Signs and symptoms of depression, irritability, confusion and forgetfulness related to dementia or Alzheimer’s affect two out of three people being touched by dementia in NZ, according to Alzheimer’s New Zealand. These statistics are frightening and the trend to look after the aging brain is increasing. The question is what can you do? And the answer is lots… but the sooner you start, the better.
Check out your homocysteine level
The older we get, the less we seem to remember, which may be partially related to brain shrinkage, but did you know that high levels of a by-product from protein metabolism called homocysteine is an actual risk factor? High homocysteine levels increase as we age and has been linked to a number of disorders including high blood pressure, increased incidence of stroke and an increased risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s. Homocysteine is regulated by enzymes which need vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid to work properly and if these vitamins are not sufficient, or are depleted by stress and by ageing, unhealthy levels of homocysteine rise. A great product to check out is B Stress Free; and as with any health concerns – your doctor is able to test for homocysteine.
Avoid toxic metals
Amalgam fillings used to be the way to go, but that’s before we knew better. Now we’re lucky enough to have the choice of white fillings, which are mercury free!! Mercury like all heavy metals are detrimental to brain health because they have an affinity to sit in brain tissue, which can cause many health problems. To help eliminate toxic heavy metals we suggest using Chlorophyll – a product containing green pigment found in cyanobacteria and the chloroplasts of algae and plants.
Staying mentally active
Heard the saying “use it or lose it”? This seems to be true for brain health – don’t forget the brain is a muscle and must be used regularly.
If you don’t enjoy learning new things such as a new language, find another brain stimulating activity such as reading, doing crosswords, playing board games, etc. Or keep working for as long as you are able or want to, or join clubs.
The importance of staying physically and socially active
Regular exercise maintains a good blood flow throughout the body especially the brain, which requires a healthy supply of oxygen and nutrients for the growth of healthy brain cells. Try to exercise for at least half an hour daily, if not, at least 3-4 times weekly.
Interestingly research has shown the importance of social integration with family and friends for a healthier brain. It seems that social interaction helps with the growth of new brain cells and supports brain repair– which could be because not only are we engaging the brain, but socialising with loved ones and friends, which in turn makes us happy and being happy releases stimulating brain endorphins.
What about alcohol?
Regularly drinking excessive amounts of alcohol over a prolonged period of time increases the risk of developing dementia, although those of you who enjoy a glass or two of wine a night will be pleased to know that light-to-moderate alcohol consumption may actually reduce the risk of dementia. The benefits of moderate consumption are mainly linked to the consumption of red wine. Red wine is high in Resveratrol and other Polyphenols from the grape skins used to produce wine, which reduce inflammation, increase good cholesterol and increase brain blood flow, all of which have positive effects on brain health. Red wine may also inhibit the toxic effects of Amyloid-Beta Protein, which are the plaques, implicated in Alzheimer’s disease.
Heard of Turmeric? Turmeric is a spice that contains the powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant Curcumin. Research shows that Turmeric may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease due to the Curcumin content. With its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, it can boost memory and stimulate the production of new brain cells and may inhibit the accumulation and break-up of the Beta amyloid – plaques that are found in the space between nerve cells and the brain in those suffering with Alzheimer’s. We recommend Good Health’s Turmeric 15800 Complex.
Feed your brain
Your brain needs a range of nutrients to function properly. Evidence suggests that a healthy, balanced diet may help in maintaining brain health and functionality, but more research is needed to understand if there are specific foods that may be able to reduce the risk of dementia.
Increase antioxidants – eat lots of fruit and vegetables particularly the strongly coloured fruits and vegetables such as red grapes, cranberries, blueberries and tomatoes, all of which contain powerful polyphenols that help decrease the inflammation, which is the enemy of brain health. Vitamin C and Co-enzyme Q10 are powerful antioxidants that are available in supplement form. Take at least 1000mg of Vitamin C (OptiC) twice daily and 150mg of Co-enzyme Q10 (Opti CoQ10 150mg).
Eating the right type of fats is important – Try to avoid foods high in saturated and trans-saturated fats. Research has shown a high intake of saturated fats, such as those found in meat, deep-fried foods and takeaway food; and trans fats often found in pies, pastries, cakes, biscuits and buns, are associated with an increased risk of dementia.
Heard of Lutein? Lutein is an important antioxidant that supports brain health as we age. Lutein is found naturally in foods such as dark leafy green vegetables. You know the ones – kale, spinach, silverbeet and mustard greens. These and egg yolks, peas and corn are the foods to eat in abundance when it comes to providing lutein. Lutein is also available in a supplement.
Keeping up with the Omega-3 fats
The omega 3 fatty acids in oily fish, flaxseeds and walnuts may reduce inflammation in the brain and promote the growth of new brain cells. There are numerous studies that show an association between higher fish consumption and lower dementia risk. This is due to the DHA content of omega 3. DHA is essential for brain development because it is the building block of the fatty tissue of the brain, whilst EPA reduces inflammation within the body. The recommended dose of omega 3 fatty acids is 300mg of EPA and 200mg of DHA daily, which can be increased depending on the severity of memory failure. We recommend Good health Super Omega. A vegetarian form of omega 3 fatty acids is flax seed oil (Flaxomega), which can be added to salad dressing. The Omega 3 content comes in the form of alpha linoleic acid, which the body then converts, into EPA.
Red super krill
Phospholipids are important for brain health, which you can buy in supplement form. Human cell membranes are made up of phospholipids, so the phospholipid form of omega 3 from krill oil is easily transported into your cells, which mean the beneficial omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are better utilised to support healthy brain function, mental clarity and focus. We recommend Good Health’s Red Super Krill.
Lecithin is naturally found in soybeans and is a rich source of phosphatidylcholine – an important nutrient for healthy cell membranes. Phosphatidylcholine plays an important role in healthy brain function. This is because about 1/3 of the brain is composed of lecithin and is required to make up the protective sheaths surrounding the brain, spine and nerves and is needed to make a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine – vital for healthy brain function which can be deficient in those suffering from neurological disorders. We recommend Lecithin 1200.
Phosphatidylserine is another fatty substance that is essential for healthy cell membranes, particularly in the brain where it’s concentrated in the brain more than any other tissue in the body. This important substance has been shown to improve memory and mental health by increasing the number of acetylcholine receptors – which play a vital role in transmitting messages from the nerves, improving cell membrane flexibility and keeping fatty substances soluble in the brain. We recommend Good Health Mind Sharp. Mind Sharp also contains a high-DHA fish oil, Vitamin B12, Folic Acid and Iodine, so is a good comprehensive brain supplement that contains multiple brain nutrients.