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Healthy Brain Aging

Brain jelly mouldAs we begin to recognize the signs of aging, we also begin to worry about the health of our brains.  We worry that we might be seeing the signs of mental decline when we forget names and faces, where we put our keys or glasses, or sometimes feel confused over things we were never confused about before.  Most of these concerns become normal as we age and the forgetfulness or confusion is soon overcome.  Since most people of a certain age all experience it, humor is usually the best way to address it.

Our brains have responsibility for a huge task list.  It receives stimuli from many sources and makes an interpretation.  Neurotransmitters from the brain (chemical messengers) are released and this causes a signaling to the hypothalamus that releases its chemicals and this in turn notifies the pituitary gland that then releases chemicals notifying the adrenal glands to respond to the stimuli.  All five of our senses may be involved, and if the experience becomes important enough, the brain then records the experience in several places.  Brain mapping has determined locations in the brain recording movement, smell, language, motivation and planning, vision, and our emotions.  These records are all connected by synaptic junctions-unions of nerve cells establishing the memory pathways.  Repetitive experiences keep these connections active and strong and enables a proper chemical cascade to flow efficiently.

A key factor to healthy brain function is a process called methylation.  Methylation provides balance for the brain’s many neurotransmitters, for  hormonal release, and for other essential biochemical processes.  It is critical for mental health, concentration, mood, and the ability to deal with stress.  Poor methylation has been linked to a number of mental states and conditions such as depression, memory loss, and losing touch with reality.

Another key factor centers on one’s level of homocysteine, a troublesome amino acid associated with a number of degenerative diseases.  Ingesting adequate amounts of Vitamins B12 (500 mcg), B6 (50 mg), and folic acid (400 mcg) enables methyl groups to form keeping brain chemistry in balance.  Most importantly, nutrients provide the raw materials needed for proper methylation and for keeping homocysteine levels in proportion.

Methylation friendly nutrients include eggs, almonds, whole grains, soybeans, spinach, bananas, green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, cold water fish, and beets. These provide the B-vitamins and folic acid as well as zinc.

Consuming a whole foods diet with lots of colorful foods, grains, and legumes and refraining from white flour, pasta, rice and processed foods all support excellent methylation processes.  Improving lifestyle choices by lowering or eliminating smoking, alcohol, and caffeine help.  Increasing the number of minutes each week for exercise and fresh air will provide tremendous benefits as well for healthy brain function.  These few steps can help prevent the early onset of brain dysfunctions we all worry about as we age.

Krystle Shapiro, LMT, MSHN owns Touchstone Massage Therapies and Nutrition Plus!  She can be reached at (208) 290-6760.

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