Thursday, April 30, 2020

Age-Proof Your Brain - Sleep, 5

The human brain responds to its environment and appears to function best in sync with the circadian rhythm. There is something to be said for going to bed with the dark and waking up with the light. When people impose a variation of this circadian rhythm on the brain by going to bed too late, real health consequences can occur, including increased risks for increased anxiety and autoimmune diseases.

Nan Hee Kim MD PhD studied sleep-deprived males and females and identified some disturbing results. Sleep-deprived males were more likely to have diabetes or sarcopenia (an age-related loss of muscle strength and mobility), compared with males who obtained sufficient amounts of sleep. Females with sleep deficits tended to have more belly fat and an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, which raised their risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Independent of lifestyle, those who went to bed later at night had a higher risk of developing health problems as compared with those who were ‘early-to-bed and early-to-rise’. This result was the same even when both groups got the same amount of sleep overall. Interesting! Give your brain the sleep it needs.
More tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Age-Proof Your Brain - Sleep, 4

Sleep-deprivation is a stressor and can trigger the stress response. High levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, are linked with cravings for fatty snacks. Columbia University researchers found that those with insufficient sleep tended to eat an extra 300 calories a day. Both genders ate more protein-rich foods but only females ate more fat—an average of 31 more grams of fat after sleeping only four hours.

According to University of Chicago researchers, the marked decrease in average sleep duration over the last 50 years coincides with the increase in prevalence of obesity worldwide—a pandemic.

The Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study found that too little sleep altered levels of appetite-regulating hormones. When tired from lack of sleep, doing energy-intensive tasks, or dealing with high-maintenance people, many may further stress their brain by snacking on high fat, high sugar, fast food items, or beverages with high levels of sugar and caffeine or alcohol.
More tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Age-Proof Your Brain - Sleep, 3

Did you know that a lack of sleep increases the risk of exhibiting dysfunctional behaviors? According to studies at the University of Michigan, “The brain’s pre-frontal cortex contains complex executive functions related to emotional control, decision making, and social behavior. Sleep deprivation may lead to aggressive or bullying behaviors, delinquency, or even substance abuse.”  

Eve Van Cauter has pointed out that loss of sleep results in chemical changes that deplete the immune system (something you would be wise to prevent if at all possible, especially during epidemics and pandemics!), increase growth of fat rather than muscle, accelerate the aging process and memory impairment, increase the risk for depression, and are linked with bone and cardiovascular tissue damage.

I like the way Robert Ornstein, PhD, and David Sobel MD, put it: “The reward of sleep is often recognized by its absence.”

More tomorrow.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Age-Proof Your Brain - Sleep, 2

Studies about  the brain and sleep have revealed some interesting facts. Here are a few examples.

a) The loss of one hour per night of sleep for many nights has subtle cognitive costs that appear to go unrecognizedd by the sleep-deprived individual. More severe loss of sleep for a week leds to profound cognitive deficits similiar to those seen in some stroke patients, which also appear to go unrecognized by the individual. -University of Kansas 

b)   New evidence shows that sleep is essential to mood, memory, cognitive performance, creativity, immune function, weight management, and longevity. Each brain has an optimum amount of sleep  that it needs on a daily basis. Infants generally require about 16 hours, teenagers 9, and most adults 7 to 8 hours.   -National Sleep Foundation

c)   A side-sleeping position seems to improve clearance of wastes from the brain.                 Stony Brook University

More tomorrow.

Friday, April 24, 2020

M-F Immune System Differences, 5

Biology and sociology both play a part in males having a higher risk of mortality from COVID-19. Older men and those with preexisting and chronic conditions, are at higher risk of not surviving a COVID-19 infection. Males who genuinely care about others need to initiate self-care sooner than later and ongoing! Encourage the males you know to take extra care at preventing the disease at all costs. This means strictly following social/physical distancing guidelines and personal hygiene—especially handwashing, to prevent catching the virus. Early diagnosis and treatment with what is available is also critical. This is my brain’s opinion: better to be TOO CAREFUL than too lax. I want all the males, especially those I know personally and care deeply about, to be alive and well when this is all over.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

