COCO KNOWS HEALTHY: 5 Lifestyle Habits to Help Prevent Cancer

Here is my latest guest blog post for Grass Fed Girl. Image

The statistics are daunting: 43% of men and 38% of women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, and 23% of men and 19% of women will die from the disease. But there is a glimmer of hope when you consider that 50% of all cancers are preventable, according to the World Health Organization.

Diet as a baseline

Chronic inflammation can lead to an increased cancer risk, so an anti-cancer diet is one that is also anti-inflammatory. Eating a Paleo diet that is rich in omega 3 fats, organ meats and colorful fruits and, especially, vegetables is a great place to start. If you can’t commit fully to a Paleo diet, then try to reduce the amount of grains you eat and be sure any dairy you consume is organic.

You can give your diet an extra anti-cancer punch by using spices liberally. A bonus article on three anti-cancer spices is coming soon. Of course don’t smoke but I am sure you already know that! It is also important to clean up your beauty care routine by eliminating toxins from your make up shampoo and skin care.

Click here for the 5 uncommon, yet important ways to help reduce your cancer risk.

Note: Grass Fed Girl and I have different favorite sunscreens. Her favorite is linked to in the article, but this the one I use and recommend. 

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COCO KNOWS NUTS: Why You Shouldn’t Be Nutz About Nuts!

I wrote this blog post for Wise Roots Nutrition, where I’m currently interning. Image

Nuts are the darling of health-conscious folks everywhere. Do yoga? You eat nuts. Use natural skincare products? You eat nuts. Eat organic? You eat organic nuts.

Here’s the good news: nuts are a dense source of nutrients. Brazil nuts are high in selenium. Almonds are a good source of vitamin E, and walnuts provide you with copper and manganese. Nuts are high in fat, high in protein, and high in fiber.

And the bad: Nuts may be contributing to excess inflammation in your body, opening you up to mineral deficiencies, and prematurely aging your skin.

Mineral Deficiencies 

Have you ever heard of a thing called “phytic acid?” It’s a plant’s storage form of phosphorous and binds to minerals like zinc, iron, calcium and magnesium, preventing their absorption. This means that if you eat foods high in phytic acid along with foods rich in any of the above minerals, you’re not going to be able to absorb the minerals. Too much phytic acid in your diet can lead to mineral deficiencies.

Can you guess one food that is extremely high in phytic acid?

Sorry, Cheese Doodles aren’t considered a food. Guess again.

Pop Rocks? Again not a food, just pure magic. One more guess…

That’s right – nuts!

A couple handfuls of almonds – about 3 ounces – contain 1200-1400 milligrams of phytic acid. Walnuts come in at 982 mg, and Brazil nuts take the cake (and all the minerals in it) with 1719 mg of phytic acid in 3 ounces.

There’s some debate over how much phytic acid humans can tolerate, but most sources say less than 800 mg per day. A seemingly modest snack of trail mix will push you over the limit.

Some phytic acid can be broken down by soaking and roasting the nuts. If you soak raw nuts in water for 18 hours, use a dehydrator or very low temperature oven to dehydrate them, and then roast or cook them, they phytic acid levels will be reduced. Further, consuming 25 mg ofvitamin C at the same time you eat nuts has been shown to counter the phytic acid.

Also keep in mind that nut butters are almost never made from soaked nuts, so their phytic acid content will be high – and trying to soak almond butter? Gross! (But you can get soaked nut butter here that you’ll actually want to eat.)

Aging and Inflammation

It sounds like a hippie rock band, but omega 6 is actually a type of polyunsaturated fat. It’s an essential fatty acid, which means our bodies can’t make it and we have to get it from food. But too much omega 6 can lead to excess inflammation – which can promote disease, premature aging, and wrinkles. Not sure how much omega 6 fats you’re taking in? Well, the average American eats about 20 times more omega 6 than is ideal! You’ll find high levels of omega 6 fats in wheat, corn, soy, poultry and pork, sunflower and sesame seeds, and vegetable oils. Unfortunately, they’re also found in abundance in nuts.

Ideally, you want to limit your intake of omega 6 fats to about 3% of calories, so about 4-7 gramsper day.

Pop Quiz: What’s small, crunchy and contains a whopping 10 grams of omega 6?

