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9+ Foods to Improve Brain Health and Memory

By: The Dr. Perlmutter Team

As I’ve stated before, one of the most fascinating things about the human brain is that neuroplasticity, the process by which the brain undergoes changes in response to internal and external stimuli, affords us a great deal of control in determining the overall health of our brain. While there are many lifestyle changes one can make to improve overall brain health, studies have shown that dietary factors can have a significant impact. Choosing which foods you use to fuel your body goes far beyond counting calories; the macronutrients—fats, proteins, and carbohydrates—you emphasize in shaping your diet can have major repercussions for brain health. There is evidence to suggest that individuals who consume a diet high in carbohydrates have an 89% increased risk of developing dementia, while people who consume a diet high in healthy fats actually reduce their risk by 44%. Ensuring that the foods you consume are high in antioxidants, rich in healthy fats, low in carbohydrates, and powerfully anti-inflammatory can go a long way towards optimizing brain health and boosting memory and cognition.

Foods to Improve Brain Health and Memory

Generally speaking, I recommend a diet that is higher in fat and fiber, low in carbs, and rich in gut-healthy probiotics. To that end, please read on for some suggestions on specific foods around which to build a brain-boosting diet!

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6 Powerful Ways to Improve Brain Health

By: The Dr. Perlmutter Team

What does it mean to have a healthy brain?

It means having a brain that is readily capable of performing all of its vital functions. This includes basic functions, like regulating the involuntary functions of the autonomic nervous system, and higher-level functions, such as facilitating cognition and decision-making, and coordinating fine and gross motor skills. While the brain is necessarily an incredibly complex organ, the process of neuroplasticity, which describes the brain’s ability to undergo physical and chemical changes in response to stimuli, affords us a significant degree of control over the health of our brain. In other words, the lifestyle choices we make today have a very real impact on our brain’s current and future health; whether that impact is positive or negative depends on how we live our lives.

As stated above, neuroplasticity can work for or against you. While the natural process of aging more or less handles the “working against you” side of that equation, it is completely within our abilities to harness the power of neuroplasticity to maintain or improve overall brain health. Taking an active role in improving the health of the brain can help fortify the body from some of the most debilitating chronic illnesses we face — the likes of Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis. Fortunately, science has shined a light on numerous factors that have the potential to mitigate the effects of aging and improve overall brain health. To that end, I wanted to highlight six of the most effective ways you can maximize your brain’s potential.

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Understanding The Dynamic Brain with The Institute for Functional Medicine

It’s an honor to be asked to join The Institute for Functional Medicine for their 2017 Annual International Conference. This year’s theme hits especially close to home for me: The Dynamic Brain – Revealing the Potential of Neuroplasticity to Reverse Neurodegeneration.

I know many of you won’t be able to join me out in California, so I wanted to take the time to share my slides from my plenary session lecture with you here on my blog. Enjoy!

Magnesium Threonate Powers the Brain

Lately, in the lectures that I have been presenting to medical professionals, I have been emphasizing the virtues of magnesium threonate. Aside from the information I’ve been presenting, I thought it would be good to actually visit and review some of the exciting new information about what clearly appears to be offering up an exciting new area of chemistry related to neuronal function and brain function in general.

Learning is the process by which the brain is able to store new information by forming new connections between neurons in what are called networks. This process is an example of neuroplasticity. This process depends on the actual formation of these connections, as well as the number of connections that are available. We do know that when synapses, the connections that allow one nerve cell to communicate with the next, are diminished, memory impairment ensues. And indeed it is thought that this loss of synapses is an explanation for what is called “age dependent memory decline.” Continue reading

High BDNF Tied to Lower Alzheimer’s Risk

Growth hormone for the brain. What a concept. Truth is, science has indeed identified a protein that does exactly that, and it’s called brain-derived neurotrophic hormone (BDNF). Knowing about BDNF is even more important now, as a new report clearly links higher levels of BDNF to remarkably reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

In a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers from Boston University measured baseline BDNF levels in a group of adults and followed them for up to ten years. They found that those individuals with the highest baseline BDNF levels developed dementia 50% less often compared to those with the lowest levels.

BDNF is a protein that plays a pivotal role in neuronal health. Your brain contains as many as 100 billion neurons and the health, vitality, and, perhaps most importantly, functionality of each one of your brain cells is intimately influenced by BDNF.

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How Sunshine Builds a Better Brain

Growth hormone for the brain. What a concept. Truth is, science has indeed identified a protein that does exactly that. It’s called brain-derived neurotrophic hormone (BDNF). While this may sound compelling in name and implication, let’s take a step back and look at what the science tells us about this incredibly important actor in brain health.

BDNF is a protein that plays a pivotal role in neuronal health. Your brain contains as many as 100 billion neurons and the health, vitality, and, perhaps most importantly, functionality of each one of your brain cells is intimately influenced by BDNF.

Early in life, BDNF regulates not only the growth of brain cells, but also their ability to make connections to other brain cells, a process fundamental to our ability to create a more powerful brain. But keep in mind that the process of growing new brain cells, neurogenesis, continues throughout your entire life! Think of it. As you are reading this report, your brain is actively producing new brain cells, and brain cells are always busy creating new connections with their neighbors in a process called neuroplasticity.

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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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The Process of Neuroplasticity

Q: What is neuroplasticity and how does it work?

I posted an answer to this question over on IntegrativePractitioner. What follows are snippets from that article. For the whole article see: Making New Connections: The Gift of Neuroplasticity.

The ability of the brain to change and reorganize itself and its function is called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity provides us with a brain that can adapt not only to changes inflicted by damage, but more importantly, allows adaptation to any and all experiences and changes we may encounter, freeing us from merely responding reflexively as a consequence of genetically determined hardwiring. Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone recently stated that neuroplasticity “… is an intrinsic property of the human brain and represents evolution’s invention to enable the nervous system to escape the restrictions of its own genome and thus adapt to environmental pressures, physiological changes, and experiences.”

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