M-F Immune System Differences, 4

Sex hormones may play a part in males having a higher risk of mortality from COVID-19. Estrogen in particular may increase the ability of females to be better at fighting viral infections. In general, males are more likely to disregard their health including not staying at home and/or following physical distancing guidelines. Having grown up being taught to be self-sufficient (for everyone but themselves), they may perceive self-care as an admission of weakness. Another contributor is a failure to get tested for the virus when symptoms occur. Thus, males may be in a weakened immune state from the virus by the time they seek medical care. Some have pointed out that the average male ignores symptoms of not only COVID-19 but other potentially life-threatening conditions. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

M-F Immune System Differences, 3

The average male only has one “X” chromosome. If Immune function is strong on the “X”, fabulous. If not, too bad, because there is no spare “X” that might have stronger function. Preliminary data is showing that beyond factors such as age and underlying chronic disease, males appear to be at greater risk of dying from a COVID-19 infection than females, despite the fact that females catch the disease more often than do males. Perhaps twice as likely to die than a comparable female. Part of that disparity likely relates to the fact that Immune Function, The Doctor Within, if you will, is carried by the “X” chromosome. For example, according to Global Health 5050, the ratio of M to F mortality in China is 1.7 to 1; 1.9 to 1 in Switzerland; in Ireland it’s 2 to 1; and 2.1 to 1 in South Korea, Denmark, and Greece. There is another contributing factor, however. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

M-F Immune System Differences, 2

If the father donates an “X”, the child will be female with two “X” chromosomes. One “X” from each parent. The average male also has two sex chromosomes, but only one is an “X”; the other is a “Y” chromosome. If the father donates a “Y” the child will be male, because males have an “X” and a “Y”. If everything goes well, the child always gets an “X” from its mother because females only have “X” chromosomes. A child will get either an “X” or a “Y” chromosome from its father because males have an “X” and a “Y” chromosome. So, what’s the big deal here? Immune System function is carried on the “X” chromosome. Great for females. If Immune system function on one “X” is weak, hopefully, it will be stronger on the other “X” chromosome. If immune system function is strong on both “X’s” hurrah for her. She is fortunate, unless her lifestyle choices suppress Immune function and then, too bad, all around. More tomorrow.

Monday, April 20, 2020

M-F Immune System Differences

I digress from the blogs on Sleep to answer this question and will soon get back to how sleep matters.

The news says that while more females than males catch this coronavirus, a larger percentage of males die. What’s that about?

In a word, gender differences in immune system function. Do you remember studying about your genome and chromosomes in high school or college? If not, here is a bit of biology. If yes, it’s just a refresher. The average female has 23 pairs of chromosomes (for a total of 46) that she got from her biological parents. One of each pair coming from her mother and one of each pair coming from her father. You might say that 22 pairs are regular, and one pair are sex chromosomes. Since females have two “X” chromosomes, the child will always get an “X” from its mother.
More tomorrow.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Age-Proofing Your Brain – Sleep, 1

Stanford professor Dr. William C. Dement, author of The Promise of Sleep, identified sleep deprivation as the most common brain impairment and says “We are a sleep-sick society.” He regularly challenges his students to identify the optimum amount of sleep for their brains and to adopt a sleep-smart lifestyle. Guesstimate how much sleep you think your brain needs (e.g., seven or eight hours). Then get more sleep than that for several nights in a row. Eventually, your brain will begin to wake up spontaneously when it has had sufficient sleep. Make a note of the number of hours, which typically represent your brain’s optimum sleep needs. Then give your brain the quantity and quality of sleep it needs on a daily basis. Otherwise, you can accumulate a sleep debt that can be difficult if not impossible to pay back. Fewer than seven hours of sleep at night has been associated with a decrease in overall blood flow to the brain. Studies have shown a growing link between sleep duration and a variety of serious health problems, including diabetes, hypertension, depression, and obesity. More tomorrow.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Age-Proofing Your Brain – Water, 3

Outward signs of growing older, such as wrinkling and withering, reflect what is happening inside the body. At the cellular level, growing older can cause a shift in the ratio of water inside versus outside the cells, because the body’s water content tends to decrease with age. This can decrease energy levels. As the volume of water inside the cells is reduced, the cells wither. This can cause brain tissue to pull away from the skull—something that has been linked with dementia. Water does not activate your digestive system in the way that drinking juice or soft drinks or sugary beverages do. Water hydrates brain and body, lowers your risk of dehydration, and gives your digestive system a rest. Make pure water your primary beverage and choose to love drinking it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Age-Proofing Your Brain - Water, 2

