Guide Power Foods for the Brain: An Effective 3-Step Plan to Protect Your Mind and Strengthen Your Memory

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Power Foods for the Brain

Also subscribe me to this thread. The good news is that vascular dementia is, to a large degree, preventable. Stroke is a common cause of dementia, often accompanied by physical weakness. Here is what you need to know:. Even though it makes up only about 2 percent of your body, your brain gets a good 20 percent of your blood supply, and for good reason. There are more cells in your brain than there are lightbulbs in Las Vegas that is, billion neurons and 10 times that many glial cells supporting them , and you need a steady stream of oxygen and nutrients to power them all.

A failure in the blood supply to the brain can result in stroke, and stroke is one of the leading causes of memory loss. The carotid arteries are in the front of your neck, one on the left and the other on the right. A second set, called the vertebral arteries, is deeper in the neck, passing up along the spine. This quartet of arteries join together at the base of the brain, so if one artery is blocked or damaged, blood can shuttle in from another.

From there, branches extend to the front of your brain, where your thoughts take shape and you plan your movements. Other branches reach the back of your brain, where vision is processed. Near the center of the brain is the limbic system, where brain cells cook up emotions. A dense network of nerves connects and coordinates all these regions. With a good blood supply, these structures will last a lifetime.

As well designed as the system is, things go wrong surprisingly often. As we saw earlier, arteries can become narrowed, clots can form, and bits of clot can end up plugging small arteries deep inside the brain. A clot may also originate in the heart. In a condition called atrial fibrillation, an erratic heartbeat leads to pooling of blood within the heart, forming clots that can break away and flow upward toward the brain.

The result is a stroke—or, in medical terms, a cerebrovascular accident— meaning that part of the brain has died. Blood vessels can also break open. If an artery bursts in the brain, blood spills into the brain tissue, like water spraying out of a nick in a fire hose. The resulting pressure can kill brain cells. If you are lucky, the affected area will be tiny, so symptoms are imperceptible. But small strokes can add up.

Strokes that are too small to show up on brain scans occur surprisingly often and, collectively, they can affect a broad range of brain functions. Often a single large stroke can wipe out a large part of the brain in one go. It can occur out of the blue, with paralysis, speech difficulties, and confusion that can be very sudden and frightening. When a stroke occurs, quick treatment is essential. For strokes caused by clots, clot-dissolving drugs often help if used within the first few hours. For hemorrhagic stroke, surgery may be necessary to remove accumulated blood or repair damaged blood vessels.

Unfortunately, the first signs of a stroke can be so vague that you are not sure whether to take them seriously. A hemorrhagic stroke, for example, can start with a headache. But headaches have many causes, of course. The signs that a headache may be caused by bleeding into the brain include sudden onset, severe pain, occurrence while lying down, worsening with movement and straining, such as coughing, or awakening you from sleep. Here are other signs to look out for. Note that for the first day or so, symptoms can come and go. Doctors can often tell where a stroke has occurred based on the symptoms.

Because the nerves cross over from one side of the body to the other, a stroke on one side of the brain manifests as weakness on the opposite side. The parts of the brain that control speech are mainly on the left. Vision is in the back. When doctors suspect a stroke, they conduct a careful neurological examination that checks your strength, senses including vision , reflexes, and ability to speak and understand. Brain imaging methods, including CT computed tomography and MRI magnetic resonance imaging , allow doctors to see abnormalities within the brain.

Doctors will also check the health of your heart and the arteries to the brain and run blood tests that detect clotting abnormalities, diabetes, and cholesterol problems. If your doctor suspects bleeding, he or she may do a spinal tap. Doctors run through a checklist of medical conditions that could be mistaken for a stroke: migraine, low or high blood sugar, a seizure, an infection, multiple sclerosis, or a brain tumor. The good news about strokes is that the brain can recover, at least to a degree. Even so, it is not an easy process by any means.

Stroke recovery is often only partial, and it is often complicated by medical problems, including depression, as the brain seemingly shuts down other functions in order to focus on healing. The steps outlined in the next several chapters will give you new power for controlling your weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol, which, in turn, will cut your risk of stroke. This common cause of dementia is marked by the presence of Lewy bodies, which are clumps of proteins inside brain cells. They are named for Friedrich Lewy, the researcher who discovered them in the early s.

