Each of us wants to have a smart mind and a healthy brain.
And we all want to keep our mental acuity razor-sharp as we age.
The best way to protect from the negative impact of decreased brain acuity is to do what we can today to help make our brain tissues even healthier tomorrow.
Here are eight ways to make your own brain even smarter than it is now.
by Jim Harris, with Dane Findley
1. Ask Your Doctor about Natural Food-Based Supplements
Consuming excellent nutrition after the age of 50 is essential if you want to continue to have great overall health – including brain health.
If you are considering cholesterol lowering or statin drugs, understand that they have been reported to cause memory impairment in a high number of patients (however, there are statin drugs that do not enter the brain; for example, the supplement red rice yeast). Ask your doctor about alternatives.
2. Get Your Omega-3s
High dietary fish intake is associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease which is probably related to the protective function of the Omega-3 fatty acids in the fish. Omegas can be tricky – you want to take enough but not too much. Ask your naturopath or doctor for the correct dosage that meets your unique needs.
3. Eat More Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables provide antioxidants, and the flavonoids found in berries and veggies are associated with less cognitive decline during aging.
4. Drink Tea
Caffeine is a brain stimulant but it does not increase cognitive performance above normal. It has been stated that caffeine has benefits for the damaged brain by improving performance and protecting against brain dysfunction.
Studies show that caffeine suppresses the action of the two enzymes responsible for the formation of the protein “tangles” described earlier and for the removal of the Beta-amyloid plaques which cause the brain inflammation of the Alzheimer’s patient. Research indicates that Alzheimer’s patients show a lowered level of caffeine and an increased level of Beta-amyloid in the blood. Black tea can be a good, safe source of caffeine. Green tea has proven benefits, too.
5. Eat Grapes
One glass of red wine per day when consumed with a meal has been shown to reduce the negative vascular effects seen with dementia and over a 20 year period of time individuals doing this exhibit 50% fewer deaths over non-drinkers or heavy drinkers.
As an alternative to alcohol or fruit, a high-quality resveratrol (a beneficial ingredient found within red wine) capsule could prove helpful.Almost everything we eat either encourages or discourages inflammation. Click To Tweet
6. Move Each Day
Consistent exercise improves circulation, and good circulation helps to nourish the delicate tissues of the brain.
Research has shown that physical activity and exercise decrease the risk of cognitive impairment by increasing angiogenesis and neurogenesis.
7. Learn a New Language
It is so very important to remain mentally robust throughout our lives because it enables us to keep the Age-Associated Memory Impairment at a reduced level.
We now know that intellectually engaging activities increase neurogenesis and uniquely increase neuron synapse formation. Pick up a new spoken language – or pick up a new instrument and learn the language of music.
8. Take a Weekly Yoga Class
Chronic stress has a destructive effect on brain function. Do something specific to reduce your stress levels and do it each week. If meditation sounds unappealing, try taking a yoga class. Class participants typically find their minds are quieter and more serene at the end of class than they were at the beginning.
Can Your Brain Get Smarter as you Age?
There are cognitive changes during normal aging which is called “Age-Associated Memory Impairment” or AAMI.
AAMI begins to affect us around 40-50 years old and is a relatively small cognitive loss involving primarily our short-term memory.
We normally lose about 3600 brain cells per hour. Language skills, wisdom and judgment generally remain stable. AAMI is associated with normal aging and is not a sign that Alzheimer’s disease will occur. A simple example of this would be going into the kitchen and not remembering what you were going there to do (something that happens to each of us from time to time)!
In the past, we thought that this normal brain aging was a given and something we had to accept. Today we have a better understanding of the brain.
I was taught as a student that the brain developed with a specific number of neurons or brain cells, blood vessels and synaptic junctions, end points or terminations of the nerve cells with other cells. However, it is now known that within the brain we have the ability to form new blood vessels (angiogenesis), new nerve cells (neurogenesis) and additional synaptic junctions throughout our lifetime.
I recently attended two meetings about brain health. My post doctoral research was directed at finding non–invasive methods for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease, and having this background has made brain health a topic of continued interest for me.
