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Darcy Dane, DC, DACNB

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Dr. Dane is the founder and owner of the Carolina Brain Center. She is a Diplomate of the American Chiropractic Neurology Board and has extensively studied childhood developmental disorders, traumatic brain injuries, and vestibular disorders. She is a charter member of the International Association of Functional Neurology and Rehabilitation.

Lifestyle and Brain Health

By Darcy Dane, DC, DACNB

Body health is often directly related to lifestyle choices. Brain health is parallel to body health. Therefore, brain health is directly affected by lifestyle choices. Guess what? Current research supports this. Numerous studies, qualitive and quantitative, support this hypothesis.

Dr. Dane with the Carolina Brain Center’s therapy dogs, Doc and Ollie.

Until recently, not many people worried about brain health like they did body health. But we now know that body and brain health are directly tied together. For instance, Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is being hailed as “diabetes of the brain.” AD has characteristic abnormalities that include cell loss, neurofibrillary tangles, amyloid-? (APP-A?) deposits, impaired energy metabolism, mitochondrial dysfunction, chronic oxidative stress, and DNA damage. Diabetes includes some of the same abnormalities.

An inactive lifestyle and poor dietary choices are known to increase the risk for developing diabetes and now we know that these will also increase your risk for developing AD and/or depression. Unlike Type II diabetes (the one you develop), which is many times reversible, AD is not as easily treated, nor is the damage as reversable. However, depression associated with diabetes can be reversable. So, it is important to be proactive now versus reactive later. Developing an active lifestyle and sticking to healthy eating habits goes a long way to keeping your brain healthy as the years go by.

Research studies found that middle-aged male smokers experience more rapid cognitive decline than non-smokers or female smokers. Another study found that smokers were 30 percent more likely to develop dementia as compared to non-smokers. Researchers found that the longer you smoke, the greater the brain volume loss in several areas of the brain. Quitting smoking decreases the risk of losing brain volume to that of a non-smoker, however, you cannot ever get back the volume already lost.

Diet and Exercise for Brain Health

Exercise has many positive effects on the brain. It improves oxygen saturation, promotes positive neuroplasticity, strengthens bones, improves agility and coordination, improves blood sugar regulation and reduces stress hormones. Therefore, you can see that exercise is a super important piece to brain and body health. I recommend using a combination of cardiovascular exercise and a circuit of free weight exercises. Because posture and form when using free weights prevents injury, working with a personal trainer for a couple of months is the best way to start a new exercise program.

Diet is the key player. Adopting healthy eating styles can feel very overwhelming at first. Buying a few cookbooks is helpful. Many websites like have meal planning guides. For portion control, there are many apps like Lose It where you can count calories, build recipes, and plan ahead. Portion control is important. And many people are shocked at how quickly the calories rack up in a day. The good news is exercise gives you more leeway.

Gloria’s Story

Gloria was a 48-year-old female, insulin dependent Type II diabetic who was concerned about memory. She reported walking into rooms and not knowing why she went into the room, misplacing things, and not being able to remember whether or not she took her insulin. She was scared because she took her insulin twice one time and ended up in the ER. Gloria was primed to make whatever lifestyle changes she needed to make to get better.

She followed the Whole30 diet, joined a gym and worked with a personal trainer, and we worked with her weekly to improve brain function for six weeks and then built brain workouts for her to do at home. Fast forward 12 months. Gloria had lost 70 pounds, became a gym lover, got off insulin and maintains an HA1C level of 5.7. She feels great and reports that her brain has never worked better!