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Dec 2, 2015

Alzheimer's disease: A new epidemic?

Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia in people over the age of 65. Symptoms include memory loss; impaired judgment and decision-making capacity; a decline in the ability to perform daily living activities; changes in behavior, mood and personality; and increasing dependence on caregivers. A 2007 report released by the Alzheimer's Association estimated there are 5.1 million people in the United States with Alzheimer's disease. And within another generation the number of people with Alzheimer's disease will exceed 15 million. Alzheimer's is a leading cause of death after cardiovascular disease, cancer and cerebrovascular disease. Causes of death in Alzheimer's patients include falls, severe cognitive decline and function impairment, and the development of Parkinsonian signs.
Alzheimer's is the third most expensive disease after cardiovascular disease and cancer in terms of total costs. In the outpatient population, approximately $18,000 is spent per patient, per year for mild Alzheimer's, with increased costs associated with disease progression and severity ($30,000 per patient per year in moderate stage and more than $36,000 per patient per year in the severe stage).
Although age is by far the most important risk factor associated with the onset of Alzheimer's, a number of other risk factors are also important such as female gender, low educational attainment, and head injury (usually associated with a loss of consciousness) appear to increase Alzheimer's risk. Depression, particularly developing in late life, appears to signal the impending onset of Alzheimer's and may precede memory deficits by several years. Family history of dementia in first-degree relatives appears to increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's slightly. Recent evidence suggests that the same risk factors for cardiovascular disease may be important contributors to the risk of developing Alzheimer's. These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and high homocysteine levels. There are also several genes that are associated with Alzheimer's. This is why it can be hereditary.
The most common symptoms of Alzheimer's include memory impairment such as repetition; trouble remembering recent conversations, events and appointments; frequently misplacing items; decreased ability to solve problems; difficulty with calculations; and impaired driving. Many diseases are associated with memory loss such as hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, depression, diabetes, chronic inflammation, Wilson's disease, hemochromatosis, B12, vitamin D and antioxidant deficiency, menopause, alcoholism and heavy metal toxicity etc. The list goes on. Also, many drugs can cause memory loss.
It is important to treat memory loss at the early stages and try to identify the cause of the problem. A complete lab work up is necessary to help identify the cause. There are many nutritional and amino acid deficiencies related to memory loss, blood sugar problems, hormonal issues, alcohol, drug and heavy metal toxicity. The list goes on again, which is why a thorough work-up is important. Each patient should be examined individually. Unfortunately the drugs used to treat Alzheimer's are not very effective and tend to have a lot of side effects.
Certain activities - exercise, exposure to classical music, social engagement, playing a musical instrument, reading and bingo - have been associated with improved cognitive function and can prevent the onset of Alzheimer's. The earlier these activities are started in life the better.
Caring for a family member with the disease is very stressful for the care giver. Family caregivers are also at risk for depression, anxiety and physical illness. A caregiver's depression or health decline may affect his or her ability to adequately provide care for the patient and increases the likelihood of premature institutionalization for the patient. Therefore, taking care of the caregiver is just as important as taking care of the patient.
Studies show that Alzheimer's may reach epidemic proportions in 20 years. The goal is to get early diagnosis and treatment for memory loss so one can delay progression of the disease, improve function and reduce caregiver burden. Health problems should not be ignored. Many times they can be treated easily at the early stages of the disease.
Deborah Wiancek is a naturopathic physician specializing in natural medicine at the Riverwalk Natural Health Clinic in Edwards. She can be reached at 970-926-7606,

Root Vegetable and Chickpea Tagine


Roma tomatoes, diced
parsnips, medium roll cut
carrots, medium roll cut
onion, medium dice
chickpeas, dried
1⁄2 cup
dried apricots, diced
ginger, diced
garlic, diced
cinnamon, ground
cumin, ground
coriander, ground
1⁄2 tsp
1⁄2 tsp
red wine
32 oz
vegetable stock (such as Pacific Brand low-sodium)
1⁄2 cup
1⁄4 cup
orange juice
1⁄2 cup
almonds, slivered (for garnish)


Place all ingredients except for the cilantro, orange juice and almonds in a 4-quart crockpot, and cook on high for eight hours. Before serving, add in cilantro and orange juice. Serve in bowls over quinoa, rice or with a whole grain bread, and top each bowl with 2 tablespoons of silvered almonds. 

Raw Zucchini Noodles with Kale Pesto


1⁄2 cup
pumpkin seeds
kale, chopped
basil, de-stemmed
garlic, toasted or raw
red pepper flakes
1⁄2 cup
olive oil
1⁄4 cup
lemon juice
  to taste
salt and pepper


  1. Toast pumpkin seeds, set aside to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, wash and chop kale and basil.
  3. Combine pumpkin seeds, kale, basil, garlic, red pepper flakes, olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper in a food processor.
  4. Blend on high for 2-4 minutes until smooth.
  5. Add more salt or lemon juice, if needed, then set pesto aside.
  6. Use a spiralizer to make zucchini noodles, using a large bowl to collect the noodles. If you don’t have a spiralizer, you can use a vegetable peeler or a mandolin to make thin slices. You can also chop the zucchini lengthwise and cut thin slices.
  7. Toss zucchini in large mixing bowl with pesto and combine until mixed.
  8. Serve cold or warm.

