The Science Of Keeping The Brain Healthy


Key Takeaways

  • The paradox of living longer: our brain ages slower than the rest of our body but because modern medicine has helped us live longer, more people are living with cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s and dementia

  • The average onset of dementia is 80 years old but on average, the volume of the brain decreases about 5% every decade after the age of 40

  • The eyes are a window to the brain: keep up with eye health and ophthalmology visits!

  • Maintaining the right ratio of EPA:DHA can help improve memory and counteract depression (men target 1.6 grams, women about 1.3 grams)

  • It’s a good idea to supplement with 1g of omega-3 fatty acids daily, particularly if on a plant-based diet (of course, talk to doctor first)

  • Nutrition tips for a healthy brain: (1) follow a Mediterranean diet or variation of a diet with less meat; (2) if following a plant-based diet consider supplementing B6, B3, omega 3s, DHA, EPA; (3) keep blood sugar in check

  • Exercise doesn’t just make you feel better, you’ll think better

  • “As you get older you lose your ability to sleep, and if you don’t sleep well you’ll lose your ability to fight aging.” – Dr. David Sinclair

Horvath Aging Clock

  • Horvath Aging Clock: most accurate molecular measure of chronological age – applies to all cells with DNA, tissues, organs, prenatal samples, super-centenarians (100+ years of age)

  • Collected through DNA sample and accurately estimate chronological age

  • People age at different rates as evidenced by biomarkers

  • Some appear older or younger than chronological age

  • “Biologic age” relates to morbidity and mortality risk in addition to aging but is not well defined

  • Depending on how you measure biologic age you get different answers – i.e., maybe you’re only looking at glucose levels which are high but methylation is normal

Aging & The Brain

  • Modern medicine has been keeping the body healthy longer, but more people are living with dementia and cognitive impairment because of how many years we are alive

  • The neurological biological clock is ticking all the time – what you do in your 20s and 30s impacts cognition and aging later in life

  • Cognitive decline isn’t just a disease of late stage life – it begins in middle age

  • The new theory of aging, ex-differentiation of cells: there’s not just a breakdown of lots of random things over time, but instead that cells are programmed at birth and given specificity

  • The brain does not ex-differentiate at the same pace as other cells in the body so ages significantly slower than the rest of the body – possibly in part because of the natural protection of the brain (i.e.,not exposed to UV lights and as many toxins)

  • By keeping the body young, we can help keep the brain healthy

  • For most of our history, we didn’t need sophisticated education function later in life but we were rarely living long enough for it to matter

  • Nowadays you really can’t be an older person and adopt new changes to environment and technology or you’ll be isolated – we need a healthy brain later in life

Longevity Pathways

  • Adversity mimetics: things that mimic biological adversity that is conducive to better lifespan and healthspan

  • Adversity signals survival circuit and turns on specific survival genes

  • Three longevity pathways/adversity mimetics: (1) mTor – senses levels of amino acids in the cell; (2) AMPK – senses energy/glucose; (3) sirtuins – sense NAD

  • All three adversity mimetics work together – sirtuins activate AMPK, AMPK can activate sirtuins and mTor

  • mTor mobilizes proteins to be recycled and made into new proteins (AKA autophagy)

Lifestyle Factors To Optimize Brain Health

  • Mediterranean diet: extensive research has shown that the Mediterranean diet can protect against aging in the brain and even reverse some signs of aging in the brain

  • Related articles: Mediterranean Diet And Brain Health and Mediterranean Diet And Dementia Risk

  • Mediterranean diet components: olive oil, red wine, not too much red wine

  • Why does the Mediterranean diet work? resveratrol in wine, oleic acid from olive oil can activate enzymes, xenohormetic molecules in plants

  • Plant-based and plant-heavy diets with low levels of protein trick the body into thinking food supply is low and could run out

  • Tips for proper nutrition on a plant-based diet: supplement with folic acid and vitamins B6 and B3 which build up NAD for sirtuins (options for vitamin B6 and B complex with folate)


  • Low levels of B12 can cause deficiency and errors in DNA methylation which can accelerate heart disease, dementia, and general clock

  • Importance of fatty acids: omega-3s are the building blocks to the brain – if you aren’t eating enough fish, consider supplementing to achieve proper ratios of omega-3:EPA:DHA

  • Men need about 1.6 grams of ratio EPA:DHA and women need about 1.3 grams



  • Find an exercise you like! It’s never too late – it’s more important than ever to exercise later in life

The Role Of Supplementation, NAD, And Sirtuins For Brain Health

  • High blood sugar is bad for brain activity and really, leads to dysfunction in all tissues

  • Metformin has had good success in improving brain health – even improving executive function (ability to focus) in patients with mild dementia

  • Some studies have shown a reduction in onset of dementia by 55%

  • The role of sirtuins is to repair the structure of epigenome

  • Relationship between sirtuins & NAD: sirtuins create bundles of DNA and create its identity so the genes can be read properly – NAD activates sirtuins

  • As we age, we make less NAD and burn more of it – supplementing a healthy diet and exercise regimen with an NAD booster can slow the clock

  • Taking 250mg of nicotinamide riboside (NR) daily will likely increase NAD and decrease inflammation, but changes in body composition and mitochondria are debatable in humans

  • Nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) seems to be more effective than NR at improving vascular tissue, enhancing insulin sensitivity, and seems promising for slowing aging but further studies need to be done

  • Sirtuins in the brain: (1) turning up sirtuins in nerve cells of the brain extends mouse lifespan; (2) activation of hippocampus by sirtuins or resveratrol improves memory in old age mice

Sleep

  • The hypothalamus controls the circadian rhythm

  • Sirtuins and NAD increase in the morning to wake up you and decrease at night to prepare you for sleep

  • If you lose the function of sirtuins and NAD, not only will you lose sleep – you will age poorly

  • “As you get older you lose your ability to sleep, and if you don’t sleep well you’ll lose your ability to fight aging.” – Dr. David Sinclair

  • Get light early in the morning to wake your system and help regulate your natural sleep cycle

  • Options for sleep supplements: NMN (not currently over the counter), magnesium, theanine

  • If you restrict rats from sleep, previously healthy rats get diabetes within 2 weeks


 


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