Forgot what you came into the room for, or what that person’s name is? Are you having a hard time doing two things at once, things that wouldn’t have been a problem five years ago? These are early signs of brain deterioration. They can be prevented and reversed, and they are most definitely not an inevitable part of aging!
This article is about what you can do to protect yourself, to keep your brain healthy for a longer period of time, not just from Alzheimer’s but from other forms of brain degeneration as well.
“The time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining.” John F. Kennedy
Each of the following six steps is crucial, and is discussed in more detail below.
1. Stimulate your brain. Keep active and have fun.
2. Eliminate Trans Fats from your diet.
3. Take three nutritional supplements.
4. Think twice about taking any drug, prescription or recreational.
5. Get eight hours of sleep each night.
6. Do two simple lab tests every year.
Step 1: Have fun; stay engaged mentally, socially, and physically.
Mental stimulation, social interactions, and physical exercise make the brain more robust with a greater ability to compensate for damage, and ward off dementia and other disability. Learn something new. Take up a new hobby. Elderly people who pursue leisure activities of an intellectual or social nature have 38% lower chance of developing Alzheimer’s. The more activities, the lower the risk.
Social networks help ward off dementia. The more extensive the social network, the better the brain works.
Perhaps the most direct route to a fit mind is through a fit body. People who exercise regularly in mid-life cut their risk of Alzheimer’s by two-thirds. It is never too late. People who start exercising in their 60s cut the risk of dementia in half.
Step 2: Eliminate trans fatty acids from your diet.
Trans fats make the membranes of your brain cells stiff and sluggish. They accelerate aging and gunk up your brain!
Trans fats are found in processed foods like margarine and salad dressings, packaged baked goods, and fried foods. Read labels and avoid foods that contain hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils. Don’t eat fried foods, including french fries, doughnuts, and most chips.
Step 3: Take nutritional supplements: DHA, B-vitamins, and Vitamin E.
The most important fat in your brain is DHA. Because your body does not make DHA easily it is important to include it in your diet and as a supplement. Eat fish a couple of times a week, and take 500 mg DHA each day.
Take a mixture of B-vitamins to reduce levels of homocysteine, a substance that is damaging to your brain. A high level of homocysteine increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, leads to depression, and doubles the risk of Alzheimer’s. Every cell in the body produces homocysteine, but it must be removed quickly. This requires vitamin B6, B12, and Folic Acid.
Each person needs a different balance of B6, Folic Acid and B12 to ensure optimal conversion of homocysteine. I will help determine the optimum balance for you.
Until you have your program individualized, take a mixture of B vitamins that includes
• B1 thiamin 50 mg
• B3 (as niacinamide) 50 mg
• B6 pyridoxine 50 mg
• Folic acid as its active form 5MTHF 400 mcg
• B12 as its active form methyl cobalamine 500mcg
Vitamin E protects the fat in your brain from free radical damage. Make sure that your vitamin E includes gamma tocopherol.
Step 4: Think twice about taking any drugs, prescription or otherwise
Many common prescription drugs deplete the brain of nutrients that are essential for its health, especially antioxidants like glutathione and Co-enzyme Q10.
Drugs that deplete glutathione:
•Any drug that contains Acetaminophen. This includes Tylenol and countless other brands.
Drugs that deplete Co-enzyme Q 10:
•Antidepressants: including Amytriptyline, Desipramine, Doxepin, Imipramine, Nortripyline, and Protriptyline
•Blood pressure medication: including Atenolol, Bisoprolol, Clonidine, Hydrochlorothiazide, Metoprolol, Pindolol and Propranolol
•Cholesterol lowering drugs: including Atorvastatin, Fluvastatin, Lovastatin, Pravastatin and Simvastatin
•Anti-diabetic drugs including Glypizide, Glyburide, and Tolazemide
If you are taking any of these drugs, follow a supplement program that restores the lost nutrients.
Step 5: Get eight hours of sleep every night.
Sleep is a time when our brain cells do vital repair work and eliminate toxins that build in the brain. If you don’t get enough sleep, your brain can’t do this essential housecleaning. It slows down and ages faster. Sleep in a dark room, and set up your life so that you go to sleep and wake up on a regular schedule.
Step 6: Every year, do simple lab tests for brain damaging chemicals
These two lab tests can save your brain.
Urine lipid peroxide test: Lipid peroxides measure free radical damage in fatty tissue of your body. Because your brain is made primarily of fat, this is an excellent way to determine free radical damage in your brain.
I offer this test in my office for $20 (2/2008), or you can order the Vespro Free Radical Test or the OxyStress Test online.
If lipid peroxide is high, it is time to make some changes. Start by changing your diet, boosting your intake of antioxidants, and taking an inventory of your lifestyle to see if you are under undue stress or being exposed to toxins. I will help you lower the levels.
Homocysteine: Elevated homocysteine is associated with heart disease, stroke, depression, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurological diseases. Make sure it’s in an acceptable range.
Homocysteine is ideally lower than 6 umol/L, and should certainly be lower than 9 umol/L. The solution to elevated homocysteine is an inexpensive vitamin regime. I will help determine the balance of B vitamins that is optimal for you.
Live long and live smart! Fix the roof while the sun is still shining.