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The Brain & Nervous System, and how to keep it youthful
The brain and the spinal cord are the two primary components of the central nervous system. It is the seat of intelligence, a sense translator, a movement originator, and a behavior controller. The brain receives and interprets information from the senses via nerves and the brain then instructs the muscles to contract in order to perform physical activities. The mushroom-shaped brain is housed within the skull and the spinal cord is a lengthy tube-like structure that connects the brain to the rest of the body. The neuron is the nervous system's fundamental cell. It's a type of conductor cell that receives and sends electrochemical signals.
The brain and nervous system represent the control center of the body and the source of all the attributes that constitute our humanity. It is the seat of intelligence and the most complex physiological system. During the course of our lives, the brain and nervous system will undergo extensive changes, more than any other organ, that will influence all attributes of our health and quality of life. Maintaining a youthful and healthy brain and nervous system is therefore essential.
The brain loses neurons and supporting cells as it ages. The brain loses around 0.1 percent of neurons every year between the ages of 20 and 60, after which the process accelerates. When compared to those in their 50s, brain mass will have dropped by roughly 11% by the age of 90, equating to a loss of about 150g of neural tissue. The remaining tissues become enriched with potentially hazardous elements including iron, aluminum, and free radicals as we age. The blood flow to the brain, or cerebral blood flow, will also decline at a rate of 0.38 percent every year, which is equivalent to a 27 percent drop after 70 years. This is a direct result of aging-related changes in the cardiovascular system, and it may be aggravated in individuals with cardiovascular conditions.
Neurotransmitters that mediate signals between neurons and other cells with the brain, include noradrenaline, glutamate, dopamine, and serotonin, and they all decrease with age. Dopamine deficiency appears to be particularly significant: dopamine regulates motor function and the learning of new abilities, as well as functioning as a reward chemical in the brain. As part of the natural aging process, the number of dopamine-producing neurons diminishes, which might impair the ability to learn. Many elderly people who took L-DOPA (a medicine used to treat Parkinson's disease) to enhance their dopamine levels regained their ability to learn new things as rapidly as young people.
Brain reserve and cognitive reserve
Most neurons, unlike cells in many other organs and tissues of the human body, do not divide, so when they die due to age or damage, they are not usually replaced. The brain, fortunately, comprises over 100 billion connected neurons, and many experts believe that this provides a built-in redundancy system known as the brain reserve. This is defined as the brain's physical resources in terms of brain mass and number of neurons; a greater brain reserve is frequently linked to better outcomes following a brain injury and in other neurological illnesses. Because brain reserve (or brain mass) isn't always an accurate indicator of cognitive function (many patients with adequate cognition have severe brain atrophy), the notion of cognitive reserve has evolved. People with a high cognitive reserve can use their brain reserve more efficiently to complete tasks, and this appears to be due to improved functional connections between neurons. A high education, a high IQ, a highly complex career, and abundant social engagement are all good indicators of a high cognitive reserve. Recent research suggests that neural compensation, a process in which new circuits of neurons are recruited to fulfill activities that were previously performed by aging or injured neural pathways, may also help to sustain cognitive function. The brain reserve does however decrease with age, yet cognition is preserved because to the brain's built-in redundancy.
Consequences of an aging brain and nervous system
The loss of neurons over time, the depletion of neurotransmitters, and the slowing of nerve conduction may all work together to slow down information processing, learning and memory. As a result, elderly people may take longer to finish activities and are more likely to have some of the following brain-related alterations:
Decline of short-term and episodic memory. The recall of everyday events that can be openly articulated or imagined is known as episodic memory. The loss of short-term and episodic memory is most likely the first sign of age-related brain alterations. Unlike dementia, short-term memory loss in the absence of illness may have no impact on living skills (such as the ability to drive), but does cause inconveniences (such as forgetting items from the shopping list).
Decline of verbal and word skills. Although verbal communication abilities normally improve with age, adults over the age of 70 may have more difficulty utilizing or memorizing words. The capacity to swiftly name a familiar object is normally steady until the age of 70, after which it begins to deteriorate.
Slower reaction time. The loss of neurons, the decreasing of impulse and signal speed, and modest alterations in the spinal cord all contribute to the slowdown of reaction times. This might cause issues, especially when a quick response is required (for example to step out of the way of oncoming traffic).
