By Sarah A LoBisco, ND
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are
growing concerns for the aging population and their caretakers. In my homepage
blog, I discussed the implications of this disease and the toll it takes on our
society at large.
Part of my mission is to empower
you with information that you don’t have to live in fear. More and more,
science is proving how our lifestyle choices predict and modulates our disease
Below are some brain fun facts and tips to
ease your mind and empower your health! (Please
see my homepage for link references, emphasis in the summaries are mine :)).
1. Have Fun for a Brain Boost
study, those who engaged in the following cognitive leisure activities at
least 4 times per week lowered their risk of dementia:
- Playing board games
- Playing musical instruments
- Doing crossword puzzles
Physical Leisure Activities
- Increase brain blood flow and support
overall brain function. We like that!
- Protect the short-term memory structures
in the temporal lobes (hippocampus) from high cortisol levels; thus
protecting the memory.
- Releases endorphins that make you feel
study, researchers looked at various physical activities such as partner
dancing, swimming and cycling. Of these activities, dancing was the only one
that reduced cognitive decline!
dancing reduced the likelihood of developing dementia by 76%
Reference: Amen, D. A Reason to Celebrate – Dancing Keeps You
Smart.Dr. Amen’s Blog. July 29, 2013.
2. Brain Preservation Activities
some more proof on engaging activities for brain wellness:
- Engaging in
cognitively stimulating activities both early and late in life is
associated with slower cognitive decline later in life, new research
- The research
supports the cognitive reserve hypothesis, which suggests that people with
greater cognitive abilities have better cognitive function in later life,
and may even be able to delay some symptoms of dementia despite physical
changes in the brain
- Research into
brain plasticity has proven that your brain continues to make new neurons
throughout life in response to mental activity
- Online brain
games, practicing mindfulness, and even reading and writing are examples
of ways to challenge your mind for better cognitive function
J. Brain Exercise Provides Benefits at Any Age. Mercola.com. August 1, 2013.
3. Brush Your Teeth for Better
attention to your mouth for brain health:
Two minutes in the morning and two minutes at night. Maintaining good
oral health doesn’t take up much time at all in the grand scheme of your busy
day. But don’t underestimate the importance of those four little minutes.
Not only does regular brushing help keep your teeth and gums healthy, it
may also hold some protection against a number of chronic disease, with the latest
the toothbrush at Alzheimer’s
Published in the Journal of
Alzheimer’s Disease, scientist found unusually high levels of Porphyromonas gingivalis,
a type of bacteria which causes gum disease, in brain samples from 10 deceased
dementia patients. The researchers have suggested that the bacteria may make
its way from the mouth to the brain, via the bloodstream, triggering the immune
system to release chemicals which can kill brain cells.
P. Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush: Oral Hygiene Linked to Dementia.
4. Blood Sugar and Brain Health
Keep your blood sugar low with a
healthy diet, happy thoughts, healing relationships, and movement. Higher blood
sugar is linked to Alzheimer’s:
blood-sugar levels, even those well short of diabetes, seem to raise the risk
of developing dementia, a major new study finds. Researchers say it suggests a
novel way to try to prevent Alzheimer’s disease – by keeping glucose at a healthy
Alzheimer’s is by far the most common form of dementia and it’s long been
known that diabetes makes it more likely. The new study tracked blood sugar
over time in all sorts of people – with and without diabetes – to see how it
affects risk for the mind-robbing disease.
The results challenge current thinking by showing that it’s not just the
high glucose levels of diabetes that are a concern, said the study’s leader,
Dr. Paul Crane of the University of Washington in Seattle.
“It’s a nice, clean pattern” – risk rises as blood sugar does,
said Dallas Anderson, a scientist at the National Institute on Aging, the
federal agency that paid for the study.
“This is part of a larger picture” and adds evidence that
exercising and controlling blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol are a
viable way to delay or prevent dementia, he said.
M. Study Ties Higher Blood Sugar To Dementia Risk. Associated Press (ap.org).
August 7, 2013.
