Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Benefits of exercise for the aging brain

The numbers of Americans with Alzheimer's Disease is growing.  By the year 2050,  there will be an estimated 16 million people with the disease.("How Fitness Protects Aging Brain", Dr. Mercola) Sadly, if an individual develops Alzheimer's Disease, it will make treatment of other diseases more difficult.  What are some things that can be done to prevent the onset of this disease?

Three Requirements for a healthy brain
The onset of many diseases in aging is as a result of years of poor diet and lifestyle, rather than solely being isolated to the aging process. Aging, coupled with poor diet and nutrition, poor exercise habits and exposure to environmental toxins and stress take their toll on the body.

But, there are three things that play a powerful role in maintaining sharp mental function, even in the aging brain:

  1. Regular exercise.
  2. Foods/diet.
  3. Managing stress.
The importance of staying active physically by engaging in exercise programs of walking, aerobic and strengthening exercises can't be underscored enough.  This is important in addition to mental exercises such as learning a new language, traveling, playing mentally stimulating games and puzzles. To emphasize this point, study results at the University of Edinburgh (" How Fitness Protects Aging Brain") demonstrate that people aged 70 and over were monitored via daily logs of their physical, mental and social habits.  Three years later their brains were imaged for shrinkage and damage to the white matter.  People who engaged in the most physical exercise showed the least amount of brain shrinkage. The hippocampus area of the brain (this is the brain area related to memory, showed an increase in volume).

Exercise and Stress Hormones

Stress plays its part in damage that accumulates in cognitive decline.  But, exercise can help:

  • Create new brain cells
  • Helps the brain cells to join the existing neural network.
  • Lifts the mood by boosting the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and norephinephrine.
  • Increases insulin sensitivity.

Noteworthy is the fact that exercises doesn't have to be exhausting, just three to five hours per week has shown to extend its protective effects.

Diet and Cognitive Function

What we eat is of utmost importance.  Cut down on carbs and limit protein consumption to one gram/kilogram of lean body mass. Replace these with healthy fat such as butter, nuts, avocados and coconut oil. Antioxidants are also very important so make sure to consume five or more helpings of vegetables and fruits of different colors and plenty of water to help flush out toxins and keep everything well lubricated. Add in omega 3s from healthy fish such as salmon.

Supplement to battle Alzheimer's

Current research demonstrates that a diet low in vitamin can contribute to the development of Alzheimer's and mental decline.  Vitamin D is essential in fighting inflammation and probably best to have your PMD do a blood test to see where your vitamin D level is, and then follow his instructions for supplementation. Make sure to get out in the sun, this helps build levels of vitamin D. Follow your doctor's instructions regarding protection from the sun. (This can also block absorption).

Limit the intake of fructose to less than 25 grams/day. (The metabolizing of fructose over burdens the liver which takes it away from performing other important jobs like  making cholesterol).

Get adequate amounts of Vitamins B-12 and folate; both are important in the central nervous system for neuron formation and neurotransmitter formation.     


"How Fitness Protects Aging Brain Function" Dr. Mercola


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