Thursday, March 1, 2012

Brain Health

While cognitive decline and diminishing brain function may or may not be inevitable as we age, there are fortunately many lifestyle choices we can make that translate not only to healthier brains but also brains that may be better able to heal from damage caused by brain trauma and injury.
For instance, evidence is overwhelming regarding exercise’s ability to increase brain neuroplasticity and offset cognitive impairment in aging populations. The same can be said of diets that emphasize fresh vegetables and fruits, with some plant derived compounds demonstrating specific brain protective properties.
Among the various aspects of the pathophysiological cascade of post traumatic brain injury, magnesium depletion “ …has been correlated with post-injury neurologic deficits, and pretreatment to restore magnesium levels results in improved motor performance in experimental animals.”
Functionally, magnesium plays a vital role in nerve transmission, neuroplasticity and cognitive performance. As we age, brain levels of magnesium decline, exacerbating the erosion of synaptic function in the hippocampus region of the brain, for instance, which has a primary role in the formation of memories.
A unique and highly effective form of magnesium
Magnesium repletion then, especially as we age, is of vital importance. Unfortunately, magnesium from both food and supplementation has not been proven to elevate brain magnesium levels adequately enough to produce a therapeutic effect. One form of magnesium though, magnesium threonate, has been found to significantly increase brain levels of magnesium leading to improvements in synaptic plasticity, memory, cognition and learning.
The disruptive power of oxidative stress
The pathophysiological cascade of events that occur immediately following traumatic brain injury (TBI) include the creation of high levels of cell membrane damaging oxidative stress. Beyond cell membrane damaging lipid peroxidative action, oxidative stress “can cause a number of deleterious effects in cells including inhibition of DNA synthesis, disturbance in calcium homeostasis, and inhibition of mitochondrial respiration.”  Cell membrane disruption together with subsequent pathophysiological events will cause cognitive deficits that may manifest themselves as learning difficulties, memory loss and decreased synaptic plasticity.
 The benefits of curcumin
describe the imageCerebral edema is another common consequence of TBI. Dietary polyphenols like curcumin, the polyphenol found in turmeric, has been shown to have utility in brain disease, injury and cognitive function. Curcumin’s powerful antioxidative properties has been shown to be effective in neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and was shown to attenuate the severity of edema and hematoma in animal models of brain injury. In the preceding study, supplemental curcumin was also shown to improve brain cell membrane homeostasis and stability, neuronal signaling and cognitive deficits in animal models of traumatic brain injury.
Neurodegenerative diseases have a similar albeit slower progression of events including excitotoxicity, leading to neuronal cell death. Excitotoxicity is a pathological process by which neurons are damaged and killed by the over activation of receptors for the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate. This leads to the activation of a number of enzymes, which go on to damage cell structures such as components of the cell membrane and DNA. Excitotoxicity is involved in not only stroke and traumatic brain injury, but also neurodegenerative diseases of the central nervous system such as Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and Huntington's disease.
Green tea and brain health
green teaGreen tea consumption, with its plentiful concentration of polyphenols or more specifically, its green tea catechins, like curcumin, possesses brain protective properties which include its ability to increase neuronal viability, improve mitochondrial function and act as a powerful antioxidant. Iron in excess can be powerfully oxidative and has been shown to accumulate in specific parts of the brain like the hippocampus, again a vital center of cognition and memory formation. Green tea has iron chelation abilities that may offer addition brain protection and disease protection.
Finally, polyphenols from grape extracts were shown to decrease DNA damage in animal models of ischemic brain injury.
These examples just scratch the surface of the plethora of lifestyle, dietary and nutritional choices we have, many of which have been convincingly associated with major health benefits related to brain and cognitive health.

Compliments of Michael Fuhrman D.C., Designs for Health 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Martha's Minute: Heart Disease Prevention Tips

6:00 - 7:00 p.m.

Heart disease prevention tips save US lives - study

Prevention efforts such as losing weight, kicking the smoking habit, lowering cholesterol and taking an aspirin a day could cut heart attacks in the United States by 36 percent and strokes by 20 percent in the next three decades, U.S. researchers said on Monday.

"It's literally millions of lives saved," said Dr. Rose Marie Robertson, chief science officer of the American Heart Association and co-author of the report, which appears in the journal Circulation.

"The results show not only can we prolong peoples' lives but we can really prolong quality life by preventing these things from happening," Robertson said in a telephone interview. Robertson said 78 percent of U.S. adults aged 20-80 could benefit from at least one of these prevention activities.
The report was based on a mathematical model that used data from a national survey of health and nutrition to project the effects of prevention efforts on the entire U.S. population over a 30-year period. It is a joint effort of the American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association.

