Keeping the Brain Agile in Old Age

 

Ageing as we all know, is simply a process of growing old, where every part of the body is affected. The systems slow down and the risk of disease increases. Numerous changes occur. The most important reason for pre-mature ageing is associated with oxidative damage due to free radicals. Our body constantly reacts with oxygen as we breathe and our cells produce energy. As a result, highly reactive molecules are produced within our cells known as free radicals, which create oxidative stress. The effects on the body as it ages include loss of elasticity in the skin, blood vessels and tendons, as well as a progressive decline in organ and joint function.

Even though we can’t be young for ever, we can avoid some of the negative effects of ageing with a healthy lifestyle and some well chosen supplements.

What we can do is

Avoid smoking cigarettes
Avoid excessive alcohol
Protect ourselves from the sun. Ultraviolet rays makes skin age faster.
Build and maintain bone and muscle mass with weight bearing exercises, and walking.
Enhance our body’s own anti-oxidant defences. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables everyday.

How can we help our brain stay agile in old age?

A major change associated with old age, is of memory declining, and loss of brain cells. As we grow older the dendrites of nerve cells begin to die, which leaves less potential for synaptic connections, thus affecting our logic and memory. Stress is very bad for the brain. High amounts of cortisol get released when we get stressed, and this can seriously damage the neurons. It impairs cognition. As we age, it becomes harder to calm ourselves, when under pressure, and thus more susceptible to such damage.

There are somethings we can do to keep our brain active.

Keeping ourselves occupied by reading, solving puzzles, learning a new skill or language, taking up a new hobby, can keep our synapses working well.
Avoiding stressful situations that can poison the brain.
Taking time to relax.

How can supplements help?

Vitamin C and vitamin E are antioxidants that fight free radicals. They improve immune function and reduce the risk of age-related conditions like heart disease, some forms of cancer and possibly Alzheimers. Green tea and grapeseed extracts are other antioxidants that are very potent. Folic acid, a B vitamin, promotes healthy functioning of nerves. Vitamin B12 fosters healthy brain functioning. Older people lose the ability to absorb vitamin B12 from food, and low B12 levels can cause nerve damage and dementia.

Two supplements that seem to boost mental clarity, and are natural brain builders  are Phosphatidylserine and Acetyl-L-carnitine.

Phosphatidylserine (PS) is an important chemical with many functions in the body. It plays an important part in the maintenance of cellular function, especially in the brain. The body makes phosphatidylserine, but gets most of what it needs from foods. PS is a building block of all brain cells. Without PS, our neurons could not send out neurotransmitters that relay messages throughout the brain. PS heals the brain and restores mental function. The sources of Phosphatidylserine are cow brains, organ meat (liver and kidneys) and plant sources like soy and white beans . The highest concentrations of phosphatidylserine occur in cow brains.

Phosphatidylserine supplements were once made from cow brains, but now are commonly manufactured from soy. This happened due to a concern that products made from animal sources might cause infections such as the mad cow disease. There is developing evidence that plant-derived phosphatidylserine improves memory in people with age-associated memory loss.

Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) is an  amino acid. Acetyl-L-carnitine works from within the brain. It ensures the efficient functioning of the mitochondria. It prevents the toxic accumulation of fatty acids in the mitochondria. Many studies document the use of ALC to repair the degeneration of neuronal tissue that can trigger age-related deterioration of mental function. Even though L-carnitine is available from supplements as well as food, it is the L-carnitine from food sources that is better used and absorbed by the body. Meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products are the richest sources of L-carnitine, in that order.

Dr. Richard N. Firshein, in his book, ‘The Vitamin Prescription (for life) says that, “A ground breaking 1991 study by Dr. Thomas Crook showed that in 57 subjects with age related memory decline, whose average age was 64, PS was able to turn back the mental clock by roughly 12 years.” He also says that, “over 50 human trials, demonstrate that, when used as a dietary supplement in a wide range of doses, PS is incredibly effective at conserving stores of brain power”.

When we lay the foundations of good health in youth and middle age,  we are much more likely to maintain it in old age. A good lifestyle and healthy food will help delay the onset of old age related brain conditions.

Herbal remedies

The herb ginko biloba is said to improve age related conditions as dizziness, impotence and memory loss.

Coenzyme q-10- increases oxygen transport through the mitochondria of the cells. It appears to slow age-related dementia. Coenzyme Q is available from three basic types of foods:  fish, organ meats (liver, kidney and heart), the germs of whole grains and from oils like soybean, sesame, and rapeseed.

A recent swiss study found a connection between high levels of antioxidants such as beta-carotene and vitamin C in the blood and better memory skills in older people. Beta-carotene can be found in sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, kale and mustard greens. Guavas, bell peppers, dark leafy greens, and broccoli are good sources of vitamin C.

Garlic is good herb for immunity and circulation. It has a number of health benefits. It helps reduce cholesterol and prevent cancer. Regular consumption of garlic is linked with increased cognitive health in old age

The herb Ginseng helps to protect against loss of sex drive or general debility.

The Bacopa monnieri (Brahmi) herb  has compounds that can repair damaged neurons, thus improving nerve impulse transmission.  It appears to work through proliferating dendrites in order to improve synaptic transmission, thus promoting neuron communication.