Category: brain

Happy elderly couple in love enjoying summer day together

How to Prevent Cognitive Decline and Alzheimer’s Disease

I had the fortunate opportunity to hear Rudolph Tanzi, PhD speak at the March 2017 Mind, Consciousness, and Cultivation of Well-being Conference at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). Tanzi asked the question, “What can Alzheimer’s teach us about the brain, mind and self?”

Tanzi has diligently worked to utilize funding from private and government sectors to discover many facets of the brain that cause the onsite of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). His research is imperative because contrary to heart disease that is finally on a 14 percent decline, AD is on the rise by 89 percent.

Tanzi and his team now know AD begins fifteen to twenty years prior to symptoms even appear. AD affects 5.4 million patients in the United States and 50 million worldwide. The disease is at an epidemic level. Thus his research is fundamental for the large aging Baby Boomer population and subsequent generations. This article addresses some of Tanzi’s findings and recommendations for maintaining a healthy brain, mind and self.

Genetic Predisposition

Many genetic and environmental factors influence the risk for AD. Tanzi identified many of the pathogenic gene mutations, which pose increased risk of AD. In addition to the gene mutations APP, PSEN 1, PSEN 2, and APOE, amyloid buildup, plague accumulation, brain inflammation, and many lifestyle considerations predict the onsite of AD. Tanzi noted in his presentation that women consist of two-thirds of AD patients due to females being more susceptible to inflammation in the brain than men.

The Brain

The brain is defined as an organ of thought and feeling that serves as the center of the nervous system. The brain begins to decline in cognitive function in almost everyone after the age of forty. AD affects the brain by enhancing cognitive decline in learning, memory, reasoning, and judgment.

The Mind

According to Dan Siegel, M.D. the mind is a cultivation of a “me” (or a self as used in this framework) and a “we” that is an embodied and relational process that regulates the flow of energy and information.

The Self

AD takes time and space out of context, which equates to a loss of self that has an individual perception of the world. AD patients aren’t able to absorb new information (short-term memory failure) and consequently lose their sense of self.

Rewrite Genetic Code

The good news is that lifestyle and environmental factors can change genetic code and the risk for AD. Even with genetic susceptibility for AD, many lifestyle factors such as sleep patterns, diet, exercise, stress and trauma levels, intellectual stimulation and social engagement can prevent the disease.

Here is a list of lifestyle recommendations to change your genetic outlook.

Diet

Diet choices impact over-all health, well-being, and risk for many diseases such as Diabetes, Cancer, Cardiac Disease and AD. It is recommended to consume a healthy Mediterranean diet, which includes small amounts of red meat and limited consumption of carbohydrates and fats. Consume a diet rich in vibrant-color vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains and you’re on your way to optimal health.

Exercise

The benefits of exercise surpass lowering susceptibility to AD. It also helps strengthen the immune system, reduce inflammation, lower stress levels, increases bone density, and induces turnover in amyloids that cause plaque build-up in the brain. To help ward-off AD, it is suggested to exercise at least an hour a day or if using an app such as FitBit, 10,000 steps a day.

Sleep

Sleep is another important factor to not only help fight AD but also daily stress levels. After the age of forty, it is recommended to have at least 8 hours of sleep nightly. While asleep, your brain clears the plague that causes inflammation, which only happens during delta sleep, our deepest sleep cycle.

Stress

The ability to manage daily stress is imperative not only to help prevent heart disease but also autoimmune diseases and AD. Stress can be managed quite effectively with a daily meditation practice. Studies have shown that meditation changes your gene expression that work against inflammation and creates a healthier default state in the brain. It also counteracts the amyloid affect associated with AD.

Intellectual Stimulation

Learning new things helps you create new synapses and strengthens the ones you already have. So take a class, learn a new language, or read non-fiction.

Gut-Brain Axis

There is a direct correlation between the gut and the brain. Research unearthed that the gastrointestinal system and the composition of the enteric microbiota in the gut directly affect the central nervous system. The central nervous system regulates visceral perception, emotion and stress response. Thus the composition of gut chemicals determines mood, obesity, and controls inflammation in the brain.

