The human brain is the penultimate creation in nature. 100 billion brain cells (neurons) each of which connects to 1000 other neurons, making around 100 trillion synapses (connections) that, allegedly, account for our thoughts and memory. Yet, any honest neurosurgeon will admit the extreme limitations of our understanding how the human mind works and your brain health. How can anyone memorize a sophisticated piano concerto? How do we dream? How do we communicate telepathically? An endless series of questions with no clear-cut answers. But we do know that an active healthy brain is essential to a meaningful life.
Until recently, doctors and scientists assumed that Alzheimer’s disease was a death sentence. No known cause. No known cure. Dale Bredesen, MD and other creative physicians have changed that model with a multifactorial treatment protocol that essentially removes toxins from the brain and supplies the brain with the necessary ingredients to do its job successfully. Dr. Bredesen has been able to do the impossible: reverse Alzheimer’s. And there is hope for all mental illnesses.
Brain Health Statistics
- 50% of Americans will experience some mental illness in their lifetime
- 20% of Americans will experience some mental illness this year
- 5.7 million Americans and 50 million people worldwide have Alzheimer’s disease
- 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety
- 34% of Americans have anxiety and/or depression
- Depression is the leading cause of disability among people ages 15-44
- Suicide takes 42,000 American lives annually, with another 250,000 surviving suicide attempts
- Insomnia affects 70 million Americans each year, with women and older people at greater risk
Tips to Improve Brain Health
The human brain is needy yet resilient. Take away the toxins. Provide the right nutrients and watch your brain function at Olympic levels. Among the lifestyle factors that can heal the brain include:
As we age, our hormone production declines. When exposed to toxins our hormone production declines. Deficiency of any hormone can lead to mental decline or depression. DHEA, melatonin, testosterone, estrogen, pregnenolone, and more are among the hormones that can be replaced externally. Work with your doctor trained in this area of expertise.
Americans are exposed to ridiculous levels of pollutants in our air, food, water, and through electro-magnetic fields. Heavy metals, such as lead, mercury, aluminum, cadmium, and arsenic can affect mental performance. Volatile organic chemicals, such as found in agriculture and industry can interfere with healthy brain function. Eat organic when possible. Make sure that you have a daily bowel movement to keep toxins moving out of your system. Drink plenty of purified water from a purifier attached to your kitchen tap. Use a far infrared sauna to help sweat the toxins out of your body.
The mind is built to withstand brief moments of stress. The lion attacks and you “fight or flight.” Yet, modern humans are exposed to endless sessions of stress. Financial hardships, problems with the kids, marital issues, problems at work, tough commute, gut wrenching stories on TV news. All combine to put the adrenals stuck on “emergency” mode. Continuous flow of adrenaline will cause atrophy of the brain.
Solutions include forgiveness, altruism, meditation, journaling, and means of calming down through nature. To get more mileage out of your brain, give it a rest.
Sleep & Rest
Most Americans stagger around in a perpetual state of sleep deprivation. Researchers have found that anything less than 8 hours of deep restorative sleep ages the body and brain. Sleep deprived people exhibit elevated levels of inflammation, which is the beginning of most degenerative diseases. If needed, use melatonin, tryptophan, kava, ashwaganda, and other non-addictive natural remedies to enhance your sleep. A memory foam topper on your mattress may be the ticket to slumberland paradise. Your mission is to wake up feeling rested.
Humans are built for activity. A Stanford professor wrote an article entitled “Are Dis-eases from Dis-use of the Body?” Indeed, the list of health benefits from exercise boggles the imagination and sends shivers of envy through the drug industry. Get 30 minutes of some form of exercise daily. In doing so, you feed your brain and invigorate the body.
The brain is at the top of our body and above the heart, which creates a gravity problem for feeding the brain adequate blood and oxygen. One way to address this design issue is with a slant board. Lay down on a board that is at a 45 degree angle with your head at the bottom and feet in a bar at the top of the board. A Total Gym does this and much more. This process nourishes the brain and strengthens the tiny blood vessels in the brain that will dictate whether you forget your own phone number or can stay mentally alert well into your retirement years.
WARNING. If you are older or infirmed, then you need your doctor’s permission to use a slant board. Otherwise tiny fragile capillaries in the brain could burst.
Humans eat too much, too often, and the wrong foods. The “too much” is easily seen in the 2/3 of Americans who are overweight. The “wrong foods” shows up as a host of degenerative diseases: heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, renal failure, etc. The “too often” shows up as insulin resistance. The constant pounding of blood glucose and insulin at the cell membranes causes the cells to become resistant to insulin, which leads to diabetes (type 2), heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and a grocery list of ailments.
Humans are built to fast. Our ancestors experienced frequent and lengthy fasts through the insecurity of our food supply. Our bodies adapted to this fasting process and become healthier and younger in fasting.
Narrow your feeding window to 8 hours per day, such as only eat between 8 am and 4 pm. Take one day each week and water fast. Consume only water or tea. You will be dazzled at the immediate and long-term benefits of intermittent fasting, including brain preservation. Americans are literally “cooking” our brains through glycation, which is eating overcooked food while maintaining chronically elevated blood glucose.
Nearly all human festivals include dancing. Researchers have found that weekly ballroom dancing reduces the risk for Alzheimer’s by 73%. Dancing is both exercise and a coordination of the two hemispheres of the brain to stimulate the brain into producing more synapses. “Use it or lose it” applies to many functions in the body, including the brain.
Researchers performed autopsies on nuns in retirement. What was surprising is the frequency of blatant signs of Alzheimer’s disease in the brain, yet many of these nuns were asymptomatic…no indication of disease on the outside. These nuns kept their brains active with puzzles, word games, and reading. “Use it or lose it” is an axiom that should take many of us away from the TV and toward something that builds brain power.
You are what you eat. Our diet plays a powerful role in maintaining a healthy brain. Eat a plant-based diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, seaweed, mushrooms, and medicinal herbs. A diet that feeds the 37 trillion cells in your body optimal supplies of each essential nutrient is the diet that will preserve your brain.
There are many specific nutrients that are commonly deficient in the American diet. There is another list of nutrients that are not commonly found in anyone’s diet and hence merit inclusion as nutrition supplements for optimal brain functioning.
Magnesium, lithium, B-12, B-6, lecithin, choline, iodine, iron, copper, green tea, DHA and EPA (from fish oil), vinpocetine, ginkgo, phosphatidylserine, DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol), blueberry, ashwaganda, ginseng, acetyl-L-carnitine, and more are all individual nutrients that have demonstrated the ability to enhance mental performance.
Each of the above topics could be expanded into a book chapter. I have spared you the work. Essentially, the health of your brain and your risk for “old timers disease” is in your hands. Your lifestyle drives your health and risk for diseases. As the Framingham study poignantly expressed: “Our way of life is related to our way of death.” Incorporate these lifestyle habits to improve and maintain your brain health.
Excerpted from 12 Keys to a Healthier Cancer Patient