Stop Brain Drain!
October 6, 2014
The aging process is challenging enough without the fear of declining cognitive function. Studies have shown that there is a memory decline from age 25 to age 40 of 21%, and continues so that by age 70-79, the memory decline is 43%. What can I do now to prevent cognitive impairment later?
What we need to remember:
- The brain is one of the most metabolic active organs in the body.
- The brain is 60% fat.
- Damage to the brain begins decades before mental impairments are discovered.
Age Associated Mental Impairment (AAMI) is a result of neglect of the body including the brain (brain disease develops just like cardiovascular disease or other progressive disease). In fact, “experts are now calling Alzheimer’s disease Type-3 Diabetes”. Brain inflammation plays a major role in the ultimate deterioration of cognitive function. So, the goals should be to decrease brain inflammation by elimination of inflammatory agents and increase levels of structural components required by the brain to support cell membranes and function.
Diet, exercise, exposure to toxins, stress, and unhealthy habits are all influences on healthy aging and brain function.
Since the brain is 60% fat, make sure the diet is not too low in fat. Choose the good, healthy fats like olive oil, avocados, and omega-3 fish oils. Also, try going gluten-free to reduce the burden of inflammation on the brain.
Foods that should be avoided at all costs are alcohol, aspartame, fish with high mercury content (halibut, swordfish, white meat tuna), fatty cuts of meat, fried foods, processed foods, refined grains and starches, sweets and high sugar foods and condiments (BBQ sauce, salad dressings, ketchup and mayo).
We know that exercise is great for our bodies and overall health, but physical exercise is also extremely beneficial for the brain. Exercise increases blood flow and oxygenation, elevates release of mood-regulating neurotransmitters, strengthens neural connections, and stimulates growth of new brain cell.
No matter where we go or what we do, we are surrounded by toxins. We can at least minimize our exposure to toxic substances that are harmful to our brains by avoiding or eliminating them from our diets and lifestyles. Specific toxins that can contribute to cognitive decline and AAMI are gluten, anesthesia, mercury, and tin. In patients with Alzheimer’s disease mercury and tin levels have been found to be significantly elevated.
Studies show that stress can rewire the emotional circuits of the brain and can destroy nerve connections.
High levels of cortisol (the hormone released by our bodies when under stress) impair the function of the hippocampus and can result in shrinkage and death of nerve cells..
Certain nutritional supplements have been proven to be helpful in the support of brain health and preventing cognitive impairment later. Choosing high-quality products with the right ingredients is essential. Trust your pharmacist!
Taking the right supplement regimen over time can decrease brain inflammation, reduce oxidation damage, strengthen underlying cognitive pathways, and replete essential cognitive nutrients.
The “ideal” brain health nutritional protocol would include: Acetyl-l-carnitine, Phosphatidyl serine, Omega-3 Fish Oil, Coenzyme Q-10, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Vitamin-B Complex.
Acetyl-l-carnitine has been used in Europe since the early 1980’s for senility, dementia, and Alzheimers. Studies have demonstrated that Acetyl-l-carnitine can help support and prolong cognitive function by increasing the production of acetylcholine, the main neurotransmitter in the brain. Acetyl-l-carnitine is neuroprotective, serves as an antioxidant, and helps to increase the production of neurotransmitters in the brain. Tests have shown it improves memory, attention span, and alertness.
Phosphatidyl serine is a phospholipid component of brain cell membranes. It is another supplement that has demonstrated value in preserving brain function by its ability to minimize the formation of amyloid plaque, a major contributor to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Phosphatidyl serine acts as a biological detergent, improves our ability to handle stress, and increases the number of neurotransmitter receptor sites in the brain. Studies demonstrate improvement in cognition in people with memory loss when taking phosphatidyl serine.
Essential fatty acids found in fish oil provide an anti-inflammatory action in the brain tissue and help to protect the covering of the brain cells. DHA is the more important omega fatty acid for the brain and high levels are believed to help Phosphatidyl serine work best. However, use caution when choosing a fish oil supplement! There are concerns with the source of omega-3 due to mercury and heavy metal content in fish. The oil should be tested for and free of heavy metals and other contaminants. So, go for a high-quality product that meets these requirements! Again, trust your pharmacist!
Coenzyme Q-10 is considered a cellular spark plug that is essential for production of energy. Many pharmaceutical drugs (especially “statin drugs” that are commonly prescribed to treat high cholesterol) deplete Coenzyme Q-10 from our bodies and have been associated with memory impairment. Low Coenzyme Q-10 levels result in more oxidative damage to the brain, less energy for the brain, more sluggish brain cells, and greater susceptibility to neurological disease.
Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin which enters the cell membrane of brain cells and inhibits inflammation. One study reported Vitamin E worked better at slowing down the progression of Alzheimers than the prescription drug Selegiline.
Supplementation is the only way to get Vitamin C because interestingly, man is one of few animals that cannot make our own Vitamin C! A large anti-aging study that included 3,400 patients (older men) taking Vitamins C and E once weekly proved 88% less likely to develop vascular dementia (which is the leading cause of senility second to Alzheimers).
B-Vitamins are absolutely essential for good cognitive function! B-vitamin deficiency is a significant problem in older individuals and a risk for vegans. Deficiency in B-vitamins creates elevation in homocysteine (homocysteine promotes inflammation, damage to blood vessels, and destruction of brain cells). Many medications deplete B-vitamins including stomach acid suppressors (Prilosec), drugs for diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, synthetic estrogens (birth control), and NSAIDs (Aleve, Motrin). Specifically, Vitamin B-12 deficiency creates confusion, balance problems, and can lead to dementia.
It is clear that the maintenance and support of cognitive function is a lifelong commitment! Our pharmacists at Murray Avenue Apothecary can provide valuable information and are specially trained to recommend nutritional options that will help to support your cognitive function and will not interact with other medications that you may be taking. Call us today to get started on your customized brain health protocol. Stop Brain Drain!