Some people rarely drink water, per se. Instead they have developed the habit of drinking fruit juices, punch, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, soda drinks, alcohol, or any number of other types of beverages when thirsty. Perhaps even worse, many choose diet drinks on a regular basis because they believe it will help them to lose weight—or at least prevent them from gaining. Wrong! Diet drinks can sabotage your high-level-healthiness lifestyle. This is because diet drinks tend to stimulate the release of insulin, which typically results in a blood sugar low. The upshot from the blood sugar low is that the individuals are prompted to increase the number of calories ingested the next time they eat, which increases their risk for obesity. Avoid diet drinks like the proverbial plague. Drinking a glass of water twenty or thirty minutes before each meal. This not only helps to prevent dehydration but also helps the body learn to distinguish between thirst and hunger. This is important for those who are trying to maintain optimum weight since the average person tends to eat slightly less at a meal when they drink a glass of water first. This means that drinking water before a meal not only helps with hydration but may also reduce one’s caloric intake at the next meal. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Age-Proofing Your Brain – Water, 1

A common drinking problem around the world involves a failure to drink enough water. This can lead to chronic dehydration, a major contributor to headaches. Symptoms of dehydration can include dry mouth, dry skin, sense of thirst, sleepiness, headache, decreased urine output, and constipation. Dehydration can lead to lethargy, impaired learning, and an increased risk for stroke and heart disease. Keeping your brain well hydrated can help avoid shrinkage of brain tissue, a condition that has been linked with memory problems and Alzheimer’s. Dehydration increases the production of damaged molecules known as free radicals, which also have been associated with a higher risk of developing symptoms of dementia later on in life and can wreak havoc in many ways. Dehydration is the most common fluid and electrolyte problem among the elderly. Perhaps in part because thirst sensation tends to diminish after age 50. The rate of aging and one’s level of water consumption appear to be directly related—dehydration can contribute to premature aging. More tomorrow.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Brain & Prosopagnosia, 6

My brain’s opinion is that an accurate diagnosis as early in life as possible is important. This can form the basis for teaching people about face blindness and making a game of helping them recognize specific facial features rather than just the overall composite, and other ways of recognition. Certainly, how to talk about it in a neutral and unashamed manner. Every brain has some challenge.

Knowing this has been of great value to me several times when a person I thought would recognize me did not. It would have been easy to do a JOT behavior: jump to conclusions that were way out in left field, overreact and possibly burn a relationship bridge, and take it personally. AAA replacement behaviors, and knowing a bit about prosopagnosia, allowed me to ask questions, act calmly while I processed the information, and reframe the incident so I did not take it personally.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Brain & Prosopagnosia, 4

How do people manage to navigate the world of people relationships? Some use using alternative strategies to recognize people, using sensory system strategies that are unimpaired. They may remember how a person walks, or their hairstyle. This could be an “oops” initially. But if the friend knows about face blindness and is upfront about pointing out a new hairdo, it can just be an occasion to boost immune system function through laughter. Some remember others by the way they walk or tend to use familiar gestures, or typical clothing style, or voice recognition. Many adults with developmental prosopagnosia report that for a long time they had no idea that they had a deficit in face processing, unaware that others could distinguish people solely on facial differences. Imagine what it must be like for children in school, especially since personnel generally are not well versed in prosopagnosia, if they are aware of it at all. More tomorrow

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Brain & Prosopagnosia, 3

There are at least two types of prosopagnosia.

One type is congenital or developmental prosopagnosia where there appears to be no brain damage. At this point it is a lifelong facial-recognition deficit that typically manifests early in childhood. It has a prevalence rate of 2.5 percent. Studies have shown this type to be completely compatible with compatible with autosomal dominant inheritance.