Nutrients for Brain Health
1. DHA and Brain Health for Children
One study examined the effects of
an essential fatty acid, DHA, on brain function with 493 UK schoolchildren,
aged 7-9 years, selected for below average reading performance on cognitive
outcomes. Whole blood fatty acids were
measured using fingerstick samples. The researchers concluded:
In these healthy UK children with below average
reading ability, concentrations of DHA and other Omega-3 LC-PUFA were low
relative to adult cardiovascular health recommendations, and directly related
to measures of cognition and behavior. These findings require confirmation,
but suggest that the benefits from dietary supplementation with Omega-3 LC-PUFA
found for ADHD, Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, and related conditions might extend to the
general school population.
Montgomery P, Burton JR, Sewell RP, Spreckelsen TF, Richardson AJ (2013) Low
Blood Long Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids in UK Children Are Associated with Poor
Cognitive Performance and Behavior: A Cross-Sectional Analysis from the DOLAB
Study. PLoS ONE 8(6): e66697. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066697
2. Anemia Linked to Higher Risk
It’s a good idea to test your
iron and B-vitamin levels for brain health:
in their 70s, anemia may flag an increased risk of developing dementia later in
life, according to a new study.
Researchers following more than 2,500 U.S. adults in their 70s for over a
decade found that those who started out with anemia were 65 percent more likely
to develop dementia by the end of the study period.
“Anemia is common in the elderly and occurs in up to 23 percent of
adults ages 65 and older,” said senior author Dr. Kristina Yaffe of the
University of California, San Francisco.
People with anemia lack enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen
throughout the body.
Fewer healthy red blood cells could mean less oxygen travelling to the
brain and may result in cognitive decline, she said.
Several conditions, including kidney disease and nutritional
deficiencies, can cause anemia.
K. Older Adults Anemia Linked to Dementia Risk. Reuters. July 31, 2013.
3. Chocolate on the Brain?
Eating healthy for your brain can
be fun! Some organic, dark chocolate can help boost brain power:
Older people with impaired blood flow to their brains saw improvements in
thinking skills after drinking two cups of cocoa every day for a month, in a
The study’s researchers caution, however, that people shouldn’t start
stocking up on hot chocolate mix to help solve their crossword puzzles based on
the new finding.
“We’re several steps removed from that recommendation,” said
Dr. Farzaneh Sorond, the study’s lead author from Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Instead, Sorond said the result helps focus future research that may turn
up which component or components of hot chocolate are linked to better thinking
Previous research has found the brain is more active if it gets an
adequate supply of oxygen and sugar from the blood, the researchers wrote in
the journal Neurology.
A. Cocoa Tied To Improved Brain Function In Some Elderly. Retuers
(reuters.com). August 07, 2013.
4. Coffee and Brain Health?
from a cup o’ joe?
meta-analysis of more than 208,000 people found that drinking two to four
cups of caffeinated coffee daily was associated with a 50 percent reduced
suicide risk among adults
- Caffeine promotes production of the
neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline. It also triggers
the release of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which activates
brain stem cells to convert into new neurons
Mercola, J. Coffee May Reduce Your Suicide Risk, Study Finds. Mercola.com. August 08,
5. What About Grapes (Resveratrol)?
Resveratrol administration resulted in dose-dependent increases in
cerebral blood flow during task performance, as indexed by total
concentrations of hemoglobin. There was also an increase in deoxyhemoglobin
after both doses of resveratrol, which suggested enhanced oxygen extraction,
that became apparent toward the end of the 45-min absorption phase and was sustained
throughout task performance. Cognitive function was not affected. Resveratrol
metabolites were present in plasma throughout the cognitive task period.
Conclusion: These results showed that single doses of
orally administered resveratrol can modulate cerebral blood flow variables.
Kennedy, D. et al. Effects of resveratrol on
cerebral blood flow variables and cognitive performance in humans: a
double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover investigation. Am J Clin Nutr June
2010 vol. 91 no. 6 1590-1597.
I provided you with some good evidence that doing things for your health can
empower you to have better brain function for years to come!