June is Alzheimer’s and Brain awareness month. It’s a time to recognize to take charge of your brain health and join the fight to end Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.

With as many as 8 million Americans facing Alzheimer’s, it is the 7th leading cause of death here in America.

I think we all get anxiety when we start forgetting where we put the car keys, or go into a room to get something but once we get there, we have forgotten why we came there in the first place!  The Harvard Medical School lists 7 reasons why we may do this and, fortunately,  it is not connected to Alzheimer’s!  They include lack of sleep, alcohol, depression, anxiety and stress, underactive thyroid, and medications.  Good to know!  This is an excellent article and I highly recommend checking out that link for more information.

In Total Wellness by Joseph Pizzorno, N.D., the research by Marian Cleeves Diamond, Ph.D. on the brains of rats and humans for several decades, was discussed.  150 research studies and three books came as a result of her work and she found that rat brain size and function can be substantially affected regardless of age, with old rats (equivalent to a 90-year-0ld human) showing as much change as young rats. Providing rats with an enriched environment (the more diverse the better) that changes constantly (yes, even rats get bored with the same toys) results in several very significant effects:  increased size of the cortex (the higher function part of the brain) and increased blood supply to the brain, neuron cell size, number of neuron connections, and size of synapses.

Stress was found to have the opposite effect, with the brain of stressed animals actually getting smaller. In other words, the more we use our brain, the better it works, unless we damage it by stress and toxins. Pizzorno states, “Considering the high incidence of dementia and other degenerative diseases of the brain, we apparently need to do a much better job of stimulating and protecting our brains and nervous system.  This is especially the case as we get older since the risk of developing diseases of an aging brain (dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) increases 15 fold between 65 and 85 years of age…..obviously, prevention is the best approach!”

In a recent article by Larrisa Long,  researchers did a study involving individuals who fell into 3 categories:

1) those who never showed signs of degenerative brain disease:

2) those who, after death, were found to have the tangles associated with Alzheimer’s yet showed no signs while alive

3)  those who died with the disease.

All of these individuals had taken personality tests before their deaths.  All agreed to have an autopsy of the brain following their death.  The results discovered  that those who are more emotionally stable and conscientious may have greater resilience because they are generally healthier and engage in behaviors that reduce the risk of dementia — like exercising and abstaining from tobacco use. In addition, emotionally stable people tend to have better metabolic and inflammatory risk profiles and are less likely to have depression — all of which have been linked to dementia.  To add to that they found that skepticism, cynicism and being manipulative and deceptive actually were associated with those amyloid placques and tangles found in Alzheimer’s disease patients.  The individuals who died and revealed some of those placques and tangles yet showed no sign of the disease while living, researchers believed was because of their personality traits!   This new knowledge of how personality traits affect the development of dementia allows us to see just how much of a role attitude plays in our overall health.

Way back in 2002, (New England Journal of Medicine, Feb.14, 2002), it was stated “There appears to be a newly discovered relation between the level of homocysteine in the blood and Alzheimer’s disease.”  For years homocysteine has been known to have a direct toxic effect on cells lining the body’s arteries.  The compound is clearly related to coronary artery disease, stroke, peripheral vascular disease and the aging of the brain.  The study indicates that the higher the homocysteine level, the more likely a person will develop Alzheimer’s.  This finding is doubly important because homocysteine blood levels can be significantly reduced by supplemental folic acid, a vitamin, in dosages of one to two milligrams a day.

Along with the above tips I recommend this post I wrote a few months ago that include even more preventative measures to help us avoid this aspect of aging.  And turning that frown to a smile might help too! (who knew that even our personality plays a  huge role in our brain health!)

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