Here’s a hint: it looks like a wrinkle.

Answer: One ounce of walnuts.

In fact, nuts are one of the highest sources of omega 6 fats. Twenty three almonds, the amount in an ounce, contain 3.5 grams of omega 6. And an ounce of pecans contains 6.4 grams. Macadamia nuts are the lone exception, with only trace amounts of omega 6.

What that means is if you eat a modest three ounces of mixed nuts, you could be taking in 20 grams of omega 6 – about triple the daily maximum, and tipping your body towards an inflammatory state. This doesn’t even take into account the omega 6 you’re ingesting from other foods like corn, wheat, poultry, soy and cooking oil.

Weight Gain

While counting calories is best left in the 1990s, you should be aware of the calories in nuts. It’s easy to forget how dense they are, and what might seem like a reasonable snack of, say, almonds (about 3 small handfuls) contains almost 500 calories. For some perspective, for 500 calories you could be eating a meal of: 4 oz of salmon, one small baked sweet potato with a teaspoon of butter, and one cup of steamed broccoli.

What Now?

Are you sufficiently terrified of nuts? Afraid that if you eat them, you’ll have major mineral deficiencies, develop cancer, and someone might mistake you for a wrinkly California Raisin?

Relax. Nuts can certainly have a place in a healthy, anti-aging diet. Just follow a few simple guidelines:

  1. Eating one ounce of nuts 2-4 times per week is reasonable – try to also eat a food high in vitamin C, like an orange or some strawberries, to help counter the phytic acid.
  2. Soak, dehydrate and roast your nuts as outlined above to reduce the phytic acid content. Store them and use as a condiment on salads or in small quantities in recipes. Additionally you can also sprout your nuts and seeds for easier digestion and absorption of minerals.
  3. If properly preparing nuts seems like too much effort, remember that nuts are naturally encased in a hard shell. That takes effort and time to crack. Would you really eat 81 (3 oz) almonds if you had to crack each of those 81 shells the way our ancestors did? Probably not. Outfit yourself with a nut cracker and snag some unshelled nuts from the farmer’s market. You’ll be much less likely to mindlessly eat overdo the nuts if you have to work for them.
  4. Reach for alternative snacks. Combinations of fruit, vegetables, jerkysmoked salmon and Paleo bars are more filling and have a healthier nutritional profile than handfuls of nuts.
  5. If you’re not ready to say bye to nuts and the thought of prepping them stresses you out, then at the very least purchase pre -soaked and sprouted nuts and seeds, and nut butters
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I wrote this post for Wise Roots Nutrition, where I’m currently interning/assisting. 


When it comes to DIY, I’d rather someone else do it for me. Sew a dress? Hang a picture? Make homemade greeting cards? Not happening.

In fact, I’m so against DIY that I quite like the idea of laying poolside while someone else feeds me grapes…and chocolate…and cheese…and to heck with it! All my meals for the rest of my life.

And yet. Every morning I carefully measure and mix together my homemade serum in the palm of my hand, and smooth over my skin. Why don’t I just leave it to the pros?

Because I can make a serum that’s cheaper, more effective, and way better than any fancy serum you can buy. And I’m going to tell you how you can make it too!

The serum consists of hyaluronic acid and vitamin C. Let’s talk about why these are so great:

HYALURONIC ACID: We’re born with skin full of it – it’s what gives babies plump, taut skin and we lose it as we age. It’s the main ingredient in injectable fillers like Restylane which doctors use to add volume to lips and to smooth out lines and wrinkles. It works well topically, too. It lightly moisturizes and softens all skin types and may help prevent UV damage. It also mixes well with many different ingredients and makes a fabulous “base” for more active ingredients, like water soluble vitamin C. Speaking of which…

VITAMIN C: The best anti-aging vitamin for your skin! This potent antioxidant promotes collagen formation, helps even out skin tone, brightens your complexion and it is beneficial in all stages of wound healing. This isn’t just me speculating – numerous scientific studies back these claims up.

