Neurodegenerative disease is a term that describes the loss of structure and even the death of neurons. Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease are two of the most common neurodegenerative diseases that most people are familiar with. It’s a scary thought, but memory loss is a common symptom of neurodegenerative disease. The good news is, early identification, proactive nutrition and new therapies can boost your brain’s age.
What does the research say?
There’s a lot of research being done to determine how to prevent as well as manage memory loss associated with neurodegenerative disease. A new study involving mice has shown that the cutting of tau (abundant central nervous system protein neurons in brain cells) by an enzyme called caspase-2 may play a critical role in the disordered brain circuit function that occurs in these diseases.
A healthy brain
In healthy areas of the brain, the tau protein helps the transport system appear clean and organized, almost like railroad tracks. Essential nutrients, molecules, and important materials are able to travel with ease. In unhealthy or failing areas, the tau protein may twist or fall into “tangles” even causing certain areas of the transport system to fall apart and disintegrate. The main problem is that key nutrients including essential fatty acids can no longer move through the cellular pathways and these areas eventually die.
Early warning signs
These plaques and tangles start out small and will eventually spread through the entire cortex taking over the brain. One of the first random signs of memory loss specifically for Alzheimer’s disease includes a reduced ability to smell, even losing the sense of smell altogether. These slight changes can start 20 years or more before getting diagnosed. The average lifespan of Alzheimer’s disease is 8 years.
Another early sign of neurodegenerative disease include decreased proprioception. Proprioception is defined as your physical awareness of where your body is in space, this can affect balance, as well as daily physical tasks like cooking, yard work, going up and downstairs, driving, etc.
Memory loss symptoms include
- Memory loss that affects day-to-day functions, like leaving the stove on, as well as forgetting where you parked.
- Losing thought processes, hindering the ability to perform familiar tasks that were once effortless. Confusion about time and place.
- Having a hard time finding the words that were at one time easy to say or know what they mean.
- Problems with abstract thinking, having a hard time looking at the “whole” picture as well as solving problems.
- Poor or decreased judgment with money as well as personal information, this can be when driving.
- Problems misplacing things all throughout the day.
Other conditions that can lead to permanent or temporary neurological problems:
- Memory loss may be attributed to severe infections around the brain.
- Symptoms of mild brain injury may include confusion
and trouble with memory as well as cognitive function, according to the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
- Malignant tumor. Memory and the ability to process information may be affected by brain tumors. Aggressive treatments for a tumor can affect memory, including brain surgery, chemo, or radiation therapy.
- Drugs as well as alcohol abuse can affect memory. A study published in Neurology found that men who drank heavily showed signs of neurological decline years earlier than those who only drank in moderation.
Specific Types of Exercise to Promote Healthy Neurological Function
Mind and body formats of exercise like Pilates and Yoga help those who are suffering from neurological diseases. These types of exercise challenge participants to think while they are physically moving, improving cognitive function along with body awareness and simple brain exercises all at the same time.
Joseph Pilates, the founder of Pilates practiced well into his 80s with a body that had the fitness and health of someone half his age. The exercises promote controlled breathing with movement, this helps with stamina, strength, coordination, as well as flexibility while rejuvenating the body as a whole.
Incorporating chair yoga or a Pilates class into weekly activities has become normal in independent and assisted living homes. For those with good mobility in Pilates, Pilates reformers, and/or Pilates towers are all safe pieces of exercise equipment that use springs as resistance to core exercises.
Nutrition for Neurological Health
A nutrition plan that is rich in omega 3 fatty acids specifically DHA (DOCOSAHEXAENOIC ACID) helps nourish the brain. Then vitamin E to reduce inflammation and acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter for the nervous system found in many parts of the body that specifically helps with memory function and physiological function.
Healthy Fat Sources Include
Recommended daily intake of at least 1000 mg for women and 2000 mg for men for DHA
- Cold-water fish like salmon, mackerel, anchovies, etc.
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Raw nuts
- Raw seeds
- Nut Butters
Recommended Daily 425 mg. for women and 550 mg. for men
- Brussels Sprouts
Recommended Daily 1000 IU/ day for those who are showing memory decline and up to 2000 IU/day for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Chili power
- Cold-pressed plant oils
- Mustard Greens
- Bell peppers
Those suffering from memory loss, especially those associated with dementia, can struggle to meet their daily nutrition recommendations. Appointing a family member or caretaker to deliver meals, snacks, as well as stocking their home with food options, is important. Malnutrition is often the root of the problem when it comes to dementia and memory loss.
Foods like sugar, processed snacks, alcohol, and artificial dyes and sweeteners are acidic. That said, if the body remains in a constant acidic state it will cause chronic inflammation. This will in turn increase the risk for chronic diseases. It also affects our brain and memory.
This exciting study concludes that hydrogen-rich, ionized water is fantastic for boosting brain health. Studies have shown that drinking alkaline water may be beneficial for the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases
The benefits of brain games
There have been numerous studies published about whether brain games do work. The Mayo Clinic reports a 58% improvement in the auditory processing speed of older adults who regularly train their brains. It is simple: There are degenerative changes in the brain’s associative cortex which leads to a decline in memory and studies show brain games slow the decline.
Those who engaged in educating themselves with art, as well as history videos for simply 2 months, showed improvement in overall daily function. The improvements included better self-esteem, remembering grocery lists, as well as improved brain ability to engage in conversations in loud settings like restaurants.
A long-term study, with a control group and a “brain training” group showed major improvements after 5 years of consistent brain training. Experts agree that regular education, as well as learning activities, will help prevent cognitive decline in the older population.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
A new study published recently in the peer-reviewed journal Aging is a breakthrough in therapies to improve brain aging. The powerful study was conducted by The Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research. It proves enhanced brain function and improved cognitive capabilities resulting from novel Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) treatment.
The main areas of improvement were attention, information processing speed and executive function. This is in addition to global cognitive function. All of which typically declines with age. Moreover, there was a significant correlation between the cognitive changes and improved cerebral blood flow in specific brain locations.
Recipe for Brain and Memory Health
Older adults tend to lean toward easy meals and snacks. Unfortunately, these typically contain more processed foods and fewer nutrients. If you include a smoothie daily this will encourage fruit as well as vegetable consumption, healthy fats, fiber, water, and even protein. All good for brain health. Here is an easy recipe to follow:
- 1 lime slice of medium lime
- 1-ounce blueberry pomegranate juice
- 1 kiwi fruit
- 1-2 tablespoon ground flax seed
- ½ cup dark berries (fresh or frozen)
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
- 1.5 cup spinach (fresh)
- ½ cup ice
- Blend all the ingredients until smooth
The Bottom Line
To prevent, slow down or manage neurological decline, practice healthy lifestyle behaviors daily.
- Exercise, specifically yoga and/or Pilates.
- Train your brain by staying committed to learning new things every day.
- Eat balanced meals full of fruit, vegetables, healthy fats, fiber, and healthy proteins, while avoiding processed foods and chemicals.
- Ensure proper hydration daily, even including alkaline water
- Supplements can be helpful
- Consider hyperbaric oxygen therapy for more proactive results
Remember that memory loss causes can include neurodegenerative conditions, as well as brain injuries and tumors. Once the cause of memory loss has been correctly identified, one can seek out the most conservative measures.
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