Did you know that diseases such as Alzheimers, dementia and Parkinsons can be avoided with lifestyle choices, yet 80% of senior people will die because of body disease?
The belief that the brain as an unchanging, static organ is long gone.
New brain cells, new connections and new pathways can be formed throughout life. The brain can also adapt and compensate for injury and trauma..
This remarkable flexibility is a process called neuroplasticity.
In June, The Institute for Functional Medicine held its annual conference. It was called The Dynamic Brain: Revealing the Potential of Neuroplasticity to Reverse Neurodegeneration.
Medical experts explained how you can heal your brain, and what actions you can take today to ward off Alzheimer's and other types of dementia.
Here are some of their key recommendations. . .
1. Move away from heavy traffic if you can: Polluted air contains particulates called PM 2.5. These are highly toxic and cause increased free radical damage, plaque formation, protein misfolding, inflammation and smaller brain volume.
A study of over six million Canadians found those living within 50 meters (about 54 yards) of a major road had a 12% higher dementia risk compared to those living 200 meters away.
2. Maintain a healthy gut. At the heart of neurodegenerative conditions is inflammation. Loss of diversity of microorganisms in the colon and increased gut permeability (“leaky gut syndrome”) can lead to brain inflammation, cognitive impairment and vulnerability to Alzheimer's via the gut-brain axis.
To keep the gut in good order, eat whole foods, fruits and vegetables while avoiding refined and processed foods, sugar, glyphosate (brand name Roundup) in sprayed GM foods, artificial sweeteners, toxins, chronic stress, antacids, and antibiotics if possible. Also test yourself for gluten and other food sensitivities by abstaining from the suspect food for several months and observing if your health improves.
A study of populations around the world found that increasing microorganism exposure was linked to less risk of Alzheimer's, so aim for a less sterile environment. Lose the excessive fear of bacteria and dispense with anti-bacterial products.
3. Nurture your brain cells. The hormone BDNF is involved in the maintenance, structural integrity, defense, repair, connectivity and growth of brain cells. Those with higher levels of BDNF have better cognitive function and less incidence of dementia.
The best way to turn on BDNF is by regular physical exercise.
4. Engage in mental stimulation. You can promote adaptive changes in dysfunctional neural networks through mental stimulation. In other words, make your brain do a little work. Cognitively challenging activities like tackling difficult crosswords, learning a language or musical instrument, or reading a challenging book (even a murder mystery) improves memory, attention, focus and brain speed.
5. Move your body. As well as promoting BDNF, exercise increases the size of the hippocampus, the brain region involved with learning, memory and mood control. It also helps clear amyloid brain plaques and stimulates glial cells which supply nutrients and oxygen to brain cells and help clear away debris. Exercise also increases mitochondrial respiration, which we depend on to power brain cells and indeed every cell.
6. Listen to music. Chronic stress greatly increases the risk of dementia. Listening to relaxing, enjoyable music lowers the stress response by dampening the sympathetic -- fight or flight -- nervous system and stimulating the calming parasympathetic nervous system.
Beautiful music can activate the brain’s temporal lobes, which are involved with memory. This allows for better learning, processing and remembering information.
7. Meditate. Regular mindfulness-based meditation practice can change the structure of the brain, increasing cortical thickness and volume of gray matter in areas involved with memory, attention, mood and learning.