Dec 1, 2015

Honey Roasted Butternut Squash With Apples & Pecans

Prep Time: 10 mins.  Total Time: 40 mins.  Servings: 5


  • 1 lb butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 medium baking apple, peeled, cored and cubed
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place cubed squash and apple in an 8'x8' baking dish. Add 2 tablespoons water and roast uncovered, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes, or until almost cooked through.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine butter, honey, pecans, nutmeg, and cinnamon.
  3. Remove squash from oven, and pour honey mixture over squash. Stir lightly to coat.
  4. Return to the oven for another 10 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove from oven and serve.

Sesame-Marinated Baked Tofu

Prep time: 12 hrs. Total Time: 12 hrs. 16 mins. Servings: 4

  • 1 (12 ounce) packages extra firm tofu
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  1. Drain tofu and slice into 8 equal slices. Meanwhile combine the remaining ingredients.
  2. Place the tofu in ziploc or tupperware and pour marinade over. Close the container and place in fridge up to 24 hours, shaking occasionally.
  3. When ready to cook, turn on broiler and arrange tofu on a foil-covered cookie sheet. Put in oven about 5-6 inches from heat and cook about 8 minutes on each side.

8 Ways to Improve Your Attention and Regain Your Focus

 According to a study from Harvard University, human brains are in the moment for just over half of our waking hours—a mere 53%. The other 47% of the time we are thinking of something else or zoned out. As we all know, mind wandering can happen at the wrong moment—like when you are trying to focus on a lecture or presentation.
Luckily there are eight easy things you can do to improve your attention span an focus for more than half of the day.
Even a short brisk walk will do. Physical activity has been shown to increase cognitive control. According to a study from the University of Illinois, students with ADHD who participated in 20 minutes of moderate exercise scored better on academic achievement tests, especially in reading and comprehension, and were able to pay attention longer.


Paying attention during meetings can be difficult. According to the National Statistics Council, nearly half of employees consider too many meetings the biggest waste of time in their workday. Jon Acuff, author of Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work and Never Get Stuck, recommends trying to ask one good question in order to stay alert.  According to Acuff: "Good questions give you information that helps you improve your job performance," while, "bad questions are those where you already know the answer or just want to look smart.”


Being dehydrated is bad for your body it shortens your attention span. The University of Barcelona, found that mild dehydration-–as little as 2% can negatively impact your concentration.  Be aware that a 2% drop in dehydration isn’t enough to trigger thirst. So make sure to bring along plenty of water before you go into a situation requiring focus.


Meditation trains your brain stay at attention for longer periods of time, similar to the effect weight lifting has on your muscles. According to a study from the University of California at Santa Barbara, undergraduate students who meditated for 10 to 20 minutes four times a week for two weeks scored higher on exercises requiring attention and memory tests than students who changed their nutrition and focused on healthy eating as a way increase cognitive control.


L-theanine, an amino acid found in black tea, has been shown to affect areas of the brain that control attention. A study from the Netherlands, found that tea drinkers were able to perform tasks better and pay attention longer than those who were given a placebo to drink.


A study from Cardiff University in the U.K. found that chewing gum increases your alertness and improves attention. Chewing itself tells the body that nutrients are on their way to the brain, and gum can reduce hunger pangs.


Researchers at Princeton and UCLA found that when students took notes via pen and paper, they were able to identify important concepts, and listen more actively. The ability to checking email or log in to social media on a laptop provides easy distraction. Also note taking on a laptop leads to mindless transcription.


Classical music helps you pay attention, so break out the Beethoven. A study from Stanford University School of Medicine found that listening to short symphonies engages the areas of the brain involved with making predictions, paying attention and updating memory.

The Stress-Sickness Connection

Many of us have heard that stress is bad for us, but fewer of us actually know why this is. Knowing what stress does to your body, and how manifests as sickness and disease may make you more inclined to limit worrying.  
When stress is chronic, rather than temporary, it can make you more vulnerable to infection by slowing down your immune system functioning. Under stress, the adrenal glands increase the release of  cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine. These hormones can cause damage in a number of ways if left unchecked.
Adrenaline raises blood pressure by speeding up your heart rate. Simultaneously, the brain relays stress signals to the gut, allowing your body to focus on the stressor. A change in the gut's normal routine can affect the composition of bacteria in your gut and lead to digestive problems.

Cortisol can prompt the body to put on deep-belly fat or visceral fat by increasing appetite, especially for sweets and refined carbohydrates. This type of fat releases compounds called cytokines which subsequently raise your risk of developing chronic diseases.

Stress is most damaging for people who experience it all the time. Frequently working long hours to meet a dead line, or constantly worrying about things like paying the rent, or getting adequate childcare can contribute most to poor health.
To avoid some of these stress induced consequences, Sharon Bergquist, a professor of medicine at the University of Emery recommends viewing your stressors “as challenges you can control and master.” While it isn’t easy to just make all of your worries disappear, it’s worth putting in the work to limit the amount of stress you deal with on a regular basis.