Safeguarding Your Mind: Essential Tips to Combat Brain Aging and Disease

Language skills like reading, writing, listening, and speaking are crucial for our daily life. Friends, family members, and employers appreciate your language skills since they allow us to interact and enjoy the most out of our lives. Concentration and attention, along with memory and problem-solving skills, are also vital mental functions – especially when it comes to the aging population.

Common Illnesses of the Aging Brain

There are over 44 different brain and nervous system diseases. In the United States, the rates of these disorders are:

  • Alzheimer’s disease: 250,000
  • Seizures and epilepsy: 135,000
  • Brain trauma (accidents): 80,000
  • Parkinson’s disease: 55,000

Alzheimer’s dementia and Parkinson’s disease are the most common slowly progressive brain illnesses of the aging population.

Alzheimer’s Dementia

Mild cognitive impairment is estimated to affect 16 to 25 percent of Americans over the age of 65. Dementia, a permanent mental disorder characterized by a progressively poor short-term memory and impaired higher brain functions, is the most common form of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s dementia starts with mild memory loss and progresses to impaired language skills, reasoning, concentration, and personality changes.

Microscopic investigation of the brain tissue from Alzheimer’s patients reveals plaques and tangles. Plaques are caused by deposits of a sticky protein fragment called beta-amyloid. These deposits block cell-to-cell signaling of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and activate inflammatory immune cells. Meanwhile, tangles are formed by a protein called tau that builds up inside brain cells.

Prescription Medications for Alzheimer’s

Modern medical research has focused on discovering ways to prevent and reverse Alzheimer’s through synthetic medications. The currently available drugs, cholinesterase inhibitors such as Aricept, Exelon, and Razadyne, are modestly effective and only work for six to 12 months in about half of the individuals who take them.

Namenda, a newer drug for Alzheimer’s, doesn’t slow the progress of the underlying disease but protects brain cells from the effect of excessive calcium caused by overstimulation.

The Abnormal Protein Depositions of Alzheimer’s

Research has shown that abnormal proteins form and are found in the cerebrospinal fluid of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease long before the development of memory loss or cognitive decline. Inflammation and oxidative stress, along with blood vessel disease, contribute to this process.

Natural interventions such as lifestyle and diet changes can help prevent these underlying problems. For instance, eating a Mediterranean-style diet (rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) is associated with improved cognitive function and reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Regular exercise and controlling blood pressure can also reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease affects more than one million Americans, with approximately 55,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the United States. This progressive neurological disorder occurs when the brain cells that produce dopamine (a chemical messenger responsible for movement control) die or become impaired. Symptoms include shaking, stiffness, difficulty with balance, and slowness of movement.

There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but medications can help manage the symptoms. Levodopa, which is combined with carbidopa (Sinemet), remains the most effective treatment. However, long-term use can result in complications such as involuntary movements and a decreased ability to control the symptoms.

Dopamine agonists, such as pramipexole (Mirapex) and ropinirole (Requip), can also be prescribed for Parkinson’s disease. These medications can help control movement, but they may not work as well as levodopa, and they often carry a higher risk of side effects.

Lifestyle Changes for Parkinson’s Disease

There are several lifestyle changes that can help improve the quality of life for persons with Parkinson’s disease:

  • Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help boost energy levels and improve overall health.
  • Exercising regularly can help improve balance, mobility, and overall physical and emotional well-being.
  • Managing stress through techniques like yoga, meditation, or mindfulness can help reduce anxiety and depression, which are common in people with Parkinson’s.
  • Staying active socially and intellectually can help maintain cognitive function and improve mood.

In conclusion, understanding the higher brain functions and the common illnesses that can affect them, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, is vital when it comes to aging. It’s essential to take proactive measures to maintain cognitive and neurological health, such as adopting a healthy diet, exercising, and staying socially and intellectually active. By doing so, you can help prevent or slow the progression of these debilitating diseases, improving your quality of life.