So what’s wrong with purchasing a serum that combines the two? Well… a bunch of stuff:

  1. The most effective topical form of vitamin C is L-ascorbic acid. Unfortunately, this form is highly unstable when exposed to liquid (like when it’s put in a serum) and easily breaks down and loses potency.
  2. Vitamin C is prone to oxidation, which also means it won’t be as effective. When it oxidizes, it goes bad and turns orange. It’s no coincidence that many vitamin C serums come colored orange. This disguises oxidized vitamin C and means that you can’t tell whether or not there’s even any beneficial vitamin C remaining in the serum.
  3. Vitamin C is only effective in concentrations at or above 10%, and maximum absorbency occurs around 20% concentration. Very few bottles will even list the concentration of vitamin C – and remember, even a high concentration of vitamin C doesn’t guarantee that the vitamin C hasn’t already oxidized.
  4. Most hyaluronic acid and vitamin C serums include a lot of unnecessary ingredients. These can range from DMAE and retinyl palmitate, which can actually damage your skin, to preservatives called parabens, which have been found in breast cancer tumors.
  5. They’re expensive! A once ounce bottle of hyaluronic acid and vitamin C serum can cost anywhere from $30 to over $100 – and that’s without any guarantee that the vitamin C is even potent!

This is one of those cases when doin’ it yourself is not only cheaper, but actually more effective. By mixing pure L-ascorbic acid (the best form of vitamin C) and hyaluronic acid yourself, you’ll be guaranteeing a product that’s super fresh, super potent, and super-duper effective!

Step 1: Grab yourself some pure L-ascorbic acid Vitamin C powder, about $13 including S&H.  To give you some perspective, skincare brand Philosophy charges about $36 for 1/8 the amount of powder – and theirs isn’t even pure vitamin C.

Step 2: Either buy a hyaluronic acid serum with a simple ingredient list, like this one here, $22 OR get four times as much by making your own for $13 (including a reusable container – ingredients/directions below). This will make enough hyaluronic acid to last you about one year.

To make your own hyaluronic acid serum, you’ll need:

1 gram of hyaluronic acid (powdered), $7.50

1 4oz amber glass bottle with a secure lid, $5.49

100ml (or just under 7 tablespoons) of very cold distilled water


  1. Pour the water and 1 gram of hyaluronic acid powder into the bottle, screw the lid on and shake vigorously for 30 seconds.
  2. Refrigerate and shake every 5-10 minutes for about 2 hours, which is how long it should take to completely dissolve and form a gel.

Every morning and/or evening, mix 1/16 tsp of vitamin C powder with 1/4 tsp of hyaluronic acid serum in the palm of your hand until the vitamin C dissolves. This will create a hyaluronic acid serum with a 25% vitamin C concentration – if this irritates your skin, reduce the amount of vitamin C powder you use. Although this should take you all of 30 seconds, if you’d rather not play chemist every day, you can make a larger batch using the same ratios and store it in the fridge for 7-10 days.

Apply daily to your face, neck, upper chest and backs of hands. If you notice any skin sensitivity, decrease the amount of vitamin C powder in your mixture or only use every other day. Any vitamin C applied during the day should be followed with a good natural sunscreen, as vitamin C breaks down in the presence of UV light.

Making this fabulous anti-aging brightening serum is one task I will always leave to the pro…me!

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COCO KNOWS PRETTY: Guide to Non-Toxic Nail Polish

I wrote this article for Wise Roots Nutrition, where I’m currently interning/assisting. 


You live by Michael Pollan’s words: “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” And even though he never said anything about nail polish, you still feel a little hypocritical traipsing about town with a Barbie pink manicure. Let’s settle this once and for all:

Can bright nail polish fit seamlessly into an organic-lovin’, toxin-hating girl’s life?

Well, yes… if you choose the right brands.

Up until recently, nearly all nail polish formulas contained the “Big 3” toxic ingredients – and many still do:

  • Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP): The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit organization that rates the safety of many personal care products and ingredients, rates DBP a lousy 10/10 for toxicity. It’s been linked to infertility, hormone changes, and anatomical changes in the reproductive system development in baby boys.
  • Toluene: Also receives a terrible 10/10 from the EWG. It is described as a “potent neurotoxicant that acts as an irritant, impairs breathing, and causes nausea.” Exposure to toluene vapors during pregnancy may cause developmental damage in the fetus, and it has been linked to blood cancer.
  • Formaldehyde: Another 10/10 toxicity rating. The International Agency for Research on Carcinogens has classified formaldehyde as “carcinogenic to humans,” and the U.S. National Toxicology Program has classified it as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” Formaldehyde gas is also linked to nasal cancer.