There is also an acquired form that exhibits after the brain has sustained some type of damage or injury, the type that Dr. Sacks addressed in his book. Interestingly, instances have been reported where acquired prosopagnosia spontaneously resolved on its own. More tomorrow

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Brain & Prosopagnosia, 2

It appears to involve—no surprise—the part of the brain involved in facial recognition. A group of cells known as the fusiform gyrus, is in each cerebral hemisphere at the junction of the parietal and occipital lobes near the back of the head. Interestingly, the right hemisphere fusiform gyrus is more often involved in familiar face recognition than the left. So, damage to the right fusiform could be more impactful than damage to the left. Prosopagnosia has been defined as a cognitive disorder of facial perception, marked by an impaired ability to recognize familiar faces including impaired self-recognition of one’s own face. It is important to note that other aspects of visual processing such as object discrimination and intellectual functions as in decision making remain intact. More tomorrow

Monday, April 6, 2020

Brain & Prosopagnosia

Q: Have you ever heard of a brain condition called prosopagnosia?

Yes. Interesting word, prosopagnosia. It means to search. meaning to search. I read “The man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat,” written by neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks. Great read—if you are as interested in brain function as I am! As I recall, a patient who had developed prosopagnosia didn’t recognize his wife when she came to visit him in the hospital. Naturally this was disconcerting to them both! Since object recognition was unimpaired, the doctor asked the patient’s wife to always wear a specific hat when she visited. It worked. In another case, the patient had voice recognition ability so the individual was taught to say something aloud right away so the patient could recognize who ws talking to him. Reportedly, Oliver Sacks himself suffered from prosopagnosia, although he did not know this for much of his life. More tomorrow

Friday, April 3, 2020

Age-Proofing Your Brain – Macronutrition, 5

Dietary guidelines issued by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommend that forty-five to sixty-five percent of one’s total calories come from carbs, preferably from healthier high-quality sources, of course. 
Andrew Weil MD has said that it is important to eat some carbohydrates at breakfast because the brain needs to boot up in the morning after the ‘fast’ during sleep, and it does that best with carbs. The brain consumes a quarter pound of glucose per day—more glucose (fuel) than any other organ in the body except for muscles used during heavy physical exercise. According to Benjamin V. Treadwell MD, most glucose in the body is used to manufacture neurotransmitters, the substances needed to propagate electro-chemical signals via the electrical circuitry of the nervous system.  Plan meals on a regular basis for your brain’s sake. Select a variety of nutritious and primarily plant-based foods: fruits, ancient grains, nuts, and vegetables that contain vital macronutrients to power your brain and body. Eat them in as natural a state as possible. Choose carefully what you ingest—and where and when and how—as if your life depends upon it. Because it does! (For more information see “Age-Proofing Your Brain” by Taylor and Briggs.)

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Age-Proofing Your Brain – Macronutrition, 4

Donald Layman PhD, professor of human nutrition at the University of Illinois, has said: Carbohydrates are the only nutrients that exist solely to fuel the body.” Carbs are absolutely essential for brain function. Although the body can use proteins, fats, or carbohydrates for energy, brain cells reportedly prefer glucose from carbs almost exclusively as a source of energy. Due to rapid metabolism—levels fall during periods of intense cognitive processing—the brain requires minute-to-minute glucose. Studies on all types of people have shown improved mental ability after a meal high in carbs, which raises concerns about the long-term impact on the brain from “low-carb” dieting. Healthier carbs, however, are better than hhighly refined carbs such as sugar and white flour and processed foods made from them. High-sugar foods and beverages can trigger a glucose spike in the brain, usually followed by a dramatic low. Much like a roller-coaster, this fluctuating pattern of glucose highs and lows can be deadly for many brain functions while also causing low-grade inflammation. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Age-Proofing Your Brain – Macronutrition, 3

Proteins contribute four calories per gram. They are large complex molecules composed of amino acids. Proteins are needed for the structure, processes, proper functioning, repair, and regulation of the organs and tissues of the human body—including the brain and nervous system. 
Current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that the average person should aim to get from ten to thirty-five percent of their daily calories from protein (depending on their activities). Some ingest more protein than their brain and body need, while others, often the very elderly, may not eat quite enough. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), which includes eminent physicians Doctors Dean Ornish and John McDougall, recommends getting most of your macronutrition from plant-based vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and beans (with small amounts of animal products for those not wishing to eat vegetarian or vegan).