BY DR. PANCHAJANYA PAUL, MD*
For long, it was assumed that memory loss was a part of getting old. Lost memories are gone forever. Once Alzheimer’s and other dementias set in, nothing can halt their progression. This belief is about to change.
Earlier it was thought that nerve cells stop growing after adulthood. In the biggest neuroscience discovery of the century, scientists have found that the human brain can grow new cells all through life, even at a very old age. However, multiple disease processes can impair the regrowth and regeneration of brain cells. Over time, this leads to degeneration of the nerve cells, causing dementia.
New research suggests that Alzheimer’s is not a single disease, but multiple pathologies, and the final pathway is the degeneration and death of brain cells. Memory loss is the earliest sign of dementia which slowly progresses to impair all brain functions, finally leading to death. If we can prevent the factors for brain degeneration, and promote the factors for brain regeneration, then we can treat and reverse Alzheimer’s. Based on this simple idea, Dr. Daniel Amen has developed a comprehensive Memory Rescue program which can sharpen your memory, reverse brain aging, and decrease risk of Alzheimer’s. Memory Rescue classifies all risk factors for Alzheimer’s and other dementia into 11 categories under mnemonic BRIGHT MINDS.
B – Blood Flow : Hypertension, Stroke, Heart Disease
R – Retirement and Aging : Social Isolation, Loneliness
I – Inflammation : Periodontal disease, high homocysteine or CRP
G – Genetics : Family member with Alzheimer’s , APOE4 gene
H – Head Trauma : Concussion, Loss of smell
T – Toxins : Alcohol, Cigarettes, Heroin, Cocaine , Mercury
M – Mental Health : Chronic Depression, Schizophrenia, Bipolar disorder
I –Infections : Lyme, Toxoplasma, Herpes
N – Necrohormone Deficiencies : Low testosterone, low Estrogen
D – Diabesity : Overweight, high blood sugar
S – Sleep Issues: chronic insomnia
Brain has only 5 percent of our body weight, but requires 20 percent of the blood supply to function optimally. The easiest way to increase blood flow to the brain is physical exercise. During exertion, the hurt pumps more blood and boosts brain function. Nutritional supplements like Gingko, Ginseng, Omega 3 fatty acids, green tea, resveratrol found in grapes also improve brain blood flow. Many Ayurvedic herbs like Ashwagandha, turmeric, brahmi, bacopa has been used for thousands of years inIndia. Now research has confirmed their positive role in brain health.
Playing sports like badminton, tennis, gymnastics, soccer, which promote balance and coordination also stimulates blood flow to the brain. Many people who remain alert and active throughout their life notice sudden decline after retirement. People approaching the age of retirement or those in retirement must be cautious to keep their brain active. Learning new things create new nerve cell connection. Another factor for brain decline is social isolation. Humans are social animals and maximum brain cells become active when we are socializing in groups. Cultivating a hobby, volunteering, and attending social events like festivals, ceremonies, birthdays anniversary can help to preserve brain function.
Chronic inflammation is another risk to brain and body health. A diet high in plants, vegetables, organic meat, wild fish will keep the body healthy and fight infection and inflammation. A diet full of processed food, trans fat, wheat, sugar will raise inflammation in the body. Add plenty of coconut, avocado, grass fed butter, and ghee in your diet as this will raise the ketone levels, which helps in forming new brain cells. Also, some people may have chronic brain infections from Lyme, Molds, Cytomegalovirus, Epstein Barr virus which has been linked with dementia. They can be detected through lab tests, and treated by your doctor. Chronic psychiatric conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar, ADHD – if untreated will cause changes in brain function over time. Studies have shown that people with depression are a higher risk of developing dementia later in life. If you worry too much consider using supplement that will boost brain serotonin levels like saffron, 5HTP, tryptophan, and St Johns Wart.
In recent years, head injury among football players has garnered lot of attention. The human brain is very soft with a buttery consistency, which sits in a hard skull. Any form of head trauma is bad for the brain. Small amounts of trauma accrued over time damages brain structure and increases the risk for brain diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and psychiatric conditions. Always wear helmet, be careful while driving, using stairs, and limit dangerous activities which has risk of fall.
Recreational drugs like heroin, cocaine, LSD, and others are toxic to the brain. Every other day, news magazines quote studies purporting the health benefits of alcohol. Alcohol is a brain depressant and decreases blood flow to the brain. Chronic alcohol use will cause memory and sleep problems. Mild, occasional, and social use may have some benefit, but requires discipline. Our environment is full of toxins from chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, and preservatives. Chemicals like BPA, phthalates, parabens cause hormone imbalance. Hormones like estrogen, testosterone, thyroid nourishes the brain. Avoid plastic containers, processed food, farm raised meat and fish. Get you hormone levels checked on a regular basis. Alzheimer’s has also been described as the diabetes of the brain. The brain fails to secrete insulin and cannot use the glucose effectively in Alzheimer’s. Get checked and adequately treated for diabetes. Natural supplements that help with blood sugar regulation are cinnamon, chromium, magnesium, and vitamin D. The brain also heals itself during sleep. Chronic sleep problem increases the risk for dementia. If you are overweight or snore at night, you should be evaluated for obstructive sleep apnea. Best way to manage sleep is daily exercise, stress reduction, and sleep schedule. Avoid computer, television, smart phone 1 hour before sleep as blue light inhibits melatonin.
The key to your health is in your hand. Only 5 percent of cases of Alzheimer’s can be attributed to genetic causes. It might be good idea to get tested for APOE4 gene. If you are positive, then your risk for dementia is higher. But also remember, the genetic expression is mediated through the environment. By controlling all the risk factors, you can stop the expression of the Alzheimer’s gene and reverse its progression. As Dr. Amen says “Your brain’s history is not its destiny. Even if you have brain fog or trouble remembering now, it doesn’t mean you always will. You can start having a better memory today by engaging in a Memory Rescue plan which will also improve your energy, mood, sleep, weight, and overall success in life.” If you or your loved ones are struggling or at risk for memory loss consider reading the book MEMORY RESCUE by Daniel Amen. Amen Clinics also provides comprehensive MEMORY RESCUE program, call 1888-288-9834 for details.
*Dr. Panchajanya Paul, MD, ABIHM, ABPN, FAPA – is an American Board certified – Child, Adolescent, and Adult psychiatrist. He is a diplomat of the American Board of Integrative and Holistic Medicine, and a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He holds adjunct faculty position at Emory University School of Medicine; University of Georgia, and University of Central Florida School of Medicine. To schedule an appointment with Dr.Paul @ Amen Clinic Atlanta, call 6783672810.