In 2006, many companies began removing these three chemicals from their formulas. Popular “3 Free” companies include Wet n’ WildMACEssie and most OPI colors. Some companies have gone ahead and declared themselves “5 Free” by also removing (or never including) the also toxic formaldehyde resin and camphor from their nail polishes.

The brands below are all verified “5 Free” and have received rave reviews across the Internet:

Chanel: This high-fashion company has gone 5 Free. You won’t find any bubblegum or pastel hues in this line, which features classic colors. $27.
Priti:  A wide assortment of colors, with particularly lovely ethereal tones. Featured in numerous designer fashion shows. $13.
Mineral Fusion: Boasts 61 colors and an abundance of glittery polishes. Also sold at Whole Foods. $8.
RGB: Beautiful, rich colors, with a reputation for staying put. $18.
Vapour: Great staying powder, offered in 11 colors. Vapour also has “3 Free” nail color, so make sure you check the labels for “5 Free.” $16.
Zoya: Recently voted “longest wearing” by Women’s Health Magazine. This is my personal favorite, both for the durability, gorgeous color selection (over 300 colors to choose from!), and reasonable price. Also available at Whole Foods. $9.

For Kids and Mommies-To-Be:

The following are non-toxic and water-based. These may not hold up quite as well as the above conventional formulas, but if non-toxic is your first priority (or you’re giving a pedicure to someone who occasionally puts their toes in their mouth), try these out.
Acquarella: Water-based, completely non-toxic, and available in fun, bright colors. $16.
Scotch Naturals and Hopscotch:  Both brands are “beyond 5 free” as they’ve removed the ethyl acetate, butyl acetate, nitrocellulose, acetone, alcohols and heavy metals. Scotch comes in 43 jaw-dropping colors. $18. Hopscotch features 19 vibrant colors kids will love. $8.
Piggy Paint: Kid-friendly paint that’s also free of BPA, ethyl acetate and acetone. Nearly odorless and comes in an array of bright, cheerful colors. Also carried at Walmart. $8.

Don’t see your favorite brand above? See how it measures up in the Environmental Working Group’s online database here. Whether you have your nails done at a salon or do them yourself, always use nail polish in a well-ventilated area: in a large space, near an open window or door. Opt for organic or “green” nail salons and feel free to supply your own nail polish.

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COCO KNOWS PRETTY: The Ugly Side of Spray Tans

This is a guest post I wrote for Wise Roots Nutrition.


I avoid lines. Eat dessert first. Bypass the book and go straight for the movie.

I love instant gratification.

Maybe that’s what attracted me to spray tanning in the first place: I can walk into a salon pasty white and emerge moments later looking like I’ve just returned from a tropical vacation. Sounds perfect, right?

Well…no. At least not according to researchers who are studying the health effects associated with spray tans.

The fuss is over the active ingredient in spray tan solutions, dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which turns your skin brown. DHA was FDA-approved in the 1970s for topical use in things like self-tanning lotions. But when it was approved, the FDA didn’t consider that we’d someday be standing in a box, breathing in the stuff.

The primary concerns surrounding DHA have to do with inhaling it – which is inevitable when you’re being sprayed with a mist of tanning solution either from an automated booth or by a technician. When that happens, the same bronze solution on your skin also enters your lungs. Aside from the yuck factor, why is this so bad?

Because DHA in the body has been shown to damage DNA and potentially cause cancer. 

Yikes! While about 11% of the DHA sprayed onto your skin will be absorbed into living tissue, most of the DHA in your blood and body comes from inhaling it.

The FDA has approved DHA for external use only, and says, “The use of DHA in ‘tanning’ booths as an all-over spray has not been approved by the FDA, since safety data to support this use has not been submitted to the agency for review and evaluation.” They recommend that before getting a spray tan, you ask the salon some questions:

Will I be protected from exposure in the entire area of the eyes, in addition to the eyes themselves?

Will I be protected from exposure on the lips and all parts of the body covered by mucous membrane?

