Clusters of people live to be 100 years of age or longer in places such as Sardinia Italy and Okanawka Japan. These cultures have excellent mental acuity and longevity due to being consistently physical, possessing strong social networks and diets rich in antioxidant fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. These simple lifestyle choices lead to brain longevity.
The leading cause of neurological decline is Inflammation. In many cases, inflammation is a normal physiological process. The cells repair damaged tissue and fight off foreign bodies which are good things as the body is healing. The problem with brain aging is that there is too much inflammation! Amyloid plaques then begin to form which have been proven to be associated with the pathology of more than 20 serious human diseases. I advise to maximize FOUR simple lifestyle choices to ensure optimal cognitive health for the present and well into the future. This includes physical exercise, mental stimulation, stress management and of course, nutrition.
Nutrition should be thought of as FOOD AS MEDICINE. It is not just for weight loss although achieving optimal body weight is important. In general society presents with an obesity epidemic and this greatly increases the risk for Alzheimers. Weight loss is not easy! The dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex says don't eat while the orbital frontal cortex says eat cake! Thus, a battle of the brain occurs BUT when people have success you see clear alterations in neuro function. Will power is created in the brain! Here are the top foods I recommend to assist with weight loss, food as medicine and will power!
TURMERIC : Curcumin is the main antioxidant component in turmeric and it greatly protects brain health. If cooking with turmeric heat up oil and put the spice in first to release all the nutritive properties. I personally just go hard core and eat the raw root daily or juice it or blend into a smoothie!
COCONUT OIL: Coconut oil provides an alternative fuel source for the brain and protects the brain from damage! Alzheimer's can be compared to a type 3 diabetes. When insulin levels are chronically high from poor blood sugar it keeps the brain from clearing out Amyloid plaque which is associated with Alzheimer's disease. Coconut oil helps to feed the brain and stabilize blood sugar and hormones. Many studies have shown complete reversal of symptoms by having two tablespoons of coconut oil daily! Note that the oil must be organic and extra virgin.
ASHWAGANDA: Ashwaganda is an adaptogen herb that comes from India. Translation means the strength of 10,000 horses. Adaptogen herbs adapt for stress hormones. Stress causes oxidative stress and the brain cells get over excited and die. Using ashwaganda for 5 days is as effective as prescribed pharmaceuticals. The natural approach however eliminates side effects and encourages other neurological benefits
LIVER MEATS: Liver and other organ meats boost mitochondria production and therefore boost brain health. Organ meats are an amazing protector of the Myelin Sheath. If you cant tolerate eating liver take it in pill form. Radiant life grassfed liver is a supplement I can highly recommend. Most people don't want these meats so stores sell them for cheaper. Always look for a high quality grassfed organic meat or supplement!
GELATIN: This is a complete superfood for the brain! However, I am not talking about your standard jello! Grass fed beef gelatin as a supplement builds collagen, protects the brain and is the highest food in glycine. Glycine is a coping marker. If low in glycine and an incident occurs to induce stress it can throw everything off, make it more difficult to function and therefore a noted decline in brain health. An increase in glycine quells insomnia, decreases stress, heals the gut and is a usable form of protein.
People equate brain health with strong memory but there is so much more to brain health than just memory. Cognitive function includes behavior such as paying attention, focus, thinking, reasoning and mood. If someone is anxious or depressed they can not do any of the above to their potential. Physical exercise is not just for weight loss as it also allows for increased oxygen to the brain and the brain cells. Simply walking with a brisk pace 20 minutes a day will lower your risk for Alzheimer's. When you move the body it increases oxygen and nutrients to the brain which stimulates your neurons to grow connections between brain cells and ultimately increases brain function. Memory decline begins during age 30 and beyond. The most common complaint is names, prospective memory and the tip of the tongue phenomenon. These are common and all have problems but this does not ever need to occur with successful brain aging. Growth of plaques and tangles can be halted.
Stimulate your brain! Lifelong learning will protect your brain. Thus, it is important to remain stimulated with continuous learning and education yet there is no need to strain your brain. Simply do something you enjoy. To ensure an even bigger boost exercise your brain with focused memory techniques and you will improve your memory performance with sustained effects.
Stress greatly affects brain health and your nervous system thus strategies to reduce stress and keep adrenals healthy is crucial. Some great stress relief includes yoga, meditation, tai chi, just being social, being sure to take breaks, getting a good nights sleep and whatever else you like to do that is relaxing. When de-stressed, relaxed and happy there are clear alterations in neuro activity. Improvement in mood and cognition changes inflammation markers in the blood. Thus, the common theme here is reducing inflammation.
Physical Exercise, mental Stimulation, ensuring a de-crease in stress hormones and finally the right kind of nutrition that uses food as medicine can prevent and at times reverse any cognitive decline even when it is reaching the stages of Alzheimer's and Dementia. Incorporate these simple lifestyle changes and feel amazing no matter what your age or situation. Remember that prevention is key so take action while young and vibrant and you will ensure your quality of life for years to come.
Jennifer Kamstock, MS is a licensed holistic nutritionist and speech language pathologist. She is the author of "The Everyday Detox", host of the TV show Fight It or Bite It and health/wellness host/spokesperson for livestrong and ehow. As a comedianne and actress she can currently be seen in the recurring role of investigative reporter Brittney Bowers on Disovery's Dark Secrets, in the soon to be released feature film Focus Groups and the newest addition to MTV's girl code. For requests or health inquiries contact [email protected].