Chronic stress triggers free radical storms
Our brain is negatively affected by chronic inflammation which is the metabolic imbalance caused by stress, poor eating habits, lack of exercise, or metabolic diseases. The bad news is that as we age our immune defence system becomes weaker, and we are more likely to develop chronic inflammation.
As we age we also exercise less, eat less variety of foods, go outside less often, and socialise less, which all contributes to accelerating chronic stress.
The good news is that scientists have recently come to the view (2016) that a nutritional approach to controlling chronic inflammation "opens a new window for healthy brain aging".
Obesity leads to chronic brain inflammation
We are facing an epidemic of obesity and diabetes, and unfortunately this will lead to an epidemic of cognitive disability such as dementia and Alzheimer's Disease (AD).
For example, a metabolic disease such as diabetes creates chronic inflammation as a result of imbalances in our blood sugar levels.
An emerging body of evidence, led by neuropathologist de la Monte, suggests that people that have insulin resistance, in particular those with type 2 diabetes, have an increased risk of suffering from AD, estimated between 50% and 65% higher. That is scary - well, it scares me as I have Type 2 diabetes.
Scientists have recently begun to understand how the resident immune cells in our brain - the microglia - can become overloaded by constantly fighting chronic inflammation.
The overload flips the microglia's mitochondria into producing "reactive oxygen species" which are molecules containing excess oxygen or "free radicals". These free radicals cause damage to proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids which are circulating in our body, leading to cell and tissue injury. The free radicals have toxic effects on neurons.
When we are healthy and free of metabolic diseases, free radicals and antioxidants are in balance. Our metabolism is built to manage this balance by bringing free radicals under control. Metabolic stress refers to a condition where the levels of free radicals overwhelm the capacity of our antioxidant defences.
A nutritional approach to reducing chronic inflammation as a public health strategy makes sense, as eating better food is easier than exercising, and easier then lowering our emotional stress. Of course, even better if we can include some extra exercise, as noted below in the seven guidelines.
Seven natural ways to reduce inflammation
Seven science-based dietary guidelines to reduce inflammation include:
The Mayo Clinic recommends limiting saturated fat to less than 10-percent of calories a day and replacing saturated fat with healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Choose lean meat and skinless poultry, and prepare fish, such as salmon and mackerel, instead of meat at least twice a week to get healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Bake or broil seafood instead of frying it.
Vegetables, nuts, legumes and fruits which support our immune system include elderberries, button mushrooms, acai berries, oysters, watermelon, wheat germ, spinach, tea (including green tea), sweet potato, broccoli, garlic, chicken soup, pomegranate seeds, walnuts, pistachio nuts, and almonds. The benefits are due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties,
Foods high in vitamin E include sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, avocados, squash, kiwifruit, trout, shrimp, olive oil, wheat germ oil, and broccoli. The current Daily Value (DV) for vitamin E is 15mg.
A recent study of 1 million people found that, put simply, having too much iron in the blood appeared to be linked to an increased risk of dying earlier. Hence the recommendation to choose multivitamins without iron.
Adding 40 minutes of exercise of 40 minutes three times per week can be done by simply heading out for a walk. Walking briskly, you will cover 4km in 40 minutes. Plot a path, head 2km outbound for a stop at your favourite coffee shop, and 2km back (no sugar, remember).
Probiotics, prebiotics, honey, olive oil and Vitamin D
But wait, there's more.
The seven guidelines haven’t quite caught up with some other studies, including the more recent emergence of the important role of our gut biome on brain health. Therefore, you might also to the above recommendations regular servings of probiotics - yoghurt and such - prebiotics - oats and barley, for example - and honey and virgin olive oil. I do.
Studies of the now famous Mediterranean Diet (MeDi) have demonstrated a positive effect on cognition of the MeDi supplemented with either nuts or extra-virgin olive oil.
There is also a body of research which suggests that honey has a "neuroprotective role" - reducing inflammation and improving memory.
Vitamin D might also have an association with AD. Observational studies offer good evidence that low vitamin D concentration is a risk factor for developing AD. The Endocrine Society recommends keeping vitamin D3 concentrations above 75nmol/L. You can help maintain this from exposure to sunlight on your walks.
The flesh of fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel) and fish liver oils are among the best food sources. Small amounts of vitamin D are found in beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. Vitamin D in these foods is primarily in the form of vitamin D3.
Eat better and take a walk
In conclusion, long-term dietary habits may influence neuroinflammation and the onset of degenerative conditions such as dementia and AD. Scientists believe that a better diet, combined with a modicum of exercise, have an important role as therapeutic strategies for neurodegenerative diseases.
It's not too hard to eat better, and it's easy to go for a good walk every couple of days.
Try it, your brain will thank you.
> More posts to help you with EXERCISES
> More posts to help you with DIABETES
> If you are a @MEDIUM reader my publication Body Age Buster has hundreds of categorised posts which I have written especially for men and women over 50
No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or another qualified clinician. Disclaimer.
Since I was diagnosed at 50 with Type 2 diabetes I've been learning how to do bone-building fitness training which lowers my age. You can too. It's your choice. Walter