Four Pillars of Prevention

 Four Pillars of Building a Better Memory

By Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D.

Pillar 1: Diet and Vitamins    

Building a better memory, preventing memory loss, and impacting Alzheimer’s disease have been shown to be dependent on your lifestyle, and not just your genes. Your brain is a flesh and blood organ and needs the proper fuel to function well. Your diet is critical to its health, and you can help!

 

The Alzheimer’s Prevention Diet

 

  1. 20% “good” fat, such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado, and flax seed oil
  2. 40% lean protein, preferably fish, chicken, turkey and soy
  3. 40% complex carbohydrates, such as a rainbow of fresh vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and fresh fruits
  4. Superfoods for the brain: blueberries, spinach, and seaweed

 The main, well-researched concept for having a better memory is to avoid a diet high in  trans-fat and saturated fat, such as those from animal products… especially red meats. These fats cause inflammation and the production of free radicals. Free radical damage can lead to the death of your brain cells. I believe that a vast intake of fruits and vegetables, along with fish rich in omega-3 oils and vegetarian protein substitutes, such as soy, are protective against memory loss.

 

Vitamins and Memory Specific Nutrients

 

Everyone should take a high potency multiple vitamin and mineral capsule that includes folic acid and Vitamin C. The former reduces homocysteine levels, which is a risk factor for both heart disease and memory loss. The latter has been shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 20 percent when taken with Vitamin E.  The dose of Vitamin C should be 2,000 mg per day.

 

Memory specific nutrients include coenzyme Q10, alpha lipoic acid, ginkgo biloba,  phosphatidyl serine, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), huperzine-A, vinpocetine, and acetyl-L-carnitine.

 

Pillar 2: Stress Management                                     

                                                                         

The human brain is an amazing instrument. No computer can duplicate it. It can process millions of stimuli in hundredths of a second. However, your brain requires good care and attention to operate at peak efficiency, especially as you enter your forties, fifties, and beyond. Building a better memory, preventing memory loss and impacting Alzheimer’s disease are dependent on your lifestyle and not just your genes.

 

Stress, Meditation, and Memory

 

Balancing stress is a vital part of an Alzheimer’s prevention strategy. There is a very high correlation between high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high cortisol, and Alzheimer’s disease. Stress can be a key factor in all of these. Research has shown that the benefits of a regular stress-relaxation practice can improve your health, and especially  improve focus, attention, and optimal mental performance.

 

Did you know that being prone to psychological distress could destroy your memory and cause Alzheimer’s disease? Research says it can. Doctors and health officials have come to realize how heavy a toll stress is taking on our health. A testimony to that is the fact that tranquilizers, antidepressants, high blood pressure medicines, and anti-acids, all of which are used for illnesses made worse by stress, are the best-selling drugs in the Western countries.

 

When you have stress your performance goes down. Stress chemicals, such as adrenaline and cortisol are released in your body and are responsible for your fast heart rate and a stimulating feeling. Cortisol damages the cells in the memory center of your brain. The problem is, that as you age or develop an illness, you have a decreased ability to handle stress and lower your blood cortisol levels naturally. Cortisol stops glucose from entering your brain cells. It blocks your neurotransmitter function and causes brain cells to become injured and, if they are not saved, to die.

 

As stress and cortisol levels increase, so does the chance of developing memory loss. High levels of cortisol also impact your ability to learn and retain new information. This is called short-term memory loss.

 

Pillar 3: Exercise                                                       

Physical, Mental, and Mind/Body                                                

 

Memory loss is neither a normal nor a natural process of aging. We must take a proactive role in retaining the strength and vitality of our brain as we age. Just as our body needs strength-building exercise to keep fit, so does our brain.

 

The Importance of Physical Exercise

 

Physical exercise is imperative because it reduces your risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease by 50 percent. Moreover, women in one study who had a regular exercise program from age 40 to 60 had a dramatic reduction in cognitive decline.  The more recent findings discount occupational and educational factors and suggest that an active lifestyle is the key.  Research recommends walking a minimum of 20 minutes, 3 times a week. Other examples of great aerobic exercise include jogging, dance classes, swimming, and tennis. Remember, also, to do some strength training to maintain muscle mass and prevent osteoporosis.


