Bumper sticker: You can live a long time, or it can seem that way.
Most people agree that it is not just the length of your life that is important, but the quality of your life that makes you want to continue to live it as long as possible. Arguably, the quality of the functioning of your brain not only allows you to appreciate life itself, but reflects the functioning of virtually every other organ in the rest of the body. That 3-pound , tofu-like organ encased in your skull is entirely dependent on circulation, metabolism, gut and hormone function, detoxification and the immune system to perform its job of receiving and interpreting information about your internal and external environments. This, in turn, allows it to respond by making adjustments to those environments so that you can not only live your life, but live it more abundantly.
Fortunately, we live in an era of exploding knowledge about brain function. One of the most important new concepts in the last 25 years is that of brain plasticity. Until relatively recently, it was thought that injuries and illnesses affecting the brain left permanent damage that could not be reversed. The good news is that even circumstances as devastating as strokes, traumatic brain injury, and even some congenital conditions can be healed with remarkable contemporary therapies. This is because the brain is actually much more “plastic” or moldable than we had previously been taught. Therefore, the first step towards a better brain is embracing the idea that you can change your brain despite accidents and the ravages of time. (1)
Of all the factors that affect the brain, oxygen and blood glucose stand out as the substances that have the most impact on brain function. They are also the two things that are most under your voluntary control. The delivery of oxygen is most obviously connected to circulation. So, it should come as no surprise that the same things you do to keep your heart healthy, are the things you need to do to keep your brain healthy. A heart-healthy diet, plenty of exercise, and maintaining meaningful connections with other people have been shown to protect not just the pumper in your chest, but that vital control center in your head. (2) Just as with cardiac disease, the trick is not to wait until you are having tubes inserted into every aspect of your body in the emergency room to vow to change your life. Lifestyle changes must be applied early and consistently if you want to avoid becoming another statistic that has earned the United States the distinction of having the most years of disability before death of any nation on earth. No one sets out to have a long, painful, debilitating slide into the grave, and yet that is what most Americans are choosing. It really comes down to making those small daily choices. “Should I have another slice of pizza, or get a salad instead?” “Am I really too tired to take a walk, or is my favorite sit-com my priority?”
What are some ways you can utilize medical technology to improve brain function even if you are already concerned that some wear-and-tear is affecting your brain? Ask your doctor to include a common test of long-term blood glucose control called Hemoglobin A1c with your physical exam. This test is more accurately correlated with longevity than the usual fasting glucose, and is also directly related to your risk of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is now known as “type-3 diabetes” because of how profoundly insulin resistance in the brain affects memory. You may also want to consider getting specific epigenetic testing or testing for any of the other 36 factors that affect brain health. These can not only predict risk, but also tailor prevention and treatment to your unique genetic and epigenetic circumstances. Most importantly, at any age, if you notice memory loss, brain fog, depression, anxiety, difficulty learning, lack of motivation, poor concentration, easy fatigue from driving or reading, or fatigue in response to certain foods or chemicals, seek help from a healthcare provider who is knowledgeable about how these common conditions can lead to early brain aging.(3) Do something while your command center is still able to understand this article.
The following excellent books for the general public are recommended reading:
1 The Brain That Changes Itself, by Norman Doidge, MD.
2 Younger Next Year, by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, MD
3 Why Isn’t My Brain Working? by Datis Kharazian, DHSC, DC, MS
To learn more about special services for brain and neurological function available at Whole Health Solutions, click here.