Will I be protected from internal exposure caused by inhaling or ingesting the product?

If the answer to any of the above questions is “no,” the FDA suggests you look for a different salon. I have some bad news: the answers at probably every salon you go to will be no.

But the good news is there are things you can do to protect yourself.

The obvious option is to never spray tan. But it’s a personal choice (although women who are pregnant or nursing should never spray tan). If you decide that the risks of a spray tan are worth the benefits of being insta-bronze, here are some guidelines for keeping yourself as safe as possible:

Opt for airbrushing over a spray booth. During an airbrush tan, a technician uses a nozzle to spray your body with tanning solution. An automated spray booth, however, sprays a larger quantity of the solution and fills the booth with a thick mist, thus exposing you to higher levels of DHA.

Wear underwear. This will prevent the DHA from entering your body through your southernmost mucous membranes.  You needn’t wear grandma-style underpants, but you do need a strip of fabric.

Protect your eyes. The FDA recommends protecting the entire orbital eye area, from the top of your cheekbone to your eyebrow. But if you don’t want to wear massive ski goggles, a pair of swim goggles will help shield your peepers. In a pinch, close your eyes and keep them closed while you’re being sprayed.

Prevent inhalation and ingestion. This means protecting your nose and mouth. You have two options. The safest option is wearing an oil-resistant disposable respirator mask  while you’re being sprayed. This will cover your nose and mouth and prevent you from inhaling most of the tiny DHA molecules. Unless you’re a fan of weird facial tan lines, request your face not be sprayed. This really isn’t a big deal; faces are the first to fade and it’s easy to blend a paler face with foundation in the same shade as your tan.
Cost: about 15 cents per tan (you can wear the same mask for up to 10 sprays)

Your second option is to wear a disposable nose filter and apply a thick layer of lip balm to your lips. Keep your mouth closed during the application, and wipe the lip balm off with a tissue once finished. Cost: about $1 per tan.

Use caution in the sun. Just because your skin is bronze doesn’t mean you’re protected from the sun. What’s more, research shows that sun exposure following a spray tan increases free radicals in your skin by 180%. Physical barriers like hats, sunglasses and clothing are best, but be sure to apply a non-toxic sunscreen in the event of prolonged exposure.

If that all sounds like too much work, you can achieve a subtle golden glow even in the winter simply from eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens.

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COCO KNOWS PRETTY: 3 Steps to Kissable Lips

I wrote this article for the blog over at Wise Roots Nutrition, where I’m interning/assisting. 

He loves me.
He loves me not. He loves me. 

Valentine’s Day is almost here, and you still have dry, parched winter lips? Worry not! Whether you’re planning a romantic night with your sweetie or to celebrate your freedom with the girls, you’re only three steps away from achieving a soft, luscious pout. And did I mention it’s going to be totally safe and all natural? No harmful chemicals or weird fish faces allowed. 


Have you ever tried putting lipstick on top of dry, flaky lips? Yuck! Having smooth, moisturized lips will allow your lipstick to glide on evenly. Get rid of flakes, moisturize and soften your lips by making your own lip exfoliator. It works just as well as expensive department store products, but without any of the harmful chemicals. Bonus: it’s totally edible. 

Click here to read the rest of the article and get the recipe. 

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COCO KNOWS YOGURT: The Truth About Going Greek

I’m interning over at Grass Fed Girl and wrote this article about how to make sure you’re getting all the benefits from your Greek yogurt.


Good, Bad and Ugly: Where Does Your Greek Yogurt Fall?

Is your Greek yogurt laced with GMOs, packed with sugar, fortified with vitamins that you can’t absorb, thwarting your weight loss efforts and pushing your body towards an inflammatory state?  No?

Are you sure?

Chobani. Fage. Wallaby Organic. Trader Joe’s brand. With numerous health authorities singing the praises of Greek yogurt, we seem to have forgotten one important fact: Not all yogurt is created equal.

What is Greek Yogurt?

Greek yogurt is characterized by its high protein content. With about 13 grams of protein per 5.3 ounce serving, it has more than twice the protein of traditional yogurt, which averages 6 grams per serving.

