over-the-counter brain supplements which have not been demonstrated to be effective. These recommendations should maximize a person’s ability to maintain a healthy brain throughout their lives.