Probiotics

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast that help stabilize the good and bad bacteria naturally occurring in the gut. The stabilization of bacteria helps to increase the immune system, fight off infection, decrease inflammation, and may even reduce bloating and pain associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It is recommended to take a minimum of 30 to 100 billion colony-forming units per day for adults. Tanzi stated, he consumes Kefir with his daily breakfast. Kefir is a drink of fermented cow’s milk. Live culture yogurt is another probiotic alternative.

Cat’s Claw

Cat’s Claw is a Peruvian medicinal herb found in the Amazon rainforest and tropical jungles of South and Central America. The health benefits of cat’s claw dates back to the Inca civilization. Historically, the herb has been used for inflammation, viral infections, cancer, contraception and to fuel the immune system.

Presently, the bark and roots of cat’s claw is consumed as liquid extracts, tablets, capsules, and teas to defend against Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, cancer, colitis, diverticulitis, gastritis, hemorrhoids, parasites, peptic ulcers, leaky bowel syndrome and viral infections (such as herpes and HIV).

Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NAD)

Research supports NAD as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Parkinson’s disease. NAD helps increase cellular energy and prevents premature death of brain cells.

NAD enhances cellular immunity before our genetic codes becomes damaged by various toxins and environmental stresses such as radiation, UV light, ozone, and chemical toxins (including certain pharmaceutical drugs).

It also works as an antioxidant, which protects cells against free radical damage. Finally, NAD stimulates the release of dopamine, norepinephrine, and other catecholamine production, which has a stimulatory effect. This reaction may potentially increase athletic performance.

A study conducted by Georg Birkmayer, an Austrian medical doctor treated AD patients with NAD. The results showed dramatic results with abstract verbal reasoning, fluency and visual-constructional ability. Furthermore, alertness, cognitive functioning, concentration, and memory improved with a daily dose of 10mg of NAD.

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha root is a herbal supplement used traditionally used in Indian medicine known as Ayurveda. The herb improves the immune system, reduces stress levels, treats anxiety, and insomnia. It’s treats arthritic and pain conditions, regulates blood sugar, and prevents and treats certain cancers. Furthermore, ashwagandha restores male fertility, increases physical energy, athletic ability and has remarkable antioxidant properties to slow the normal aging process and in neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and Parkinson’s disease.

Docosahexaneoic Acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)

DHA and EPA are long-chained polyunsaturated fatty acids that reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and the risk of dementia or cognitive decline. Omega-3’s act as anti-inflammatories, protect nerve cells membranes, and function to reduce the production of the β-amyloid peptide, widely believed to initiate AD.

Social Interaction

Research shows that people who regularly engage in social interaction and activity maintain their brain vitality and ward-off dementia and AD. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health discovered that women who maintain large social networks and talk to their close friends and family members daily reduced their risk for dementia nearly in half.

The take away is to move more, learn more, socialize more, meditate more, and sleep more. Your habits based on your lifestyle choices programs gene expression; thus you can modify your genes with your actions and behaviors. So go ahead, get moving with others, learn something new everyday, sit quietly and reflect inward, indulge in an array of colorful vegetables and legumes and have a good nights rest. You are doing your mind and body good all the while slowing the aging process and cognitive decline.

If you’d like to jumpstart your mental, physical, and emotional health, call 310-502-4944 or email april@aprilwrighttherapy.com and let’s start today.

References:

http://www.aafp.org/afp/2008/1101/p1073.html

http://www.drdansiegel.com/blog/2014/03/17/the-self-is-not-defined-by-the-boundaries-of-skin/

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/catclaw

http://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-ashwagandha.html

Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NADH)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2838628/

http://www.aarp.org/health/brain-health/info-11-2008/friends-are-good-for-your-brain.html

couple in love

Neuroscience Demystifies the Neuro-chemical Changes of the Brain in Love

Have you ever drifted into a dreamy thought of someone you recently met? You can’t explain why, but they just pop into your head. You feel a surge of joy, a slight queasiness in your stomach, and your face lights up with each playful thought of your new mate. A rush of neurochemicals stimulates this euphoric behavior.

