ironic. Here I am feeling stressed and losing sleep trying to
finish a column about how to keep my brain from aging
prematurely. Turns out these are two culprits that can speed
up the aging process of my poor brain, I learned in a recent
seminar by neurologist Dr. Michael Lara.
stress turns on a type of cellular inflammation that
interferes with my brainís ability to regenerate, Lara told
his audience of health professionals. And lack of adequate
sleep can negatively affect our ability to think clearly. Oh
how I know that.
avoid these problems when I get regular exercise and aim for 8
hours of sleep at night, Lara reported. Physical activity and
adequate sleep help restore my brain cells and turn down the
inflammatory processes associated with premature aging.
to get adequate sleep is to get enough magnesium in my diet,
Lara said. This mineral works on nerve transmitters that slow
the brain and make it easier to get to sleep and stay asleep.
How much magnesium? About 400 milligrams a day ó the amount
I can get in my daily diet if I include foods such as almonds,
spinach, milk and soy foods, whole grains, beans, peanut
butter, chicken, and bananas.
foods contain other substances that fight off age-promoting
inflammation and help keep my brain cells popping, Lara
reported. Polyphenolic compounds ó substances associated
with improved mental gymnastics ó can be found in foods such
as green tea, nuts, berries, red wine and chocolate.
and chocolate? Check. Careful though. Whereas green tea showed
improvements in cognitive function at intakes of 4 cups a day,
the optimal beneficial effect from wine was seen in daily
doses of less than 4 ounces (1/2 cup). And in only about 1/2
ounce of dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa
fish may help keep my mind intact as well. Numerous studies
show that the omega-3 fats in fish (EPA and DHA) work against
the natural inflammation that occurs in aging bodies and
brains. Omega-3ís actually work their way into cell
membranes and keep them supple ó the better for information
to "flow" from one cell to the other, scientists
about krill oil? someone asked Lara. Itís an oil derived
from shellfish, he answered. And like other fish, it contains
omega 3 fats, EPA and DHA.
also spice up our aging brains with tumeric (aka curcumin) ó
a seasoning that appears to protect the brain from premature
aging. And itís interesting, our speaker noted, that in
India where tumeric is a common ingredient in foods, the
prevalence of dementia is low.
ó no cream or sugar please ó can perk up brain cells as
well. Most of this effect is from the caffeine however.
all together and methinks this is very close to the
Mediterranean way of eating: more fish than meat and chicken,
plenty of bright-colored berries, fruits, nuts, vegetables and
legumes, moderate use of olive oil and wine. As it turns out
this eating pattern has been found to fight inflammatory
processes that contribute to foggy thinking.
really is hope for this aging brain ó if I pay attention to
my life choices.
Iíll go to bed now.