Emotional reactions. In general, elderly people are less likely to have emotional outbursts, and this might be due to the greater structural stability of certain of the emotional brain areas. The amygdalae, which are responsible for impulsive behavior and emotional reactions, decline at a considerably slower rate than other brain areas. The amygdalae appear to preserve the majority of their functional activity as people become older.
Depression. With aging, the concentrations of neurotransmitters that elevate mood (especially serotonin) decrease, and this might contribute to depression symptoms. It is however difficult to tell whether depression in older individuals is a natural part of aging or the result of chemical imbalances similar to those observed in depressed younger people. Depression can eventually develop symptoms that resemble dementia (pseudo-dementia).
Greater responsiveness to neuroactive drugs. Neuroactive medications like antidepressants and neuroleptics can be more powerful in older people since their general neuronal mass has decreased during aging. High doses may cause disorientation or delirium, and may thus need to be lowered.
Difficulties in discriminating between normal versus pathological changes to the brain. The question of how to identify normal aging-related changes in the brain from pathological alterations associated with dementia (such as Alzheimer's disease) is widely contested. The difficulty is that three of Alzheimer's disease's primary clinical symptoms - loss of episodic memory, loss of brain tissue, and amyloid deposition – are also observed in otherwise healthy elderly persons with little or no dementia. However, it is well acknowledged that the greatest risk factor for dementia is increasing age.
Dementia is a generic word for a loss of capacity to remember, reasoning, or make judgments that interferes with daily tasks.
The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer's disease. Dementia is not part of normal aging, even though it usually affects older people. Many seniors go their entire lives without ever experiencing dementia. Muscle and bone deterioration, stiffness of arteries and veins, and age-related cognitive issues can all be signs of normal aging. Examples of common signs of dementia are:
Frequently misplacing things like car keys.
Having trouble finding a term or word, but remembering it later.
Forgetting the name of someone you know.
Forgetting about events and appointments.
Getting disoriented in a familiar area.
Referring to common items using unusual terminology.
Forgetting old memories.
Factors that Increase someone’s probability of getting dementia are:
The most common risk factor for dementia is growing older, with most cases affecting those aged 65 and more.
A family history of dementia. Those who have dementia-affected parents or siblings are more likely to get the disease themselves.
Race/ethnicity can play a role. For example. For example, African Americans are twice as likely as whites to get dementia as they get older. Hispanics are 1.5 times more likely than whites to get dementia.
Poor cardiovascular health.
High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking all raise the risk of dementia.
Traumatic brain injury caused by head traumas, especially if they are serious or occur frequently, can raise the risk of dementia.
The most common types of dementia are:
Alzheimer's disease is the most frequent type of dementia, accounting for 60 to 80 percent of cases. It is caused by changes in the brain. Problems remembering recent events, such as a discussion that took place minutes or hours ago, is the hallmark symptom, whereas trouble recalling more distant memories develops later in the disease. Other issues such as difficulties walking or communicating, as well as personality problems can arise later. The most significant risk factor is family history. Having a first-degree family who has Alzheimer's disease raises your chances of getting it by 10% to 30%.
Vascular dementia is a type of dementia that affects the blood vessels. Strokes or other conditions affecting blood flow to the brain are associated with about 10% of dementia cases. High blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol are all risk factors. Symptoms can vary depending on which part of the brain is affected and how extensive it is. The condition proceeds in stages, which means that when the person has additional strokes or mini-strokes, their symptoms will abruptly worsen.
Dementia with Lewy bodies. In addition to the more common symptoms of dementia, such as memory loss, patients with this kind of dementia may have stiffness or trembling in their movements or balance. Changes in alertness, such as daytime tiredness and confusion affect many people. They may also have difficulty sleeping, or may have visual hallucinations (seeing people, objects or shapes that are not actually there).
Dementia of the frontal and temporal lobes. Because of the area of the brain it affects, this kind of dementia frequently causes personality and behavior abnormalities. People with this condition may cause embarrassment because of improper behavior. A previously careful individual, for example, may make inappropriate remarks and disregard obligations at home or at work. Language abilities, such as speaking and comprehending, may also be an issue.
Dementia with a mix of symptoms. Multiple types of dementia can exist in the brain simultaneously, especially in those over the age of 80. A person may have Alzheimer's disease with vascular dementia, for example. Because signs of one kind of dementia may be more pronounced or overlap with those of another type, it is not always evident that a person has mixed dementia. When compared to one kind of dementia, disease development may be quicker.
