I find myself completely baffled by how people believe neurodegenerate disease is a normal part of again. It’s like “hey Bob, how’s old man Willy doing?” and you get hit with “Ah, old man Willy…..Poor guy. He’s come down with Parkinson disease. I can hardly understand him. You know how it is, he’s getting old”.
I do know how it is, but Bob doesn’t. Bob thinks neurological diseases are a natural part of aging. A lot of people actually think along the same lines as Bob because the long term damage of an unhealthy lifestyle begins to take effect later in life, so most people develop these conditions later on as a result. Almost all neurological disease are a long term result, not an acute disease.
No one likes getting old, but these “senior” moments and neurological diseases aren’t what people are looking forward to. Thankfully, there are simple ways to preventing and even reversing neurological diseases.
Aging = Neurodegenerate Disease
We see advertisements for Depends diapers, nursing homes, medications for Parkinson’s and laxatives all around us. Expressions like “senior moment” are lose terms. People are so quick to explain loss of brain or physiological function as “just getting older”. We assume that the aches, pains and frustrating and sometimes embarrassing decline in quality of life we experience as we age is “normal”, because we see others around us going through the same changes.
This is a hard concept to grasp, but what’s common isn’t necessarily normal.
“Everything popular is wrong.”
― Oscar Wilde
There have been studies out there that looked at the healthiest elderly people and find little cognitive decline. Get this, EVEN into their 90’s. The data suggests that significant cognitive decline is not a random consequence of old age. Sorry Bob.
Yet so many elderly Americans have some sort of advanced cognitive decline these days, and the numbers are growing at a rapid rate.
There’s really no cure for dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkison’s. These are pretty terrible diseases too. What’s more, conventional medicine is hopeless when it comes to diagnosing and treating these conditions. If you go to the doctor with early dementia signs, most will tell you to come back when your symptoms have progressed to the point that they are irreversible. By then it’s too late. You’ve lost too many neurons. Your brain is literally atrophied and shrunken. And there are no drugs that improve brain function.
So if you want to age well, minimize neurodegeneration and protect against common (but not normal) conditions associated with aging, you need to take matters into your own hands.
No More Baby Brain
From the day you’re born until now, you start losing neurons. You can’t regenerate them either like normal brain cells, sorry. Whatever neurons you lose are forever lost.
There is some good news however…..and no, it doesn’t have anything to do with car insurance.It turns out neurons have the ability to form new connections with other neurons and preserve brain function even in a declining quantity or quality of brain cells.
Unfortunately there is a limit. The more brain cells you lose, the fewer neurons there will be to form connections. Keep that in mind. (no pun intended)
3 signs That You’re Losing too Much Brain Cells
These are 3 earliest signs of neurodegenerative disease.
Getting Tired From Brain Activity
Let’s say you used to be able to study for 3 hours at a time without getting tired, but now you can only go for a half hour before you’re burned out. Or maybe you get really tired after driving, or doing your taxes or performing other tasks that depend on your brain a lot. This is a sign your neurons are degenerating and have lost the ability to make ATP (energy).
Depression has to do with the decline of the frontal cortex. The frontal cortex is the part of the brain right in front that is involved in critical thinking and decision making. If it begins to shrink and lose neurons, we become depressed more often.
Poor digestive function
The brain is constantly receiving input from receptors, and it is constantly sending outputs as well. As much as 90 percent of the brain’s output goes into the vagus area, which deals with digestion. If your brain is not firing well, you’re going to have digestive problems. You can actually check out a podcast by Chris Kresser about that here.
Other symptoms of gut-brain axis dysregulation include cold hands and feet, toenail fungus that won’t heal and brain fog.
Okay. Now, lets see if Bob can guess what 3 of the main problems seniors experience are? BOB HITS THE JACKPOT. Fatigue, depression and digestive problems. That is not a coincidence. That’s neurodegeneration.
What causes neurodegenerative disease?
While it’s true that some amount of neurodegeneration is completely unavoidable, the following are likely to kill your brain cells a lot quicker:
- High blood sugar (Alzheimer’s is now referred to as “diabetes of the brain” in some circles)
- hypoxia (reduced oxygen deliverability, often caused by poor circulation or anemias)
- systemic inflammation (autoimmunity, leaky gut, chronic infections, food toxins, etc.)
- hormone imbalances
- altered methylation (leading to elevated homocysteine and atrophy of the hippocampus)
- traumatic brain injury (punch drunk…..ahem ahem….boxers?)
Anti-Aging = Fix Your Brain
When people think of anti-aging, unfortunately it means superficial crap like plastic surgery, spray on tans, botox, etc. Those are straight up gimmicks. There’s nothing about that crap that helps keep your strength and slow down neurodegeneration, which is the ultimate goal of a REAL“anti-aging” program.
Here are some helpful guidelines:
- Avoid Toxins- These include industrial seed oils (vegetable oil, corn oil, etc), excess sugar (especially fructose), grains and processed soy
- Consume Adequate micronutrients- Especially those nutrients involved in oxygen deliverance (B12, iron & folate)
- Improve Omega 3 to Omega 6 Balance- 60% of the brain is phospholipid, and DHA has been shown to enhance plasticity and brain function while reducing inflammation and neurodegenerative conditions. Eat too much omega 6 (unstable, industrial seed oils) and it will have inflammatory effects.
- Repair Your Gut- Inflammation in the gut will cause activation of the immune cells of the brain.
- Get the Hamster Wheel Turning- Neurons need constant stimulation or they will atrophy and die. This is why elderly people that stay active and mentally engaged in something age better than those that view retirement as an opportunity to watch golf on TV for 6 hours a day.
- Increase blood flow to the brain- High intensity resistance exercise is one of the best ways to do this. Stress management are also very important.
- Get enough sleep- Terrible sleep habits can wreak havoc on your brain in every conceivable way.
Last, but not least, ketones have been known to be beneficial for the brain. Using nutritional ketosis as a short term remedy has been shown to help manage and even reverse some neurodegenerative diseases. In the book Grain Brain – By David Perlmutter, the author goes in depth about the impact grains, refined sugar and processed carbohydrates have on the brain.
Dr. Perlmutter also explains how a high fat, low carb, moderate protein ketogenic diet is therapeutic for neurodegeneration. Most people don’t need to stay on the diet for long. After the diet has done its job, returning to a normal, toxic free, natural food diet is fine.
Next time you hear someone had a “senior moment”, don’t listen to Bob, tell them to eat some fat and get some sleep!