Is this stage of love fleeting or can long-term committed relationships uphold blissful adoration?

The Stages of Modern Relationships

Whether you identify yourself as heterosexual, gay, lesbian, or bi-sexual, there are various stages to each relationship. According to research, during the initial meeting, it takes between 90 seconds and 4 minutes to decide if you want to move to dating and/or sex and not always in that particular order. During this lustful stage, testosterone and estrogen drive your behavior.

As your attraction deepens and you decide to become sexually exclusive or not, your stress response stimulates the release of the neurotransmitters; adrenaline, cortisol, dopamine, and serotonin.

Throughout this stage, your stress response is activated. Blood levels increase with adrenaline and cortisol, hormones secreted by the adrenal glands. The secretion of adrenaline and cortisol provide that rush of energy, increase in heart rate, sweaty palms, and dry mouth when you suddenly think of or startlingly bump into your new attraction.

Dopamine

The neurotransmitter, dopamine is increased with ‘love struck’ mates. Dopamine stimulates an intense rush of pleasure, triggering desire and reward. A brain on cocaine has the same effect.

“couples often show the signs of surging dopamine: increased energy, less need for sleep or food, focused attention and exquisite delight in smallest details of this novel relationship” ~ Helen Fisher

Serotonin

Serotonin plays a key role in this early stage of love. Low levels of serotonin explain those constant thoughts of your lover. According to Dr. Marazziti from the University of Pisa, blood samples of couples that claimed to be madly in love for less than six months were comparable to the blood samples of patients who have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

Furthermore, newly love-struck couples often idealize their partner, magnify their assets and overlook flaws.

“It’s very common to think they have a relationship that is closer and more special than anyone else’s.” ~ Ellen Berscheid

Oxytocin

Next, a couple decides upon exclusivity, engagement, living together or marrying. The attachment of the twosome instigates the powerful hormone, oxytocin.

Oxytocin is released during childbirth and creates the bond between a mother and her child. The chemical is also secreted by both of the sexes during cuddling, hugging, and sex.

Oxytocin is important because couples that exhibit high doses of oxytocin have a strong bond and attachment that can withstand the ups and downs of life. For the release of oxytocin, it takes between 19 and 23 seconds. Thus to ensure your couplehood survives the test of time; hug, cuddle and have sex regularly.

Vasopressin

Finally, vasopressin sets the stage for long-term committed couples. The hormone is released after sex and like oxytocin creates stable bonding with your partner. Vasopressin also creates the actions of devotion and protection.

The stages of a relationship change as do the release of chemicals in the brain. The surge of dopamine in the initial lustful state creates a rush of pleasure that stimulates, even more, desire and reward. Adrenaline causes the physical reaction of sweaty palms, racing heart, and dry-mouth.

Serotonin creates those compulsive, idealizing thoughts of your partner and oxytocin makes for strong bonds. Finally, vasopressin deepens the connection and generates long-lasting love.

Therefore it is possible to love and to be in love with your partner ‘til death to us part.’ Give your loved one a 30-second hug every day to ensure your love lasts.

If your bond is broken, your trust has been shattered, or your connection is lost, couples counseling can help to mend those bonds, build trust again, and create a lasting connection. Call (424) 258-5416 or email april@aprilwrighttherapy.com and let’s start your pathway of change.

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Happy elderly couple in love enjoying summer day together

How to Prevent Cognitive Decline and Alzheimer’s Disease

I had the fortunate opportunity to hear Rudolph Tanzi, PhD speak at the March 2017 Mind, Consciousness, and Cultivation of …

couple in love

Neuroscience Demystifies the Neuro-chemical Changes of the Brain in Love

Have you ever drifted into a dreamy thought of someone you recently met? You can’t explain why, but they just pop into …