Reversible dementia. Dementia may have a reversible underlying cause, such as a drug adverse effect, elevated brain pressure, vitamin insufficiency, or thyroid hormone imbalance. Patients with dementia should be screened for reversible causes by medical professionals.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a type of dementia that affects the brain. It degrades and kills brain cells as well as the neurons that connect them. Memory, behavior, and mental abilities all decline because of this injury. There is no cure for Alzheimer's disease. There are currently no medications available that can delay or stop the progression of this condition. Researchers are also unsure how to prevent the onset of Alzheimer's disease. The goal of treatment for patients with Alzheimer's disease is to improve their quality of life. Symptoms of the disease that can be treated can however be addressed by doctors. Traditional and alternative treatments can also be used to accomplish this. It's critical to understand that alternative treatments for Alzheimer's disease are not commonly accepted by the medical profession. Some of these treatments have been proven to be effective, while others have been proven to be false through research. If you're considering alternative remedies, you should first consult a physician.
Coconut oil has been shown to provide multiple health benefits. It contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), a kind of saturated fats, that are being studied for their possible health benefits. Consuming MCTs, for example, has been shown to boost calorie burning and may therefore aid in weight loss. The capacity of the brain to utilize glucose for energy has been demonstrated to be reduced in Alzheimer's disease. Ketones in coconut oil may help to mitigate the early stages of mild to severe Alzheimer's disease by providing an alternate energy source for brain cells. Caprylic acid is converted to protein ketone in the human body. Ketasyn is a medication that is based on a similar protein. According to several studies, those who took Ketasyn had greater memory and less cognitive deterioration. Coconut oil is being used by some people as a more cost-effective alternative to pharmaceuticals. Coconut oil is high in antioxidants, which assist to neutralize free radicals, and this, in turn, aids in the prevention of a variety of chronic and degenerative disorders.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that may be helpful in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Researchers discovered that frequent consumption of omega-3 fatty acids slowed down cognitive decline.
Coenzyme Q10 commonly known as ubiquinone, is a kind of coenzyme found in all mammals and microbes. Coenzyme Q10, also known as ubiquinone-10, is the most prevalent type in humans. As you become older, your body's levels of CoQ10 drop. CoQ10 levels have also been shown to be lower in patients with specific diseases, such as heart disease, and in those who use statins, which are cholesterol-lowering medications. Meat, fish, and nuts all contain CoQ10. However, the quantity of CoQ10 in these dietary sources is insufficient to significantly raise CoQ10 levels in your body. Coenzyme Q10 is a powerful antioxidant and it's currently also being studied as a possible treatment for Alzheimer's disease. CoQ10 has been demonstrated in preliminary tests to reduce, but not stop, the progression of Alzheimer's disease.
Gingko biloba may help persons with cognitive impairment caused by Alzheimer's disease. More research is however needed to see if there is an impact on ginkgo biloba on Alzheimer's disease since the current evidence is sparse.
Choto-san is a herbal blend made up of 11 different medicinal plants. This concoction has been used in the treatment of dementia. Memory and learning were found to be improved in some studies. Many studies, however, have solely looked at vascular dementia. Although both vascular dementia and Alzheimer's disease fall under the dementia umbrella, they are two distinct diseases.
Kami-untan is a Japanese herb that has been shown to boost neuron growth in rat brain cells, according to a small study. According to these findings, the herb may be able to halt the progression of Alzheimer's disease. However, more research on this topic is needed.
Acupuncture is an alternative treatment that uses fine, sterile needles to encourage self-healing. This treatment is said to energize the body and increase energy flow. According to some research acupuncture can help persons with Alzheimer's disease and enhance their mood and cognitive function. A small study found that acupuncture helped with improving mood, energy, and reducing pain, but additional research is needed. Acupuncture performed by a competent and registered practitioner has very little risk. It may be worth a try.
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils to improve one's well-being. Aromatherapy was tried on a group of older people, some of whom had Alzheimer's disease. Everyone who took part in the study improved their cognitive abilities. The following essential oils were utilized in the research: orange, rosemary, lemon and lavender. Larger studies over longer periods of time are still needed to corroborate these findings. It's critical to remember that essential oils should never be applied straight to the skin and always be diluted as three to five drops of essential oil in one ounce of a carrier oil like almond oil.
