What relationship do you have to Alzheimer’s and dementia?
Alzheimer´s and dementia are rapidly becoming one of the biggest health care problems in the western world. Unfortunately, the Latinx community is one of the most common communities affected. This, as you well know, imposes a tremendous burden in the lives of the patients and their family members. As a medical doctor, I have come to understand that lifestyle plays a huge role in the prevention of different types of dementia. And this is paramount, as prevention is the only realistic tool we have nowadays.
Most of my patients understand the relationship between diet, exercise, low alcohol intake and diabetes, for instance. But most fail to see the significance of these important habits for my brain health.
And last, but not least, the mother of one of my dearest friends fell prey to Alzheimer’s. I experienced first hand how disastrous this condition can be, physically and emotionally. I have taken the mission to educate my community on how to prevent dementias and boost our brain health.
CaringKind Alzheimer’s Walk:
Brooklyn: September 25
Central Park: Oct0ber 23
Walk with Dr. Mauricio! Join his team:
How does it feel being named Chair of the CaringKind Alzheimer’s Walk?
It is an honor, first and foremost. But after a few days, I realized it’s also a big responsibility. This Walk is all about hope and awareness. But also, it’s a reminder that it should be mandatory that we bring Alzheimer’s and all dementias to the table when we discuss health care, especially among my community.
What inspired you to become a doctor?
My inspiration to become a doctor did not arise immediately. I always loved biology, pharmacology and physiology. But those interests do not represent the real life of being a doctor. Integrating all the knowledge into helping another human being is just a beautiful experience and something I feel truly privileged to do it daily. But this takes time. Today, I have taken the prevention aspect of medicine quite seriously as it is a powerful weapon against disease and human suffering.
You’re a star on social media. How did that happen?
To be perfectly honest, I do not know. I have always liked to educate my community. I started giving talks about nutrition in undergrad, and I developed a keen sense to make complex topics digestible and meaningful. I think, when the whole boom of social media took off, it was easy for me to transition to these platforms as brevity and context are required. I also love to laugh and throw jokes and connect. My social media is all about actionable content, to stimulate a sense of community and dispel medical myths. And also, very important, to motivate folks to eat a plant-centered diet, exercise, and enjoy life.
What are the top priorities Latinx families facing an Alzheimer’s diagnosis?
It is truly daunting. We know that the family dynamics change when we have a family member that suffers from an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. The top priorities include to help them navigate these tough times and train caregivers to understand this disease and educate relatives on how to confront the most common hurdles. Compassion and education, I would say are vital.
What is one achievable change that people can make today that will improve their brain health?
Oh, gee! We have plenty of data that shows that a diet the relies heavily on fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, olive oil, coffee, tea, and low in saturated fats can prevent so many cases of different types of dementia. It is worth noting that a plant-based diet has been shown to reduce the incidence of diabetes and obesity, which are important risk factors for cognitive decline.
Also, we have well designed studies showing the power of intense exercise that includes both cardio and strength activities, to reduce the velocity at which mild cognitive decline progress to dementias. Stress management, smoking cessation, cholesterol and blood pressure control are also core strategies. As you can see, there is plenty we can do. But we must act now. There is no time to waste.