Both conditions present problems with movement and mental function. Changes in alertness An affected person may be alert at times, then become drowsy or stare off into space for prolonged periods. A special type of brain imaging, called SPECT, is sometimes used to show changes in dopamine activity.

This is a group of disorders that mainly affect the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. Most cases strike early—affecting people in their fifties or sixties—and many appear to have a genetic basis. The main problems occur with language and behavior. You could have trouble finding words, speaking, or understanding what others are saying. Behavior can become uninhibited and inappropriate, or sometimes just listless and lethargic. Brain scanning methods show shrinkage and reduced activity in the affected areas. Those are the threats we need to be aware of.

By now, you are probably frightened, considering all the things that can go wrong. Well, this is the time for action. In the next several chapters, we will draw on scientific research to build a powerful shield to protect your brain. We will start with a look at foods—foods that help us and other foods that we will want to steer clear of.

We will also turn our attention to exercises—mental and physical—that can strengthen the brain. We will see how to give your memory banks the rest they need and how to protect your brain from the surprising array of assaults that can take away your edge. If Frances stayed reasonably clear all her life, while her sister Mary Lou developed more serious memory problems, what made the difference?

Could it be that Frances ate considerably more healthfully?

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  • Or could it be the fact that she was a much more avid reader? Or maybe it was the exercise program she went to after work? Or perhaps it was all of these things. In the following chapters, we will see exactly how to protect your memory. First, I want you to understand a few basics of how foods affect brain function.

    It is easy but important. Certain food components are toxic to the brain, and you are almost certainly exposed to many of them now. I want to point them out to you so you can protect yourself. So please take your time and go through these pages carefully. As you will see, this takes very little time, but the results can be quite striking. Then we will pump up blood flow to your brain using an individualized program of physical conditioning.

    It is extremely easy, and you can build up to however challenging a level you might like. The result can be measurable changes in brain structure. I will show you how to take an inventory of your sleep habits and correct them if you need to. It also means looking at medications and medical conditions that cause brain cells to misfire. We will go through them in an easy but systematic way. I hope you will explore the menus and recipes in this book and have fun with them. If you are surprised that healthful recipes could seem so delicious, the fact is that two top chefs designed them that way.

    Together, we aim to seduce your taste buds so you cannot help but fall into good health. Healthful eating also opens the doors to a world of delights you had never anticipated. So by using the power of food, adding brain-strengthening exercises, and understanding how medicines and medical conditions interact with brain function, you will have a powerful program for conquering memory problems and being at your best.

    Within the gray matter that makes up the outer layer of the brain are the billions of brain cells that allow you to think, speak, move, anticipate the future, and manage your day-to-day life. They link with each other via billions upon billions of synaptic connections and send even more links to other parts of the brain, to the muscles, and to your sense organs. If you have memory problems, it is a sign that these connections are not working properly. Perhaps the brain cells are not getting the nutrients they need.

    Maybe they are momentarily misfiring, due to a side effect of some medication. Some connections may be broken, or perhaps the brain cells themselves are no longer there at all. Researchers have worked long and hard to track down the causes of memory problems so we can take steps to prevent them. As we have seen, there are three key steps for protecting your memory. In the following chapter, we will see where they are coming from and how you can protect yourself.

    You may be shocked to learn where they are hiding. Then, in the next two chapters, we will look at the role of fats—some are distinctly harmful to the brain, surprisingly enough, while others are actually helpful—and at common vitamins that are essential for protecting the brain. It is important to know where to find them and how to put them to work.

    The Beatles made an enormous splash in Liverpool. But as big as they were, there was one commodity that was much bigger and much more controversial. Liverpool is a port city. So ships come and go, carrying coal, timber, grains, steel, crude oil, and endless other commodities.

    [+] Power Foods for the Brain: An Effective 3-Step Plan to Protect Yo…

    Loaded onto ships leaving Liverpool in the eighteenth century was the most controversial product in English history. In their holds were bars of copper—that ordinary reddish metal that makes a pot or pan look so shiny and bright. Copper looks innocent enough.