During normal yogurt production, one cup of milk is required to produce one cup of yogurt. But in the making of traditional Greek yogurt, the yogurt is strained, which removes much of the whey, water and lactose (milk sugar). Rather than one cup of milk, two to four cups are needed produce one cup of Greek yogurt. The result is thick, creamy yogurt that is high in protein and low in sugar.

Unfortunately, this process also results in a large amount of largely unusable whey acid, which companies are struggling to dispose of. To learn more about the controversy regarding the environmental impact of commercially produced Greek yogurt, check out these articles from Modern Farmer and from NPR.

Greek Yogurt Provides These 3 Benefits…if you’re eating the right kind!

Read the full article here to see how your yogurt measures up.

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COCO KNOWS QUINOA: The Not So Superfood

I’m interning over at Grass Fed Girl and recently guest blogged about how quinoa might not be so healthy afterall. 


Many people consider quinoa to be their favorite high-protein, gluten-free grain.

The problem with that is…

1. It isn’t high protein.
2. Some varieties can cause a reaction in people with (gluten-sensitive) Celiac disease.
3. Quinoa isn’t even a grain—it’s a chenopod, which is related to beets and spinach.

In a world that’s gaga for quinoa—the United Nations declared 2013 the Year of the Quinoa–what else have we got wrong?

Click here to find out!

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Is red wine really good for me or do the red wine companies just want me to believe this? Thanks.

Mild to moderate consumption of any sort of alcohol has been linked to numerous health benefits from Alzheimer’s prevention to heart health. Unfortunately, most of these studies have been epidemiological studies, which pretty much means there’s a correlation but you can’t say with certainty that alcohol is beneficial. 

As for the health benefits of red wine – it’s mostly praised for its resveratrol content, which is a polyphenol found in the skin of red grapes and blueberries. Studies suggest that around 20 mg per day of resveratrol can be beneficial. Unfortunately, red wine contains only about 6 mg in an entire liter. Not quite reason enough to drink like a fish.

In short – 1-3 drinks per day isn’t a problem. Red wine is likely the healthiest, but pick your favorite (try to avoid sugary mixed drinks and cocktails), and avoid binge drinking.

What deodorant do you recommend? All the things I’m reading about my current is scaring me. But I seriously need one that is effective. After all, I do live with people. And work with them too.

I like this deodorant.


It only has essential oils, so you don’t have to worry about aluminium, parabens, or other potentially harmful chemicals. Alternatively, I’ve heard good things about just swiping some lemon under your pits.

An interesting thing to note is that the reason the underarms of your shirts can get discolored is not due to sweat – it’s due to the chemical reaction between your sweat and the antiperspirant in your deodorant.

What are your views on veggie bacon? Yay or nay? 

Ingredients in regular bacon: Pork, water, salt, sugar, celery powder


The Morning Star bacon contains genetically modified soy and corn – both of which are inflammatory, high in omega 6 fatty acids (the kind we get too much of anyway), and the GMO component is potentially harmful as well. It also has sugar, gluten, artificial color, MSG, and carrageenan, all of which have been linked to everything from hyperactivity in children, obesity, inflammation and gut health. I’m not even sure what a handful of the other ingredients even are (disodium guanylate anyone?). 

Always try to avoid artificial/processed fake meats and cheeses. Don’t be afraid to just eat regular bacon, especially if it’s organic – it’s better for you and tastes better too.


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COCO KNOWS BRAINS: 10 Ways to Not Lose your Marbles

I’m interning over at Grass Fed Girl and recently guest blogged about things you can do to help maintain an active, healthy, and functioning mind. 


My great-uncle poured himself a glass of scotch. And then he drank another glass. And another. And another, until he’d emptied the bottle. When his wife came home, she found him spread eagle on the floor, too drunk to stand up.

My great-uncle isn’t an alcoholic; he has Alzheimer’s disease and simply forgot that he’d already had a drink when he fixed himself another. Sometimes he forgets how much food he’s had to eat and overeats to the point of being sick. Other times, he has trouble recognizing me. Eventually, the disease will destroy the part of his brain that holds his oldest and most precious memories.

1 in 3 seniors will have some form of dementia when they die. Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death, and once you develop it, there is very little that can be done to slow its progression.

Luckily, there are steps you can take to help keep your mind sharp and healthy… click here to find out what they are!

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