Brain Aerobics

Mental exercise has been reported by neurologists to reduce your chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 70 percent. Everyone should spend at least 20 minutes, three times a week, doing mental exercise.

 

Challenging the brain with novel tasks (anything new or different) improves brain function. In order for an activity to be considered brain aerobics, three conditions must be met:

  1. It needs to engage your attention.
  2. It must involve more than one of the senses.
  3. It must break a routine activity in an unexpected, nontrivial way.

Some examples of good mental exercise are reading, writing, playing board games and doing crossword puzzles. For more fun examples of innovative brain aerobics contact us for a copy of our brochure The Power of Brain Aerobics – Maximize Your Memory.

 

Healing Your Brain with Mind/Body Medicine

 

Mind/body exercise is a fascinating example of the best of the principles of Asian medicine meeting the best of Western medical research. It increases the amount of blood flow going to your bran and improves your memory. This technique has been proven clinically very useful over the years.

 

Utilizing SPECT scans in subjects practicing the Kirtan Kriya (a yoga meditation) for twelve minutes produced an increase in attention, concentration, and short-term memory. Equally significant, the changes in the scans from before to after are consistent with better judgment, improved psychological health and enhanced spiritual activity.

 

Pillar 4: Medicines                                                           

Medications and Hormones                                                            

 

Early detection and prompt treatment of memory problems utilizing an integrative program, including drugs at the proper dose, may delay the development of Alzheimer’s by many years.  For that reason, I believe there is a place for the use of pharmaceutical medications as part of an integrative medical program to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease. These medications should only be taken under the care of a physician who’s an expert in treating Alzheimer’s disease. All of these medicines may have serious side effects such as dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, and other symptoms. Always work closely with your doctor  concerning pharmaceutical use, including those purchased over-the-counter.

 

The pharmaceuticals currently in use are presented in alphabetical order (please contact your doctor to learn more about them:

1.      Aricept (donepezil): Aricept, like Exelon, is moderately effective in improving short-term memory in patients with early Alzheimer’s.

2.      Exelon (rivastigmine):  Exelon is slightly more effective than Aricept at slowing the rate of decline in a patient with Alzheimer’s. Because it blocks two chemical pathways and not just one, it increases the amount of memory chemical in your brain. Exelon is probably most useful in people who are in the earliest stages of memory loss. 

3.      Namenda (memantine): Memantine has been available in many parts of the world for some time, and has had a modest effect in alleviating some of the symptoms of advanced Alzheimer’s disease. According to a recent study, it has no significant side effects. It was recently approved for use in the United States. The drug blocks a brain chemical called glutamate, which has been implicated in brain cell death. (Memantine is marketed in Europe and Canada as Ebixa) One reason that chronic unbalanced stress kills brain cells by the thousands is because the hormone cortisol also disrupts glutamate function inside the brain. This disruption causes many free radicals to form inside your brain cell. It is interesting that Memantine reverses that disruption, and helps the brain.

4.      Razadyne (galantamine): Previously called Reminyl, Razadyne is the drug derived from the nutrient galantamine. It increases the level of many different chemicals in your brain to help improve memory. It is most useful in patients with mid stage to moderate Alzheimer’s. 

 

 Hormone Replacement Therapy

 There is strong clinical support to allow for careful hormone replacement therapy in people concerned about their memory. There are important considerations, however:

  1. Hormone levels must be measured in the blood. If they are low, it makes sense to replace them in an informed manner. If they are not low, it is not safe to boost them higher than normal.
  2. The hormone levels should be restored to the naturally occurring levels of a 30- to 40- year-old, and never younger.
  3. Blood tests must be repeated every three months at first and then every six months to monitor hormone levels.

The hormones I measure include: DHEA, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and thyroid hormone. Although I don’t measure melatonin and pregnenolone, I replace them when clinically indicated.

 

All information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be considered specific medical advice. Consult a physician regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations with respect to your symptoms or medical condition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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