Memory- keeping those neurons humming-
by Dr. Michael Kane
My mom’s death almost ten years ago due to complications from Alzheimer’s left me determined to not have the same fate. The slow deterioration of her cognitive ability was a nightmare for all who witnessed her decline.
In avoiding a similar fate, there are many life style changes that can alter the factors that contribute to dementia or other neurological illnesses.
In the neurological literature there is much focus on a protective compound called “brain derived neurotrophic factor” (BDNF). This is a protein that plays a key role in creating new brain cells or neurons. It also protects existing neurons from damage and stimulates nerve cell communication. This nerve cell communication is critical for learning, thinking and for higher levels of brain function.
People with certain neurological illness like dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s have lower levels of BDNF.
Increasing levels of BDNF
Physical Exercise- another reason to get moving. As little as 20 minutes of aerobic exercise was significant enough to show a 20% lower risk of cognitive impairment for a group of elderly woman in a Harvard study.
And similar findings were astounding as well. Dr.Lautenschlager of the University of Western Australia found that elderly individuals who engaged in a 24 week program of daily exercise saw a 1,800% improvement in memory, attention, language ability and general cognitive function compared to an age-matched group not involved in the program.
DHA- Docosahexaenoic Acid- dose 200- 300 mg a day. This “essential fatty acid” is a significant brain support, It is one of the key constituents found in fish oil and other omega 3 fatty acids. It helps control inflammation in the body and because the brain is more then 2/3 fat helps protect many of these cells from damage.
Curcumin- the compound found in the spice turmeric should be familiar to most who read this newsletter. It has a number of properties that make it particularly brain supportive. It is an anti-oxidant, an anti-inflammatory, and has anti-microbial and anti-cancer properties.
Fasting- when we fast we force our metabolism to feed the brain differently. Ketones are used in fasting states Instead of the usual fuel glucose . The effects on the brain besides an increase in BDNF include increase in energy production, and mental clarity. The principle ketone Beta-hydroxybutyrate is a super fuel of sorts, another way to promote Beta-HBA production is through ingesting high-quality organic, virgin coconut oil. Taking one tablespoon a day can be very brain supportive. Doing a one day fast one day a month can also boost the brain but before doing this check with your doctor to see if this is a good idea for you.
Calorie Restriction/ there are numerous animal studies and now some human studies that have clearly demonstrated that when fed a diet that is reduced in calories by 30% the study participants have an increase in BDNF, resulting in memory enhancement and better cognitive function.
Brain Stimulation- like working muscle, challenging the brain results in growth and increased function. Being involved in new learning situations, exploring new environments, travel, and regular meditation all enhance BDNF. There are some companies working on brain exercises that are available on dvd to specifically support cognitive and memory function.
In the science of neurology and brain health maintenance there are lots of discoveries to be made. The growth in this field is rapid and ever evolving so stay tuned for more brain supportive ideas.