Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Eating for your Mind

Over the years, I've watched several clients dealing with family members who suffered from dementia and Alzheimer's disease. In diseases such as these, the neural connections in the brain don't synapse well any more, and brain cells begin to deteriorate and die. Although Alzheimers accounts for the majority of dementia cases, it is not considered a normal part of aging, and there are steps you can take to prevent it.
Take care of this thing.  You kinda need it.

First of all, the bloodflow to your brain needs to be working at optimal levels. That means that if you smoke, you need to stop. If you have high blood pressure, you need to get it in check. If you're sedentary, you need to get active. If you are at risk for diabetes, you really need to get your diet in check.

Studies have shown that depression has a link to declining mental capacity, so a rich social network is important in maintaining brain health. Join some community groups, take some classes in something that interests you, or check websites such as "meetup.com" that have activities for people of similar interests. The following Medscape article provides a good summary of lifestyle actions you can take to help prevent Alzheimer's: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/488849 and the following document from the Alzheimer's Association is an excellent reference regarding Alzheimer's statistics: http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache%3A3LUE03TbxnkJ%3Awww.alz.org%2Fdocuments_custom%2Freport_alzfactsfigures2010.pdf+alzheimer%27s+disease+statistics&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESjs-wB9wO0U6Y8YZufRhkftMuXwlalFLc19IE6H22c2m1OGgUA0R6mEvJuG9PFBNhpyXhOTh5j8eK-z-u6R4oIYuRlVPJs6DPjqj-C6LrcYTcVXec5hPwBAIEtxSpMfqW721t6G&sig=AHIEtbRFOC2pSyfVPQjxoyJzrxpj3fZT0g

Keeping your brain active is also important in keeping a healthy mind: http://www.nhs.uk/news/2010/09September/Pages/brain-training-speed-dementia-alzheimers.aspx

There are also dietary changes you can make to help stave off dementia and Alzheimer's. The active ingredient in turmeric, called curcumin, has shown great promise in protecting the brain (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2781139/) Alzheimer's and dementia rates in those who eat curry more than once a month in India are far lower than among those who don't.

CoQ10, in addition to promoting heart health, has shown great promise in protecting against brain-related diseases: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17192765 CoQ10 is generally taken as a supplement; make sure the quality of your supplements is reliable. I've been using a CoQ10 supplement from a company called Dr's Best (I buy it off iHerb.com) that I've found to be high quality, but do your own research and find what works for you.

Alzheimer's Disease and other diseases of the brain appear to go along with a significant increase of free radicals in the body. Therefore, diets rich in antioxidants, such as beta carotene, lycopene, and vitamins A, C, and E show promise in helping to prevent these diseases: http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/content/92/1/39.full A diet extremely rich in vegetables, particularly dark green leafy vegetables, orange vegetables, and tomato paste (very high in lycopene) will help to fill these gaps in your diet. 
The moral of the story is, you can keep your brain healthy (and your body, too!) with proper lifestyle and dietary choices. Aging does not necessarily mean a major decline in mental functions. 
Thoughts? Comments? Post 'em here!

3 comments:

  1. I wish nursing homes would realize this. I saw an elderly gentleman eating a bag of cheezits the other day upon visiting my grandma--who has slight dementia and diabetes and spent her life drinking diet soda pop.

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  2. Along the same lines of healthy lifestyle and brain health, this article was pretty interesting:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/26/health/research/26exer.html?em
    Strength training in women with better cognitive function? i better pick up those weights more frequenstly :)

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  3. Peter: Yeah, it's a real shame people don't realize what they're doing to their bodies.

    ILT: Oooo, good one! I'm still waiting for my genius to kick in... ;)

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