Therapeutic use of bright light. The region of the brain that regulates the circadian rhythm, which tells the body when to sleep and wake up, is affected by Alzheimer's disease. Sleep and wake cycles can therefore be disrupted by Alzheimer's disease. Some people have trouble sleeping, which raises their chances of sleepwalking. Bright light therapy may be beneficial to treat this condition. Studies have shown that light treatment can assist restoring the sleep-wake cycle's balance. In some persons with Alzheimer's disease, bright light therapy in the morning helped them sleep better at night. It also improved daytime alertness while lowering evening agitation.
Parkinson's disease is a nervous system degenerative disease that causes loss of voluntary movement and reduced motor function. Tremors, muscle rigidity, poor balance, and trouble walking are all symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Simple actions, such as getting dressed in the morning or heading to work, can quickly become a chore, despite the fact that symptoms differ from person to person. The part of the brain that regulates muscular movements receives less dopamine than normally in Parkinson's disease. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is required for not only correct physical movement coordination, but also for learning, motivation, and mood regulation. This is one of the reasons why people with Parkinson's are prone to depression and other mood swings. Because Parkinson's disease is a chronic condition, symptoms normally last a long time and worsen as you become older. Because each Parkinson's patient is unique, it's common to have various degrees of distinct symptoms. As a result, some people are more responsive to natural therapy than others. While there is no treatment for Parkinson's disease (which is both chronic and degenerative), there are drugs that can help manage symptoms by increasing dopamine levels in the brain. When it comes to the efficacy of pharmaceuticals and standard therapies, Parkinson's symptoms frequently stop reacting with time. This is why it's critical to take extra precautions to slow the progression of symptoms, ideally when the disease is still in its early stages.
Symptoms & signs of Parkinson's disease are divided into two groups: those that affect motor functions and those that affect one's mood. The following are the four most prevalent signs and symptoms of Parkinson's disease:
Trembling is most commonly seen in the arms, jaw, legs, and face.
Rigidity: The majority of patients report stiffness in their core (trunk area), arms, and legs.
Bradykinesia is the medical word for sluggish movement. When trying to walk, some patients hesitate or freeze and are unable to restart, while others begin to shuffle.
Postural instability (bad posture) causes a loss of strength, balance, and coordination problems in moving muscles and body parts.
Other symptoms that can develop and have an impact on a person's moods and behavior include:
Depression and exhaustion
Difficulty speaking or eating normally
tone of voice shifts
Causes and Risk Factors
There is currently no one cause of Parkinson's disease that has been identified. The loss of the neurotransmitter dopamine, neurological injury, inflammation, and brain cell degradation, according to researchers, are among the key elements that cause Parkinson's disease to develop. However, why patients acquire these issues is a complex question that is still being debated. The following risk factors can make someone more prone to acquiring Parkinson's disease:
Being a male, especially as you get older. Parkinson's disease is more common in males in their 50s and 60s, according to research.
Susceptibility to genetic alterations: Researchers have now found many gene mutations that can place someone at a higher risk. Parkinson's disease appears to run in families, and having a brother or parent who has the disease enhances one's risk.
Damage to the "substantia nigra," a part of the brain that produces dopamine-producing brain cells. Toxic chemical exposure, including pesticides. Another environmental risk factor is living in a rural location and consuming well-water that may contain pollutants.
Poor nutrition, vitamin shortages, food allergies, and an unhealthy lifestyle are all factors to consider. Hormonal imbalances and other physical disorders can wreak havoc on your mental health and cause inflammation.
Treatments for Parkinson's disease can be divided into three categories:
Dopamine boosting pharmaceuticals including levodopa (L-dopa), Inosine, and Carbidopa. Bromocriptine, pramipexole, and ropinirole are some of the less prevalent medications used to control symptoms.
Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) or tissue removal are examples of neuro-protective therapy.
Natural remedies for Parkinson's disease, such as those listed below, have been shown in recent study to significantly reduce risk and enhance quality of life in Parkinson's patients.
Mucuna plants, which are utilized in Ayurvedic herbal remedies, are known to contain levodopa, a crucial Parkinson's medicine that improves motor symptoms by increasing dopamine levels in the brain.
Green tea includes polyphenol antioxidants that aid in the fight against free radicals. It also contains theanine, which helps the brain produce more dopamine. To get the most out of it, consume three glasses per day.
Best Foods for Parkinson's disease:
Parkinson's sufferers should consume a nutrient-dense, whole-foods diet that contains plenty of fresh organic fruit, vegetables, and high-quality meats. Processed foods, as well as those containing preservatives, synthetic substances, and other chemicals, should be avoided. Start with a Parkinson's disease diet that contains the following items to improve your condition:
Raw fruits, fruit juices and vegetables are high in antioxidants and vitamins, which assist to minimize free radical damage and inflammation.