Risk Factors for Brain Dysfunction
Though no one likes to talk about Alzheimer’s disease, it’s important that we understand that certain lifestyle habits will help keep a brain healthy.
Alzheimer’s disease can be separated into three progressive stages of the brain’s functional deterioration:
- Early Alzheimer’s Disease: Associated with moderate short- term memory loss, language problems and often associated depression.
- Moderate Alzheimer’s Disease: Exhibits more severe short-term and long-term memory loss, more severe language impairment, wandering, aggression and sometimes hallucinations.
- Advanced Alzheimer’s disease: Virtually complete loss of memory and intellect with the individual being bedridden in a near vegetative state.
Certain pathology is present within the brain of all people with Alzheimer’s disease.
The affected brain gets smaller in size, loses nerve cells and synapses. These changes mainly occur in the outer layer of the brain or the cortex as well as in the hippocampus.
This makes sense when we understand that memory loss is a primary symptom of Alzheimer’s disease and the brain cortex is associated with long-term memory and the hippocampus with short-term memory, the two affected sites of change.
Within these same two parts of the brain, two enzymes start to cut or cleave short sections out of proteins within the nerve cells.
These newly formed abnormal protein sections eventually are able to migrate out of the nerve cells and unite together forming protein “tangles.” These protein tangles, in simple terms, begin to strangle the nerve cells to death.
The third pathology, in these same two parts of the brain, is the formation of what is known as plaques of Beta-amyloid. The Beta-amyloid plaques result in brain inflammation.
The cumulative result of these three processes is the cognitive impairment associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers have been able to identify particular risk factors associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease:
- the risk for the disease increases with age and peaks at about 90 years
- the next generation of an Alzheimer’s Disease patient are at greater risk for the disease
- head trauma increases the production of Beta-amyloid plaque formation and its deposition
- strokes induce Beta-amyloid production
- depression increases the likelihood of the disease by 50%
- sleep deprivation increases Beta-amyloid production. However, it is interesting to note that taking short mid-afternoon naps enhances memory recall for hours afterwards.
- type II Diabetes with high blood sugar and insulin levels gives a two-fold greater risk of acquiring Alzheimer’s Disease. Some researchers go so far as to call Alzheimer’s Disease Type III Diabetes!
- additional risk factors are: high blood pressure, poor diet with low fruit and vegetable intake, low levels of the proteizn “leptin,” a high fat and or high caloric diet, elevated levels of LDL cholesterol.
Beyond the AAMI there is also dementia which is the continued and progressive decline in memory and intellect. Alzheimer’s disease is the cause of 70% of all dementia cases.
Potential Solutions for Healthy Brain Tissue
Today’s researchers believe that 60% of all Americans will be affected by Alzheimer’s by the time they reach the age of 90 years. We all need to have as much of an understanding of brain health as possible and do what we can to protect our brains.
Prevention truly is brilliant medicine, and healing the brain is more possible now than ever before.
Only 10% of Alzheimer’s disease has a genetic linkage while a startling 90% is from other or unknown causes.
The genetic or familial form occurs prior to age 60 and that of the unknown cause or sporadic form starts after 60 years of age.
It appears simple. Exercise, use your brain, eat cleanly and take appropriate supplements for a better chance of having a healthy body and a healthy brain.
Ask your medical doctor, nutritionist and/or naturopath what supplements are right for you, and I encourage you to refer back to this article to make sure your implementing these eight brain health strategies into your daily lifestyle.
Increased vegetable intake can play a key role in reducing inflammation in the human body. Freshly made green smoothies can be an effective way to sneak more vegetables into your daily diet, if they are made correctly.
When you get my free updates you also get instant access to my bonus report on how to sneak more vegetables into your daily diet:
Is an Anti-inflammatory Diet a Natural Alternative to Fighting High Cholesterol? –http://www.docsopinion.com/2013/08/20/top-10-things-you-should-know-about-diet-and-inflammation/
Almost Everything We Eat Either Encourages or Discourages Inflammation –https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/transcripts/1395_foods-that-fight-inflammation-and-why-you-need-them