Insane Medicine – A manual for care of your Brain: Part 1

Insane Medicine - Brain matters
A chimpanzee Brain in a jar.
  • Alzheimer’s disease presents with plaques and tangles in the brain, the plaques being clumps of a protein fragment, beta-amyloid, and the tangles being misshaped ‘tau’ proteins. These can be present in people and yet the individual does not show signs of dementia. Thirty percent of people over age 70 have elevated beta-amyloid but are cognitively normal.
  • Neurofibrillary tangles damage neurons and synapses, disrupting the architecture of the brain. It may take more than 10 years before amyloid deposition begins and symptoms of dementia start.
  • Damaged blood vessels in the form of small strokes add on to the problem of dementia. Some 20 percent of the elderly have had ‘silent’ strokes and do not have any knowledge of it. These small strokes further the destruction of the brain’s architecture, leading to vascular dementia.
  • Risk factors for vascular damage include smoking, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
  • Watch your blood pressure!
  • High blood pressure is a huge risk factor for later cognitive impairment. Why? Small strokes cut off blood flow to brain tissue due to uncontrolled blood pressure and diabetes, destroying brain architecture and function. On an MRI, bright white matter areas of hyper-intensities represent areas of damage, in which neurons cannot connect well with one another. Patients with uncontrolled blood pressure tend to have more hyper-intensities, representing compromised brain functioning.
  • Control your diabetes and sugar intake.
  • Type 2 diabetes in a strong risk factor for dementia. People with this problem are insulin resistant, mostly due to obesity. High levels of insulin in the blood correlate with more rapid cognitive decline, possibly due to less brain insulin as a result of decreased receptors for insulin in the blood-brain barrier. This results in less insulin entry into the brain. Insulin may help clear the toxic beta-amyloid from the brain.
  • Insulin receptors in the brain seem to localize in areas that are important for the formation of new memories. When the receptors decrease, memory seems to get impaired. Intranasal insulin may have a positive effect on cognitive abilities in patients with memory impairment, but studies are ongoing.
  • What to do: Lose weight and exercise more. Evidence from studies show that patients  who had a diet low in saturated fats and carbohydrates with a low glycemic index had lower beta-amyloid levels in the brain CSF, which surrounds and bathes the brain) So eat less saturated fats and sugars!
  • Exercise! Executive functioning (the ability to plan and make decisions, correct errors, and respond to new information) is improved by exercise. Executive functioning is lost in cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. People who move and exercise, especially over their lifetime, have a lower risk of dementia. Sedentary people have less blood flow to the distant blood vessels in their brain and that makes them vulnerable. Exercise may expand brain volume and protect blood vessels in the brain. It helps with stress, insulin levels, and many other parameters in good ways.
  • Keep your brain active! People who are involved with mentally stimulating activities, like reading, going to classes, playing games) have a lower risk of dementia. This cognitive reserve may protect against the onset of symptoms.
  • Caffeine may protect your brain! There is evidence that up to 500 mg of caffeine a day was helpful in preservation of memory. Caffeine may reduce amyloid burden.
  • Blueberries and strawberries may reduce memory decline. Aim for at least one serving of blueberries a week and two of strawberries.
  • Increase the amount of fish in your diet! Dark-meat fish, such as swordfish, salmon, mackerel, sardines,) are excellent in certain measures of cognition. Omega-3 fats  alone (which are present in high amounts in fish)  have not been shown to help dementia.
  • Avoid sleep restriction! Get plenty of sleep! Sleep seems to expand the area between brain cells making it easier to clear beta-amyloid and toxins from the brain, sleep disruption impairs this capability.
  • DASH diet: A healthy diet that includes fruit, vegetables, fiber, low sugar content, and low saturated fat, helps with blood pressure and overall health. The American Heart Association recognizes this diet as being effective in a number of health scores.
  • Consider the Mediterranean Diet. More on this diet later.
  • Antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamin E/C/beta-carotene, B vitamins, phosphatidyl serine, ginkgo, huperzin-A, and other supplements have been found to be ineffective in preventing memory decline and dementia.
  • Insane Medicine - Plaques in the brain - what a pain
    Insane Medicine – Plaques in the brain – what a pain!
  • http://dashdiet.org/    – this is a link to the DASH diet – a heart-healthy option
  • http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/dash/
  • http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/dash-diet/art-20048456  – Mayo clinic presents the DASH diet

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