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Dementia – Change Your Odds

It has been estimated that there are around 45 million individuals worldwide who are suffering from dementia. Even more compelling are the projections that this number will nearly double in just the next 15 years.

As statistics now stand, we as Americans have around a 50 percent chance of being diagnosed with dementia by the time we reach 85 years of age. That means it’s basically a flip of coin that determines whether we will be in a position to care for ourselves or slip into a place that causes us to be dependent on others for our so-called “activities of daily living.” These include such things as dressing ourselves, preparing food, and personal hygiene. Continue reading

LDL is Your Friend

LDL or low density lipoprotein has been given a bad rap. Ever since someone decided to call it “bad cholesterol” it has been demonized as being responsible for just about everything bad in the world. Medical doctors and cardiologists in specific have joined the crusade against LDL with a pervasive mentality that somehow the lower the blood value of LDL, the better. Fortunately, the justification for this altruism is unjustified.

So let’s take a step back for a moment and review just exactly what LDL is and does, and then I’ll move on and explain why the notion of it being something to fear is ill founded.

LDL is what we call a carrier protein, and one of its important jobs is to carry a fundamentally important chemical to every cell in the body. This chemical is a critical component of cell membranes, serves as a brain antioxidant, and is the raw material from which your body manufactures vitamin D, cortisol, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. And this important, life-sustaining chemical is cholesterol.

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Parkinson’s – Focus On Prevention

Parkinson’s Disease affects as many as one million Americans with around 60,000 new cases being diagnosed each year. Worldwide, more than 10 million people have been diagnosed with this debilitating and progressive disease. It is estimated that the direct and indirect monetary costs for dealing with Parkinson’s in America are estimated to be around $25 billion each year.

In general, the approach that is taken in most neurology practices in dealing with Parkinson’s is to simply treat the symptoms of the disease. Not this this is necessarily inappropriate – it’s obviously helpful to use medications that allow people to regain functionality. But there is hardly any discussion of the notion of preventive medicine as it relates to this disease.

That said, we really do need to recognize that our most well-respected medical journals are revealing that things like pesticide exposure have a profound role to play in increasing a person’s risk for Parkinson’s. Please take a look at this report and recognize that information like this really makes it clear that our lifestyle choices do indeed play an important role in choosing your brain’s destiny

Alzheimer’s: A Disease of the Brain or the Body?

Recently, I had the chance to take part in a conversation with world-renowned experts in the fields of nutrition and neurology as a part of the program “The Agenda with Steve Paikin.” This panel came together to discuss what can be done to protect our brain health as we age. Thanks to the diversity of our backgrounds, there was a wealth of valuable conversation to be had, focusing on how we could further improve brain health. I was able to speak about the tenets of Grain Brain, from exercise to nutrition, and how these all play a role in optimizing the state of our brain.

We all came at this topic from a different perspective, and I think that really benefited the dialogue. Find the time to watch, you won’t regret having done so. Jump to 8:00 for the start of my segment.

How Blood Sugar Relates to Brain Size and Function

In a recent edition of the journal Neurology, German researchers evaluated the size of the brain’s memory center, the hippocampus, using a specialized type of MRI scanner. In addition, they measured the blood glucose levels in the same individuals. When the data was analyzed, a direct relationship was found between the degree of atrophy or shrinkage of the hippocampus and blood sugar measurements. Even subtle elevations of blood sugar, far below the level where one would be labeled as being diabetic, were already associated with brain shrinkage.

What’s more, the researchers also performed cognitive testing on these individuals and showed a direct relationship between failing memory and blood sugar elevation.

The take home message here is straightforward. Even mild elevations of blood sugar correlate perfectly with both brain degeneration as well as compromised function. And because your blood sugar directly reflects your sugar and carbohydrate consumption, you can choose to directly influence the size, and more importantly the preservation of function of your brain. As the authors of this report stated:

Moreover, our results indicate that lifestyle strategies aimed at long-term improvement of glucose control may be a promising strategy to prevent cognitive decline in aging.

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New Evidence

If you haven’t visited the Science section of my website recently, you may not have noticed that I recently added a link to Neurology, one of the most authoritative, and widely read, journals on the subject of neurology. The selection of studies that I’ve linked to document the relationship between glucose and dementia, and provide further support for the claims I have made in Grain Brain. I encourage you to browse through this area to see the great research that is being done in this field. Allow me to point out a few studies in particular that I find worthy of note:

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Neuroplasticity allows for brain adaptation

The Gift of Neuroplasticity

With the statute of limitations having long expired, I can now describe my first experiences in learning about the human brain. When I was a child, I didn’t have the opportunity to spend much time with my father as he maintained a very busy practice in neurosurgery in South Florida. Clearly, he too recognized this shortcoming in our relationship so one day he came up with a solution; he invited me to come to the operating room to watch him remove a tumor from the base of someone’s brain. What a way to spend a Saturday afternoon, especially considering the fact that I was thirteen years old at the time. I soon made these visits to the operating room a regular part of my weekend and retrospectively I believe my dad made the effort to schedule surgery on Saturdays so I could join him. The only problem was that despite standing on a step stool, I found it difficult to really see what was going on. Resourceful as my dad was, he came up with what would be considered today as a fairly risky solution. He encouraged me to “scrub in.” That is, at the age of fourteen, I was actually assisting my father as he performed all kinds of brain procedures from removing tumors or blood clots to clipping aneurysms. Needless to say, I was careful not to share these experiences with my friends.

My job generally entailed holding a thin flat metal “brain retractor,” gently providing enough pressure on the brain to allow my dad to do his work. Often, these procedures would take many hours so to pass the time my father would explain the specific function of that part of the brain upon which we were operating. “This area,” he would say, “is called Broca’s area, named for Pierre-Paul Broca, a French fellow who back in 1861 determined that this area controlled speech.” He went on to describe the rest of the areas of the brain in the same detail, always weaving some bit of historical color into the description.

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