The brain weighs about 3 pounds and decreases with aging – unless we prevent this. There are over 100 billion cells in the brain that with optimal nutrition, less inflammation will regenerate and gift us a flawless memory as we age.
The main two things that have contributed to age-related cognitive decline are inflammation and nutrient depletion especially to a region called the hippocampus. Our brain is considered our most vital organ as it sends messages to all parts of the body, communicating how to function. A common structural change in the brain, picked up on imaging studies, is the grooves (sulci) of the brain surface widens and the swellings (gyri) get smaller. This lack of surface area will diminish neurotransmission which affects our memory. The main causes associated with these changes are inflammation and nutrient deficiencies which is demonstrated in studies published in the Journal of Neurophysiology.
A key researcher in the aging brain, Caleb Finch Ph.D, discovered amyloid aggregates which are a hard deposits that result from tissue degeneration, which forms in the presence of inflammatory proteins in the brain. In his studies, it appears that all maturing adults appear to have the inflammatory protein precursors to the amyloid formation. When the hippocampus, which is the area responsible for forming memory, is interrupted by these proteins, memory declines.
Although there is conflicting information in the literature about the potential benefit of taking estrogen to assist memory (both short term and long term) as well as reducing the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease in post-menopausal women, I personally have noticed a day-to-day change if I forget to take my BHRT estrogen and have repeatedly heard the same experiences from many women that I treat with BHRT. A Medline search reveals more support in favor of Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) to assist in memory enhancement with age.
Lifestyle factors that may affect brain aging with 10 simple solutions to creating the most magnificent memory:
* Stress - The stress/anti-stress hormone cortisol, improves memory in low doses and destroys neurons in large amounts.
A great way to distress is to:
1. PLAY GAMES!
* Stimulation - Use it or lose it! Jeff Victoroff, MD, illustrates in his book Saving Your Brain, the importance of stimulating your brain with continual learning experiences to increase synapses and connections between neurons similar to making a muscle stronger. Using crossword puzzles, reading and listening to classical music has been proven to raise IQ scores.
3. READ SOMETHING DIFFERENT
4. LEARN A NEW SKILL
* Exercise - Studies find that people who walk rapidly for as little as 45 minutes three times a week significantly improve age-related declines in cognitive abilities.
5. EXERCISE YOUR BODY TO EXERCISE YOUR BRAIN
* Rest - There is solid evidence that suggests regularly sleeping eight hours straight each night is protective for memory loss.
6. SLEEP FROM 10-6 EACH NIGHT
* Nurture Brain Cells – Specific nutrients are neuroprotective and enhance neurotransmission like oils and amino acids found in walnuts, fish and lecithin.
7. EAT FOR YOUR BRAIN
8. SUPPLEMENT WITH BRAIN NUTRIENTS
* Be creative – changing activities and routines stimulate your brain to not depend on patterns. This also goes for communication as well.
9. TELL GOOD STORIES
10. MAKE SIMPLE CHANGES
Dementia (de = apart, mens = mind), is the progressive decline in cognitive function due to damage or disease in the brain beyond what might be expected from normal aging. There are tests designed to initiate the diagnoses of dementia such as the abbreviated mental test score (AMTS), the mini mental state examination (MMSE). Alzheimers is the most common cause of dementia, which affects an estimated 24 million people. Studies have shown that a critical amino acid responsible for liver detoxification, glutathione, is low in every single person studied, linking Alzheimers to a disease of aging and toxicity.
Nutrients to consider to feed your brain! With added suggestions to suite your needs.
1. When my patients are particularly concerned about developing Alzheimers, I test for this amino acid along with the amount of cellular damage. Replenishing with a highly absorbable well studied form, Recancostat, restores normal lab values. It has no taste if mixed with emergen-C (vitamin packets that contain C as well as minerals and B vitamins). This supplement is considered in patients who have a large family history of cancer and/or alzheimers.
2. You may have heard of body builders using the nutrient L-carnitine to enhance muscle bulking. The reason it works is because the mitochondria (battery of the muscle) depends on it to move nutrients into our mitochondria for energy. The form of L-carnitine that the brain uses for energy is Acetyl-L-Carnitine as it is the only form that crosses the blood brain barrier. This supplement is most often taken by both medical and law students or people who have careers which require tight focus to details.
3. Another amazing nutrient that has several functions such as blood sugar stabilization, antioxidant protection penetrates the blood brain barrier and is most effective when in a controlled release formula. Insimax is a form of controlled release Alpha Lipoic Acid that quenches free radicals, or toxins that cause cellular damage and inflammation, increases cellular absorption of CoQ10 and Vitamin E which are essential in cellular protection and energy production. This supplement is used extensively in people with blood sugar and/or weight management challenges along with memory complaints.
4. Hormones and pre-hormones are well studied and influence neuronal transmission specifically, as well as de-inflammation to allow greater blood flow and nutrient acess to every cell. Optimal thyroid function as well as Bioidentical HRT are key to aging gracefully in all arenas with an emphasis on pregnenalone as a hormone precursor. These hormones are specifically used in women who notice that forgetfulness occurred suddenly with other symptoms suggestive of hormonal changes.
5. Antioxidants prevent waste build-up and inflammation and are considered essential to overall wellbeing and degenerative disease prevention. Complete Detoxification taken on a daily basis is a proactive way to prevent inflammation and waste build-up. Oxiplus has a proven track record in minimizing the potential damaging effects of hormone therapy in my clinical experience, with loads of scientific research to back it up. These are common nutrients for almost every patient as maintenance health insurance for the whole body and mind.
6. Resveretrol, “the red wine pill” is noted in the literature for memory enhancement along with its many other uses. The pivitol relationship is the gene, sirtuin, that it stimulates. Not only will your brain age brilliantly, so will each cell of you! This nutrient, covered in detail last week is a nutrient designed for everyone over 40.
7. Lastly, but not in this order of importance is fish oil, in particular, DHA, which has been well studied to assist optimal neuronal transmission showing improvement in brain function in people with ADD and autism. Another nutrient utilized by all patients. DHA specifically for infants (as their brain is maturing) and elderly (where memory is a significant symptom). I suggest for people in between these extremes to use a balanced EPA/DHA of excellent quality. If quality is poor, it can be contaminated with merury, PCB’sor blended with impurities that negate enzyme function. When it comes to your health, shop quality, and if it is not in your budget, you are better off not using a poor quality product as they can be making you sicker not healthier.