What can you do to protect and nurture your most vital organ — your brain?
This is a question I’m asked a lot by my patients.
Many of them have witnessed their relatives stricken with Alzheimer’s and dementia. They tell me that it’s devastating to see their family members losing not only their memory but also their ability to take care of themselves and remain independent.
And that they don’t want it to happen to them…
Of course, we’ve all forgotten names, searched the house for our keys, or neglected to call someone when we said we would.
These memory lapses might feel like the beginning of your brain’s inevitable decline. But they don’t have to be.
One of the most exciting recent discoveries about the human brain is its tremendous capacity to adapt. Your brain cannot only repair itself, but it can modify its structure no matter how old you are. If one network of neurons dies, another network takes over by sprouting brand-new connections. New research shows this compensation can help your brain stave off age-related decline…
In one study, doctors compared the memories of people in their 20s with those in their 70s. Each group looked at 16 words and tried to remember them. The researchers found that, with practice, the older group performed just as well as the younger people.1
But here’s the most surprising finding: as they performed this mental task, brain scans
showed that younger people use their frontal lobes (the normal area for memory), but the older group used a different part of the brain – the area associated with vision.
By feeding your brain the nutrients it needs, you can offset losses in mental alertness and even improve brain function.
As you get older, your brain becomes more susceptible to chemical processes that can harm it. Three of the biggest culprits are:
- Oxidation. Oxidation is the normal result of the energy our bodies expend. This metabolic process introduces free radicals into your body’s cells. Free radicals are fragments of oxygen that destroy the cells in your body. When free radicals attack and kill brain cells, it results in diminished memory.
- Inflammation. Inflammation is the body’s healthy response to infection and injury. But chronic inflammation can kill off brain cells and cause cognitive decline.
- Poor circulation. Your brain comprises only 2% of your total body weight yet receives 15% to 20% of your body’s total blood supply. A steady flow of blood delivers life-giving oxygen plus vitamins, amino acids, minerals, and other nutrients that your brain needs to thrive. Insufficient blood flow to the brain can cause brain cells to suffer and die.
Reboot Your Aging Brain
You can keep your brain healthy and functioning for as long as you live by feeding it what it needs. Here’s what I tell my patients:
- Supplement with vitamin B12: B12 is a key nutrient in preventing memory loss. It works by helping to create and maintain the protective coating around neurons. This coating is myelin. Myelin not only protects neurons from death, but it also helps to conduct their messages. As vitamin B12 levels drop, myelin’s effectiveness plummets. What’s more, people with B12 deficiencies often develop mental disorders and suffer memory loss. Good sources of B12 include grass-fed animal liver and beef, clams, sardines, and tuna. I also recommend taking 1,000 mcg of vitamin B12 daily.
- Increase phosphatidylserine or PS: PS is crucial for accurate brain functioning. Naturally concentrated in brain cells, its job is to harbor neurotransmitters and regulate their release. By taking PS supplements, you can keep your brain’s neurotransmitters strong and promote quick thinking. According to a study published in the journal Neurology, PS supplementation can even bring back lost cognitive function. In the study, researchers gave a group of people with age-related memory impairment between the ages of 50 and 75 either a regimen of PS or a placebo for 12 weeks. The PS group had an improvement in learning and recalling names. They were better at face recognition, concentrating, and remembering telephone numbers and misplaced objects. They began to improve in as little as three weeks.2 The best foods for PS are organ meats. Other good sources include herring, tuna, and pasture-raised chicken. But it’s hard to get enough from your diet. I recommend taking 100 mg three times a day.
- Add in acetyl-L-Carnitine or ALC: ALC promotes brain health by restoring the function of nerve growth factor (NGF). NGF is a protein in your brain that controls the growth and maintenance of neurons. NGF goes down as you age, leading to a major drop in the way brain cells perform. And the loss of this growth factor can cause degenerative brain diseases. ALC helps reverse this drop.3 It also protects the brain from damage due to poor circulation, even during a heart attack or stroke. It works by keeping the cell energy going despite reduced blood flow. What’s more, ALC helps injured nerve cells repair themselves and function normally once again. I suggest taking at least 500 mg every day on an empty stomach.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD, CNS
1. “The latest research on how the brain compensates for age” Neurobiology of Aging Information American Foundation for Aging Research: http://www.healthandage.com/html/min/afar/content/other6_4.htm Accessed on August 3, 2022.
2. Crook T, et al. “Effects of phosphatidylserine in age-associated memory impairment.”Neurology. 1991 May.
3. Pennisi M, et al. “Acetyl-carnitine in dementia and other cognitive disorders: A critical update.” Nutrients. 2020;12(5):1389.