Everyone fears losing it, but nobody talks about how to keep with it…

It has been estimated that 24 million people around the globe suffer from dementia and this number is predicted to double every 20 years until at least 2040.  Brain conditions are not limited to older adults and early signs can affect all ages.  Optimization of brain function impacts the ability to maintain attention, learn with greater ease, get quality sleep, and maintain a good mood.

While our brain function is imperative to the rest of our body, the maintenance of its health is often not addressed until it is too late.  Neurologic degeneration is very difficult to identify in oneself making it easy to allow it to gradually decline. Once the diagnosis of dementia is made, there is very little one can do to turn back the clock. Healthy brain function begins with proper fuel – oxygen and sugar.

Impaired Circulation

If our body goes more than five minutes without oxygen, our brain suffers permanent brain damage.  While this is one extreme, when our brains do not receive adequate oxygen its performance is reduced.

Signs of reduced circulation include high or low blood pressure, anemia, cold hands, feet, and tip of the nose, brittle nails, and fungal overgrowth on toes.  Gingko biloba and Gotu Kola are two herbs that greatly enhance circulation and reduce high blood pressure.  Exercise is also a key player where heart pumping cardio for 15-minutes upon waking can be extremely helpful.  Good posture and not hunching at a computer ensures that blood is free to flow to the brain.  These herbs, complimentary nutrients, exercise, and posture can assist in delivery of nutrients, hormones, and brain chemicals.

Blood Sugar Imbalances

Alzheimer’s disease is also considered to be Type III Diabetes.  Individuals affected by diabetes are actually twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.  Our brain uses 30 percent of our glucose supply making glucose a primary fuel source for proper brain function.  When glucose and the regulating hormone, insulin, are too high or low, performance is affected.

Elevated glucose levels or hyperglycemia cause degeneration and inflammation that disrupts normal function like clearing the amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease.  Signs of having too much blood sugar include fatigue after meals, craving for sweets after a meal, constant hunger, and difficulty losing weight.

Conversely, having low blood sugar also known as hypoglycemia can equally affect performance.  Individuals with hypoglycemia must eat regularly and if a meal is missed, they become irritable, fatigued, and/or experience brain fog.  Low blood sugar levels can be greatly affected by stress and poor diet.

Both of these conditions can be appropriately managed by a balanced diet.  Firstly, it is important to find out if you have any food sensitivities as these foods trigger both stress and inflammation.   For both hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia, one should adopt a low carb diet, have a breakfast of high quality protein and fat, and eat something every 2-3 hours.

Inflammation

The primary immune cells in the brain are the microglia cells, which assist in sending messages between neurons and removing dead neurons and plaques.  With persistent inflammation from diet, trauma, lack of oxygen, environmental toxins, autoimmune disease, and blood sugar abnormalites, the immune system becomes taxed with an overwhelming amount of work and neuroinflammation ensues.

Chronic inflammation speeds neuron cell death rates and reduces the response of existing neurons, causing symptoms like brain fog and depression.  By regulating inflammation, microglia cells have the ability to properly clear degenerated tissue to support existing healthy tissue.

As mentioned in the May issue of The Marina Times (http://www.marinatimes.com/2013/05/why-you-need-to-be-on-guard-against-inflammation/), compounds like curcumin derived from turmeric and resveratrol derived from grapes can be powerful in reducing inflammation in combination with an anti-inflammatory diet.

In terms of diet, one of the most inflammatory proteins from food is gluten in wheat products.  We are no longer eating the wheat our parents and grandparents consumed and the processing of the wheat has made it incredibly inflammatory.  Many people with neurologic imbalances and autoimmune conditions benefit from a gluten-free diet.

Stimulation

The famous saying, ‘use it or lose it,’ has never rung more true.  As we age, we are continuously losing brain cells called neurons.  While we want to be healthy and maintain the neurons we have, our brain is very efficient by creating webs between neurons.  This is why ‘practice makes perfect.’  The more we engage, the more webs we create allowing us to continually learn and grow throughout life.  My patients that remain engaged in studies, games, athletics, and other activities live happier and healthier lives.

Alzheimer’s disease, other forms of dementia, mood disorders, and learning disabilities are not conditions we have to put up with or wait to take its toll.  Proactive health measures affecting circulation, blood sugar balance, and inflammation can be incorporated to improve and prevent neurodegeneration.