Plenty of fiber and remaining hydrated to help with bowel function is important since constipation is frequent among Parkinson's patients.
Healthy Fats: Eating healthy fats can assist maintain brain function and minimize mood swings. Wild-caught seafood, avocado, coconut, pastured butter, and sprouted nuts or seeds like walnuts and flax are good sources of healthy fats.
Cold-pressed oils contain vital vitamin E, which works as an antioxidant, when used as a salad dressing.
Coconut oil and palm oil are additional anti-inflammatory oils that can help alleviate symptoms.
Foods to avoid are:
Excessive protein: Reducing protein intake can help with Parkinson's symptoms.
Processed foods contain toxins and additives that can aggravate Parkinson's disease. Removing these from a young age also serves as a prophylactic measure, lowering the incidence of other age-related disorders.
Artificial sweeteners and added sugar are both harmful and can exacerbate Parkinson's symptoms.
Alcohol can cause mood swings and consequences by disrupting brain function.
Allergenic foods: By affecting gut health and inflammation, food allergies may increase Parkinson's symptoms. Begin by avoiding gluten, dairy, shellfish, and peanuts, which are all common allergies.
Promoting healthy brain, nervous system and mental ageing
Maintaining mental activity throughout life can help to lessen the effects of aging on the nervous system, and participating in social, sports, and cognitively demanding activities can help to prevent cognitive decline. It appears that the more intellectually challenging and complicated a person's job is, the higher their cognitive function in later years; yet, when the mental difficulties of employment are eliminated, this impact tends to fade. This is why people who retire frequently experience a rapid cognitive decline. The brain is like a muscle, and needs to be exercised continuously with complex tasks and intellectual stimulation. Older individuals should be encouraged to participate in stimulating activities like socializing, reading, and playing games, which have been shown to increase cognitive function and memory while also lowering the risk of depression. Aging does not lead to conditions like disorientation, dementia, and delirium on its own, because the built-in redundancy of the human brain permits it to cope properly with the physical changes that come with aging, as long as the brain is staying active. A growing body of evidence indicates that people who have the fewest cognitive and memory declines all have the same habits:
• engaging in regular physical activity
• engaging in mentally stimulating sports
• being socially engaged
• coping with pressures
• eating a nutritious diet
• getting enough sleep
A healthy diet promotes a healthy brain and nervous system
Diet is an essential aspect of brain health. Research has proven a correlation between blood levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and healthy brain aging. The Mediterranean diet has been linked to a lower risk of memory and other cognitive decline during ageing. Research has also shown that a diet rich in lutein — a nutrient found in green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach, as well as eggs and avocados — preserve youthful neuronal processes. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains should be prioritized. If you eat meat, choose protein sources that are low in fat, such as pork, lean meat, and skinless poultry.
Supplements that promote a healthy brain and nervous system
The brain and memory supplement category is one of the most popular. Nootropics are a type of supplement that aims to boost memory, attention, mental vigor, and problem-solving abilities.
Phosphatidylserine is a major constituent of the cerebral cortex that coats and protects brain cells while also assisting in the transmission of signals. During normal aging the membranes of brain cell become rigid, obstructing brain cell communication and causing memory problems. Supplementing with phosphatidylserine has been shown in studies to enhance memory function, particularly delayed recall, in both middle-aged and older persons. It works by rejuvenating brain cell membranes and promoting the release of acetylcholine, a memory-enhancing neurotransmitter.
Bacopa monnieri has been used as an Ayurvedic therapy for ages. Bacopa monnieri has been shown in several clinical investigations to enhance memory, spatial learning, the ability to acquire and process new information about one's surroundings, as well as stress reduction. Bacopa monnieri increases the length and branching of brain nerve cells, which is connected to learning and memory. The major active chemicals in Bacopa monnieri are bacosides, which also function as a free radical scavenger to combat oxidative stress, a major cause of cognitive decline.
Huperzine A, an extract of the Huperzia serrata plant, has been found in studies to help people of all ages to enhance their memory and learning ability. A recent study suggests that huperzine A raises the levels of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter in the brain, and thereby helps to improve memory and halt cognitive decline. It has also been demonstrated to prevent nerve cell death. Huperzine A has been shown to improve memory, cognitive function, and quality of life in twenty randomized clinical trials.
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