Q: I know three people in their mid-50s with brain problems - one with Parkinson's, one with early onset Alzheimer's and one with some other kind of brain disease. It's unsettling. What do you think's going on?
DEVON B., Covington, Ky.
A: Since 1997 there's been a 66 percent INCREASE in the number of men and a 92 percent increase in the number of women dying from neurological diseases and conditions such as ALS, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's disease and dementia at younger and younger ages.
What accounts for the increase? All indications are that epigenetic changes - that is, changes in gene expression triggered by environmental influences - are making people more susceptible to brain diseases. The increase in younger people developing neurological diseases may come from the explosion in electronic devices; a rise in background, nonionising radiation from PCs, microwaves, TVs and mobile phones; increased petrochemical pollution; chemical additives and pesticides in food; and more.
Fortunately, the body is surprisingly resilient and responds well to good self-care. You can fight back against lifestyle-triggered health hazards. Our battle cry:
Æ Achieve and maintain a healthy weight by eliminating the Five Food Felons (saturated and trans fats, added sugars and sugar syrups, and any grain that isn't 100 percent whole).
Æ Get regular physical activity: Walk 10,000 steps a day, do 15 minutes of strength training two to three days a week, plus 20 minutes of cardio three times a week (cardio exercise is six times more effective than "brain games" in growing your memory center).
Æ Meditate daily for at least 10 minutes. Managing stress may be the No. 1 brain helper.
Æ Take anti-inflammatory DHA omega-3 from algal oil (900 IU a day) or eat three servings of salmon a week.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.