Thursday, September 3, 2009
Physical fitness of the brain should be one of our prime considerations, especially as we approach 40. Midlife crisis besets people who worry about those dreaded gray hairs, memory loss, and cognitive decline.
Must memory lost be part of it? Sanity is an awful reality to face. Cast your anxieties aside regarding cognitive decline, as Dr. Singh Khalsa has tried a formula that’s doing wonders for a lot of aging people, many of them with the Alzheimer’s disease.
Khalsa regimen consists of nutritional therapy, stress management, exercise and prescription of some drugs for those on the more advanced stage.
Stress causes cognitive decline. Chronic stress result in the over-production of a hormone called cortisol, which causes the death of the brain cells. Stress management not only halts the over-production of cortisol, it also enhances the cerebral circulation.
An efficient brain circulation is achieved by lowering blood pressure, encouraging the adequate production of neurotransmitters and helping the brain waves to shift from the common “beta” mode to the more relaxed “alpha” and “theta” mode.
A cruel irony regarding cognitive decline is that the more damage to the brain the person has suffered, the harder it is to control the biological production of the cortisol. The area of the brain that shuts off cortisol production often deteriorates with age, sitting in motion a whole digestive spiral.
To control stress, you can adopt a positive attitude and not think that you have to set aside your desires to get along with people. A helpful reminder is that although you can’t always control what happens to you, you can control how you react to it.
A little help from our friends is an important tool in coping with stress. Even contact with relative strangers also help. Robert Sapolsky, a Stanford neurologist, conducted studies measuring the cortisol levels of patients undergoing a painful cardiac catherization. Those who did not voice out their fears to the doctors had higher cortisol levels than those who did.
Meditation and prayers are also very potent antidotes to stress. Meditation evokes what Harvard stress management expert Herbert Benson calls the “relaxation response”. The opposite of the cortisol-producing stress response, it lowers blood pressure, relax and brings on the alpha and theta waves, decrease oxygen consumption and cortisol output, increase alertness and improves memory. Ten to 20 minutes of meditation twice a day gives you an edge over stress.
Exercise is not only an excellent way to relieve stress, but also to increase blood flow to the brain, providing more oxygen and glucose and aiding in the removal of toxins. Aerobic exercise also increases the production of certain neurotransmitter for carrying memories to “long-term storage.” In addition exercise heightens the output of the “feel good” chemicals known as endorphins. It increases the production of hormone called “nerve growth factor”, which helps stimulate the repair and regeneration of neuros.
A half hour moderate exercise – like walking, biking, swimming, stair climbing, golf or tennis – is very helpful. Excellent exercise that mobilize the chi or internal energy are chi kung, tai chi and hatha yoga. Mental exercise such as reading, playing word or board games, conversing or engaging in stimulating activities, is equally important.
Recent experiments of Marian Diamond at the University of California at Berkeley show that just by using the brain increases its size and the number of certain kinds of brain cells. If the brain is not regularly engage in mental exercises, it begins to atrophy physically, just like muscle that is not used. Atrophy of up to 25% can occur in the hippocampus, the part of the brain most responsible for memory.
Yogic mind/body exercises form another part of the program. Khalsa says that such exercise help restore the brain’s ability to access existing memories, create new memories and concentrate more intensely.
Brain care is vital to our health. At any stage of our life, age-old precautions have to be remembered always. Smoking, drinking and drugs, eating and other activities must be considered carefully. Care for your brain – it’s the only one you’ve got.