Recently in the news one of the online brain exercise programs announced some great results using brain training games to prevent Alzheimer’s. The current study was a re-analysis of former data collected from observing almost 3000 healthy older adults over a ten year period. The group who did the speed-of- processing training—now available through Posit
Science’s BrainHQ.com brain training program—showed 33% reduced rate of developing dementia.
My point is not that you should all run out and start doing that program (although that would be great), but instead that we are going to be reading news about Alzheimer’s prevention and treatment on a regular basis. The news appeal is great as more and more baby boomers realize the risk of dementia is significant as we age. I talked about balance in Part 2 and that will be part of your future balancing act: figuring out how to be open and curious to incoming news without getting completely distracted with each little tidbit of information.
If you stick to the information in the first two parts of this series, you will be doing all the heavy lifting and for most people it will make a difference in their general physical health as well as mental. Let’s get to the last details, the ones that show significant promise for brain health and that might not be so obviously a part of general health improvement.
Fine Tuning Brain Health
Reduce the effects of life’s stressors.
Here’s one everyone can do, and reap the benefits throughout their life: reduce the impact of stress on your life.
We all encounter stress in our lives, and for many of us it is the kind of stress to which we humans are not well-suited. We are just not “hard wired” to confront ongoing, low-level stress on a regular basis. Constant worries about health, or wealth, or work—we just didn’t evolve with equipment suitable for incorporating those stressors. Our bodies function efficiently around time-limited episodes of stress: a wild animal jumps out in our path and we must respond! Once that’s passed, we should emotionally settle back down to calm. We are not suited to be dodging traffic along a crowded freeway for hours at a time.
So, here’s the secret tool: we cannot eliminate stress, but we can find strategies to reduce the impact of stress on our bodies. Here’s a quick one that I learned from Dr. Andrew Weil. Sitting comfortably, place the tip of your tongue at the base of your upper teeth. Breathe in through your nose slowly to a count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven, and “whoosh” your air out for a full count of eight. Repeat for four full cycles, you’ll get the hang of it. Do two sets, four cycles each, daily for a month, no more and no less. After the month, you “own it!” and can use it whenever and wherever you like to help reduce your body’s stress level.
Check in on your gut.
What’s your gut feeling about your gut? Any digestive disturbance, from the mouth to the throat, small intestine, or colon, can add a physical stress to the health of your body. Do you burp, burn, bloat, rumble or fart more than you used to? Ask your doctor to check out what might be going on, and keep the treatment as natural as possible. No acid-blocking drugs, please!
Do you snore?
Ever been told that you snore? Stop breathing in the middle of the night? Sleep apnea reduces the oxygen available to your brain. Ask your doctor to help you check that one off your list if you’re concerned.
Another ask of your doctor might be a heavy metal screen. Prominent metals to consider include mercury (do you eat tuna? swordfish? other large fish?), lead and cadmium can all be toxic to cells in our brain.
Your brain loves ketones
There is one readily available brain supplement that you may have read about in the popular press: coconut oil! Coconut oil contains many helpful ingredients for brain and for immune health. What’s most helpful to the brain are the medium length fats, known as medium-chain triglycerides, or MCT’s. MCTs are rapidly processed by the liver to produce ketone bodies which are actually the brain’s favorite food. Have you ever gone without food for long enough to have that “high” associated with fasting? That’s your brain on ketones! There are several easy ways to get ketones in your brain.
- Avoid eating for three hours before bed, and a total of 12 hours between the end of dinner and
the beginning of breakfast. Not only will lowered blood sugars inspire your liver to make
ketones, but a “break” in gut activity allows cell regeneration in your brain and throughout your
- Take an MCT oil drizzled on food or dissolved in your favorite warm liquid. Examples include:
- Coconut oil , 1-2 Tbsp one to three times daily
- MCT oil, same doses: but start with lower doses to avoid, as they say, “disaster pants!”
- Extracts of coconut oil, refined to concentrate just the brain active MCT’s. Bulletproof Executive makes both an XCT oil and Brain Octane oil. Although a bit more expensive, they are more concentrated, so lower doses should work well.
- MCT oil dissolved onto a fiber, such as in Phat Fibre and others.
- Take the ketones directly.
- Axona is a prescription form of bio-available ketones, spendy but effective.
- There are many emerging ketone supplement products: ketone salts (not recommended) and ketone esters (very spendy at this time.)
- Perhaps you can tell I would recommend the MCT supplements for now.
High level supplements perform specific actions in the brain. Not all will be needed
by everyone, see if any of these particularly appeal to you.
- H. erinaceus or acetyl-l-carnitine increase neurotrophic growth factor, part of the brain’s
ongoing recovery system.
- Citicoline and DHA (in your fish oil) help with structural components of the brain.
- Antioxidants can be helpful in the brain, just as in other places in the body:
- Vitamin E is usually sold as the worst form of vitamin E: look for a product that has mixed
tocopherols and/or tocotrienols.
- Blueberries, wild berries are best!
- N-acetyl cysteine and alpha lipoic acid help your body make more glutathione, the body’s
- Last but certainly not least: ubiquinol (a more absorbable form of CoQ10) at 100 mg twice daily is good for your brain and your cardiovascular system. You can find it in food if you eat organ meat: the heart is rich in coQ10 and is a delicious and relatively easy to prepare choice!
Whew! If you’ve read through this three-part series, and remember bits from each part, well done! There is still real value in putting a bit of effort into prevention, in whatever form that takes.
And stay tuned: there will always be news tidbits, and I’ll try to be selective about reporting on only the most promising bits of news.
The treatment paradigm of the future will evaluate people in all relevant parameters, and more yet to be discovered. Each person will receive a personalized report and recommendations for action items. Your health care team will provide the support needed and ongoing oversight to help you stay on your
I think that paradigm is already in place, through Dr. Bredesen’s ReCODEreport.com, and his widely available book, The End of Alzheimer’s.