Dear Longevity Insider,
In the "Cause for Hope" sector of our Aging Brain series, we showed how the accumulation of amyloid beta in the brain, the effects of oxidative stress, and the lack of a special nutrient called acetylcholine can all contribute to our brain degenerating over time.
Today, we will delve into more ways that affect the health of our brain and functional cognition.
The inflammatory response
Both infectious and non-infectious stimuli activate inflammation in the body, which can be caused by pathogens, toxins, and damaged cells, among dozens of other reasons. The body perceives these as a threat and uses inflammation as a protective mechanism that triggers the immune system to remove the stimuli and initiate the healing process. In an acute situation, this inflammatory process works efficiently to bring the body back into balance. It is when the threatful stimuli become chronic that the inflammatory process becomes overly activated and eventually harmful.
As discussed last week, the brain’s protective inflammatory response is to produce amyloid, which has repeatedly been shown to contribute to cognitive decline. This accumulates over time because of constant threats and assaults on the brain via the way we live our lives. And although evidence indicates that amyloid beta has antimicrobial effects and is made to initially protect our brains, it eventually overreacts and interferes with nerve synapses.
It is because of this accumulation that it is critically important to mediate inflammation by focusing on the foods we eat, moving our bodies, and other supporting ways to keep our brains healthy!
Insight on diet
On page 144 in my book, The Longevity Equation, I talk about how, “Many toxins found in food can cause long-term and irreversible brain damage. And it’s likely you have already encountered some of them. But as the old saying goes: The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second-best time is now. Although you can’t undo the past, you can start to eliminate neurotoxic substances, optimize your neurotransmitter levels, and ignite the growth of healthy new brain cells for a healthier brain today.”
There is much evidence on the connection between a healthy diet and cognitive function. One pair of researchers found that the Mediterranean diet pattern and the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) are both “neuroprotective, with potential to delay cognitive decline.”
The European Food Information Council defines the Mediterranean diet pattern as “generally characterized by a high intake of plant-based foods (e.g. fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, and cereals) and olive oil, a moderate intake of fish and poultry, and low intakes of dairy products (mostly yogurt and cheese), red and processed meats, and sweets.”
The Mayo Clinic states that the DASH diet “encourages you to reduce the sodium in your diet and eat a variety of foods rich in nutrients that help lower blood pressure, such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium…The DASH diet include lots of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products. [It] also includes some fish, poultry and legumes, and encourages a small amount of nuts and seeds a few times a week. You can eat red meat, sweets and fats in small amounts. [It] is [also] low in saturated fat, trans fat and total fat.”
Movement is essential
Physical exercise is known to have a protective factor for neurodegeneration. In The Longevity Equation, I state that...
Exercise is the key to staying mobile well into old age. It’s also one of the most important things for reducing stress, relieving pain, and keeping your cells healthy.(p. 116)
And on page 152 in my book, I explore how...
...a 2008 study literally states that ‘exercise is brain food.’ Though you don’t ingest it, exercise is one of the best things you can do to help keep your brain healthy. Physical activity completely changes the way your brain functions. It helps increase neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to create new synaptic connections…Exercise also helps reduce your risk of stroke and increase the hormones that support brain development, happiness, and overall cognition.
Everything is connected. The food you eat and your exercise habits both can impact your cognitive abilities. And, on Thursday, I will offer a new perspective to you.
To your longevity,