    But it was the currency of the British slave trade. The ships sailed from Liverpool to West Africa, where copper and brassware were exchanged for slaves who were then carried across the Atlantic to the Americas. There the human cargo was off-loaded, and rum and sugar from slave plantations were carried back to Britain. This triangular trade route from Britain to Africa to the Americas and back was fueled by copper from Liverpool. It was what African slaveholders wanted. Copper also kept the ships afloat.

    Sailing around the North Atlantic, wooden ships worked out well. But as slave ships entered the Caribbean, they encountered a tiny mollusk, called Teredo navalis, which feeds on wood. Or, more accurately, these mollusks have a special organ that carries a bacterium that digests cellulose, dissolving the hulls of ships. A few too many mollusks and your ship is on the ocean bottom. The answer was to sheathe the hulls in copper. Copper kept the mollusks out, the hulls intact, and the slave ships sailing. Many Britons called for an end to the slave trade. But copper merchants protested vigorously.

    They were not getting rich selling pots and pans in Lancashire. The slave trade was the market they wanted to protect. Finally, in , public sentiment turned, and it became illegal for British subjects to traffic in slaves. In , slavery was abolished in all British colonies. Metals always seem to come in the form of double-edged swords. Lead gave us pipes for plumbing, but it has also poisoned countless children. Mercury gave us thermometers and electrical switches, but it also caused birth defects.

    Metals build bridges and locomotives, and also bullets, prison cells, and hand grenades. Metals are a double-edged sword within the human brain, too. If you were to analyze a typical plaque—one of the small deposits that are found among the brain cells—you would discover that much of it consists of beta-amyloid protein. But there is something else there, too. Teasing the plaques apart, researchers have found traces of copper. They have found other metals, too, particularly iron and zinc, and perhaps others, as well. All three of these metals are needed by the body—copper for building enzymes, iron for blood cells, and zinc for nerve transmission, among many other functions.

    You get them in the foods you eat. But it turns out that if you get too much of any of them, they can damage your brain cells. The difference between a safe amount and a toxic amount is surprisingly small.

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    And that is exactly the problem. Iron and copper are unstable. Just pour a little water into a cast-iron pan and let it sit for a bit. The rust you see is oxidation. Copper oxidizes, too, which is why a bright shiny penny soon darkens, sometimes combining with other elements and turning green. Pretty colors, yes. What is not so pretty is when these chemical reactions happen inside your body.

    In a nutshell, iron and copper cause free radicals to form, and those free radicals are like torpedoes attacking your cells. So, am I saying that memory problems might be caused by ordinary metals like copper, iron, and zinc? To help answer that question, let me take you to Rome, where a research team studied sixty-four women. All were over age fifty but perfectly healthy. The researchers drew blood samples to measure copper in their blood and then gave them a variety of tests to check their memory, reasoning, language comprehension, and ability to concentrate.

    Now, overall the women did just fine. None had any major impairment. But some did noticeably better than others on one test or another. And those who had the least mental difficulties turned out to be those with lower levels of copper in their blood. The difference was especially noticeable on tests that required focused attention. A study of sixty-four women is not especially large. They found much the same thing.

    People who had lower copper levels in their blood were mentally clearer compared with those with excessive copper. They had fewer problems with short-term and long-term memory. And the same held true for iron. People with less iron in their blood had fewer memory problems. So even though both iron and copper are essential in tiny amounts, having too much of either one in your bloodstream seems to spell trouble.

    If this sounds surprising, it did not entirely surprise the researchers. Every medical student knows that copper is potentially toxic. Your body uses tiny amounts of it in enzymes for various functions, but the amount you need is extremely small. If you get too much of this unstable metal, it can oxidize and encourage free radicals to form. In fact, the only thing that stops copper from destroying your health early in life is that your liver filters much of it out of your blood and eliminates it.

    As copper builds up in the body tissues, it damages the central nervous system and causes all manner of other problems. Similarly, excess iron has long been known to cause potentially serious health problems. More on iron in a minute. I should tell you that copper may contribute to much more serious problems than the minor variations in memory and cognition seen in the Rome and San Diego studies. Starting in , a research team from Rush University Medical Center went door-to-door in three Chicago neighborhoods, aiming to track down the causes of health problems that occur as we age.