Episode 206: Tamara Claunch
Mar 16, 2022
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Tamara Claunch had a first hand experience with Alzheimer’s that left her feeling hopeless. Her grandmother passed away in 2008 from Alzheimer’s related complications and, after watching her get sicker and sicker over many years with no way to help, it left Tamara worrying about how she would end up (both her great-grandmother and grandmother had it).
Her concern drove her to start reading the latest international Alzheimer’s research and was surprised to find out how many things you can do to reduce your risk of getting the disease. She started working for The Center For Applied Research and Dementia where she helped individuals with late-stage Alzheimer’s use a therapeutic rehabilitative approach that enabled them to re-learn how to eat, communicate and perform other basic functions we don’t usually see someone late-stage be able to do again.
Tamara went on to work with other organizations like Dementia Alliance International and Apollo Health, which further showed Tamara all that’s available for us to do to prevent and protect ourselves against Alzheimer’s. Now with her Brain Beautiful Method, taught through digital courses and one-on-one coaching sessions, Tamara teaches people how to transform their body into a Living Laboratory, cultivating a garden of brain-supportive habits unique to yourself. Her four micro-courses, Nourish, Move, Calm and Rest, focus on the core essentials of defending against Alzheimer’s (proper nutrition, exercise and stress management).
We all know proper nutrition and physical activity is essential for health, but how does it affect your risk for Alzheimer’s? By following the Brain Beautiful Method and eating properly, getting the right kind and right amount of exercise, not smoking, not having unhealthy alcohol habits, and engaging in cognitive stimulation activities, you can cut your risk for getting Alzheimer’s by 60%! When it comes to fitness, what’s most important is getting your blood flowing because when blood pumps through your body, it’s bringing vital nutrients to your brain. A minimum of 150 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity a week is standard, and exercise like high intensity interval training (HIIT) has proven to be highly effective. Even if you or someone you know doesn’t have that ability for such vigorous exercise, Tamara suggests walking! Our bodies are designed for it and if you start tracking your steps, you can do just a little bit more each day.
“One of the most important functions of sleep is cleaning out the brain at night. When we go to sleep at night and we get into deep sleep, cerebrospinal fluid washes across the surface of the brain and carries away detritus which is essentially [the] brain’s trash litter. Every thought you had, everything you read, every word you spoke [and so on] is a chemical reaction in the brain which is left behind like trash that needs to be washed.” – Tamara Claunch (15:21-15:50)
Sleep is also vital to Alzheimer’s prevention and something that (as Lori admitted on the podcast) most of us aren’t getting enough of. But without getting enough sleep, which is about seven to eight hours per night, your brain can’t clean itself and your body struggles to step out of stress and into the rest, relaxation and recovery it needs. If you’re a chronic late-night phone scroller… stop! Blue light is emitted from our screens and is what stops the production of melatonin in the brain. When blue light enters the eyes, it stops the reaction of melatonin which is what helps us sleep and maintain healthy sleep-wake cycles. This is a tough habit to break for most of us, but Tamara recommends plugging your cell phone in to charge at night in the bathroom or kitchen… anywhere that’s close enough to get to it in an emergency, but not easy to grab and scroll when you should be sleeping.
Lastly, stress is something that we can never get rid of, but can learn to manage more effectively. Our natural fight-or-flight stress response was create for our ancestors to (literally) stay alive, but since we don’t have that life-threatening danger anymore, we need to learn how to turn this response off and get our body back into homeostasis, rather than hyperactivity (which raises our risk for Alzheimer’s). One way to teach your body to switch out of its sympathetic nervous system and into the parasympathetic ‘rest and digest’ function is to breathe properly! A quick way to do this is to practice slow and controlled diaphragmatic breathing by breathing in slowly for a count of four, holding your breath for a count of four, then exhaling for a count of four. Repeat this for five or six times and you’ll feel a wave of calm take over previous anxiety or stress!
“We have to have a reason to get out of bed every day for the rest of our lives. It’s so important for us to have roles and purpose and meaningful connections in our own home, within our communities and with the wider world. This may not be ‘essential’ to life, but studies show that chronic loneliness can raise your risk of Alzheimer’s tremendously.” – Tamara Claunch (31:25-31:55)
Tamara’s Brain Beautiful program helps you take an honest look at your nutrition, exercise, stress and sleep habits and make small, daily improvements that will make a huge difference. On top of it all, Tamara teaches how important it is for us to have a sense of purpose. Living a rich, dynamic, engaged, purposeful life is just as important as eating the right foods and getting enough exercise. Life doesn’t end at retirement and as humans, we’re hardwired for community and connection. A key risk factor of Alzheimer’s is loneliness, so make sure you’re investing in your mental health by adding more passion and purpose to your life!
Tamara has two more courses launching soon, one of which teaches you how to support your natural detoxification pathways in the body. You can find out more about the Brain Beautiful Method, Tamara’s programs and ways you can prevent Alzheimer’s by visiting www.thebrainbeautifulmethod.com.
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