It builds on a wealth of studies that suggest people can make changes to improve their health and prolong their lives. A team of British researchers recently found people who drink moderately, exercise, quit smoking and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables each day live 14 years longer than people who do none of those things.

Robertson and colleagues looked specifically at ways to prevent heart disease. They found that if followed to their full potential, 11 prevention measures could add 220 million years of life to the U.S. population over the next 30 years, or an average of 1.3 years of life expectancy for each adult in the United States. "If every individual achieved 100 percent adherence with all the clinical prevention activities for which they are candidates, then heart attacks would decrease about 63 percent and strokes about 31 percent in the next three decades," Robertson said in a statement. Knowing that 100 percent adherence was unlikely, the researchers also calculated what would be feasible based on what has been achieved in clinical trials. "Under those conditions, heart attacks would drop by 36 percent and strokes by 20 percent in the same period," Robertson said. People with diabetes would benefit the most from these prevention strategies, the researchers found.

Strategies with the biggest heart health impact come from taking low-dose aspirin, controlling pre-diabetes, weight loss in the obese, lowering blood pressure in people with diabetes, and lowering low-density lipid cholesterol, the so-called "bad" cholesterol, in people with existing coronary artery disease.
The researchers said the findings suggest more resources need to be focused on prevention efforts. "The benefits are too important to be ignored," Robertson said in a statement.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Nearly 24 million people in the United States have diabetes, which is the seventh-leading cause of death.

Last Updated: 2008-07-07 16:22:20 -0400 (Reuters Health)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Foods to Avoid if You Want to Lose Weight

Learn which three foods you must avoid

if you want to lose weight

The worst diet devastators are sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and white flour, and they should be avoided at all costs if you want to lose weight successfully.
  • Sugar. Sugar can destroy your health. It is creating an obesity epidemic in our nation. And it’s at the root of numerous other debilitating health conditions. Sugar comes in many forms. I recommend you read all labels to make sure you and your loved ones are sugar free! You will be surprised at how much you consume! Watch for my upcoming "Martha's Minute" on the 49 reasons you should avoid sugar.
  • High-fructose corn syrup. A Princeton University research team has demonstrated that all sweeteners are not equal when it comes to weight gain: Rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS )gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same. High-fructose corn syrup  is a chemically altered sugar manufactured from cornstarch, but because it goes through extensive chemical tweaking, it is far from natural and decidedly unsafe. More and more I see children who are reacting to this harmful substance. HFCS completely disrupts your body’s natural ability to tell when you’re satisfied and should stop eating, effectively increasing appetite and weight gain. Completely eliminating HFCS from your diet should be your goal, but be aware that can be a tall order. HFCS is added to hundreds of best-selling foods—again, check labels carefully to avoid foods that contain this harmful sweetener.
  • White flour. White flour is another diet offender. It has no nutritional value and can cause blood sugar control problems. Fortunately, there are several healthy, tasty and readily available alternatives you can try, like oat flour, whole wheat flour (spelt is usually best), and rye flour. Some clients prefer to try a Gluten Free diet. A Gluten Free Diet is a diet that avoids gliadin, the protein offender in gluten. Gluten is found in all forms of wheat, common cereal grains and also in rye, oats and barley. Wheat also includes semolina, durum, spelt, triticale, and kamut. Being on a gluten free diet is not just the avoidance of bread and pasta. Gluten is found hidden in items such as cold cuts, prepared broths and soups, most processed foods, and even in pharmaceuticals and body products. Some items on labels that are questionable include “natural flavorings, flavor extracts, or spice extracts”, and need to be avoided because gluten may be used in processing them.

Many people with digestive issues, allergies, fatigue, ADD, autism, neurological disorders, and more are turning toward a gluten free diet with successful relief. Many times one may not even know they are reacting to gluten because there may be no discomfort, bloating, gas or constipation. If you are suffering from health issues, eating Gluten Free is not something you do for a couple of weeks and then go back to your old habits. Gluten can stay in the body for approximately 6-8 weeks and is cumulative. Even if you only have a bite or two here and there, it all adds up! It is very important for you to take ownership of your diet - phone calls, reading, attending events will all assist you in learning about a whole new lifestyle.

NOTE: I am not suggesting everyone has to go on a gluten free diet forever: Some people without health issues avoid gluten for 6-8 weeks and then find they are able to tolerate it again in moderation. Some people do it as sort of a cleanse to give there body a break for awhile and get energized and notice their digestive complaints disappearing. Depending on your situation, you will need to decide what type of diet modifications are best for you. Most people I have worked with seem to feel better when avoiding wheat - and many of them lose weight!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012