Improved Mental Capacity and Long Term Brain Health

How do you keep your brain healthy and maximize your mental capacity as you age?  Some of the following recommendations are from an article in the Jan/Feb issue of Nutrition Action Letter:


1. Manage your blood pressure.  People who have high blood pressure have a higher risk of dementia and cognitive decline as they age. There are a number of dietary changes that can lower your blood pressure, including lowering sodium intake, and increasing potassium, magnesium, and calcium intake. Speak to Dr. Weitz about a personalized nutrition program to lower your blood pressure, including neutraceuticals, such as CoQ10.


2. Manage your blood sugar and insulin levels. Diabetes damages small vessels that supply the brain and leads to brain atrophy. High blood sugar levels leads to low brain insulin levels and this is bad for the brain.  Alzheimer’s disease is now referred to as type III diabetes due to it being caused by high blood sugar and high insulin levels. You should avoid high glycemic carbohydrates, such as breakfast cereals, chips, bagels, cookies, crackers, muffins, soft or white bread, white rice, deserts, etc. that lead to frequent sharp elevations in blood sugar levels.


3. Follow a low glycemic Mediterranean diet, rich in organic fruits and vegetables, fish, olive oil, nuts, legumes, and limited amounts of whole grains. This nutrition program is high in healthy fats (fish, olive oil, nuts) and low in saturated (red meat and dairy) and trans fats (margarine).


4. Exercise. Exercise stimulates the brain by increasing blood flow to the brain, expands brain volume, and increases levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a hormone that improves learning and memory. The book Spark details this link between exercise and learning and shows examples of schools where children exercise prior to class and who have greater learning capabilities and higher test scores.


5. Use your mind. Use it or lose it. Research validates the idea that when you stimulate your mind by reading and engaging in intellectual tasks, you improve your cognitive reserve. Having a higher cognitive reserve, lowers your risk of Alzheimer’s symptoms, even when there are elevated levels of the beta- amyloid levels that are associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.


6. Regularly consume nutrients that may improve brain health, including blueberries, wild salmon, walnuts, flax seeds, avocado, coconut oil, broccoli, kale, turmeric, fish oil (EPA/DHA), acetyl L-carnitine, lipoic acid, phosphatidylserine, vinpocetine, gamma tocopherol, and curcumin.

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