Thu. Jan 17th, 2019

The Aging Brain: Proven Steps to Prevent Dementia and Sharpen Your Mind

Dr. Timothy R. Jennings tells it like it is in his new book “The Aging Brain: Proven Steps to Prevent Dementia and Sharpen your Brain”. You can see flashes of his Christianity flare up in the book now and then which are interesting and he effectively ties them into his subject matter. Spirituality is very healthy for your mind and nowhere does he say that spirituality must be Christian.
And this is no detached impersonal medical treatise as Jennings admits that seeing his mother in law being slowly ravaged by Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) with the collateral damage of stress, fear and anguish caused to his wife has made this a personal book. I like this admission as it gives the reader Jennings is going to be a fighter in his book.
Dementia is not new. Its just that our lifespans have increased and with that ageing of the brain dementia and AD. AD is the 5th largest killer. While science has reduced the risk of dying young it is up to us to decide how we age.
I will admit at times portions of the book are complex but it certainly has been well researched.
If you want to know how you can slow ageing a key fact to remember that a healthy body means a healthy mind and that certain diseases of the body damage the brain.
Jennings makes it easy for us by concluding each chapter with “learning points” and what actions you can take to fight off dementia.
Remember genetics, specifically having two copies of the ApoE4 gene, raise the risk of developing AD by 30-60 percent however alone this gene is not sufficient to cause AD.
Dementia is the term for any condition that damages brain tissue in such a way that there is permanent loss of memory along with at least one other cognitive ability such as the ability to problem solve, solve, organize and plan; use language normally, identify common objects: or do simple motor tasks like buttoning a shirt or tying a shoe.
Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) was first described in 1907 by Alois Alzheimer who identified the syndrome of memory and cognitive problems. His subject was a 51-year woman and upon autopsy her brain revealed lesions called neurofibrillary tangles and senile plaques. Senile plaques are accumulations of proteins, beta-amyloid which is thought to be a hallmark feature and contributing factor to AD.
There are two types of Alzheimer’s. One is early onset AD before 65 and late onset which is after 65. Late onset AD is responsible for 95% of AD.
I’ll throw out some key points on how to fight off dementia and AD.
1. Learn new things. Education slows brain ageing. Those who are educated develop more complex brains and are generally more knowledgeable about how to live healthy lives thus avoiding many destructive factors that increase ageing. Engage your mind regularly.
2. Physical mutagens cause brain damage so avoid unnecessary X-Rays and use protective aprons when being X-Rayed. Ultraviolet radiation, such as from the sun, cause physical mutation. Use sunscreen and avoid excessive contact with the sun.
3. Eat a healthy diet. Avoid junk food consumption and artificial sweeteners.
4. Get regular exercise and avoid a sedentary lifestyle. Physical exercise improves brain volume and enhances the circuits of the brain involved in initiating, organizing and co-ordinating our thought processes.
5. Oxidization and inflammation are major causes of dementia and AD. Inflammation arises when the body responds to attacks by injury, infection, disease and stress. Oxidative stress damages DNA, proteins, lipids and other body tissues caused by oxygen-containing molecules.
6. Obesity increases oxidative damage.
7. There is a connection between sleep disorders and obesity. Failure to get a good sleep and experience mental relaxation increases ageing.
8. Sugar consumption has been linked to several medical conditions including accelerated ageing. High sugar intake increases inflammation of the brain cells causing memory deficits.
9. Intermittent fasting slows ageing and improves brain health
10. Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil or from oily fish such as wild salmon, mackerel and sardines improve the function of the brain’s glymphatic system which is the system the brain uses to remove waste products including a protein that has been associated with AD. Research has shown that omega-3 supplements improved cognition and processing speed for those with mild cognitive impairment but did not benefit those already demented.
11. Tobacco increases ageing.
12. Illegal drugs increase ageing. Now that cannabis is legal in Canada and in some American states so some commentary upon it might have been appreciated.
13. Alcohol consumption should be limited to a maximum of two glasses of wine a day. Moderate drinkers live longer than tee-totallers. Red wine is better than white. Spirits should be avoided.
14. Avoid vitamins with iron and copper.
15. Your mind and body needs a vacation.
16. Spirituality that does not cling to unhealthy beliefs slows ageing. Clinging to unhealthy and negative beliefs activates the brain’s stress circuitry and the immune response increasing inflammation and cause a cascade of medical conditions including the acceleration of ageing and increase the risk of dementia.
17. Chronic stress systematically and chronically activates the brain’s alarm circuitry and sends the body into an ongoing survival state, a fight or flight status often when no objective threat exists. Chronic stress causes inflammation increasing ageing and the risk of dementia. Chronic worry has the same inflammatory effect.
18. Loneliness increases stress pathways increasing inflammation and results in increased oxidative stress on the brain contributing to more neuronal death and impaired repair mechanisms.
19. The supplement Ginkgo Biloba may provide memory and cognitive benefit in those who already have memory or cognitive disorder but there is little evidence that it improves memory and cognition in those who are cognitively unimpaired. Tumeric (particularly combined with black pepper), coffee, Vitamin D, Vitamin B9 and 12 walnuts and green tea may be weapons against cognitive impairment.
20. Depression history increases the risk for AD later in life.
The book concludes with a chapter about caring for a loved one with dementia. The answer is quite simple. A caregiver that has broken down is not a good caretaker. It is essential that caretakers establish minimum objective requirements they must meet in order to maintain their own health.
Genetics are only a minority factor in developing dementia and AD but Jennings gives you a fighting strategy to combat these horrific attackers of the brain. Thank goodness and praise be to him that has banished fatalism from dementia and cognitive impairment.
Dr. Jennings has been in private practice as a psychiatrist and certified psychopharmacologist since 1997 with a private practice in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Needless to say this article does not constitute medical advice. Read this book and have a discussion with your doctor if you have any concerns. If you feel that you are cognitively impaired or may have AD ensure you are referred to physicians with experience in cognitive impairment or AD as the case may be.
Refer to the Alzheimer’s Canada website
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