Change is inevitable, but your choices can alter the path. Epigenetics literally means ‘above genetics.’ Epigenetics can’t change your DNA, but it has the potential to change the way your genes are expressed.

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Epigenetics is one of my favorite topics. I have written about different aspects of epigenetics in two blogs in the past: How To Control Your Gene Expression and The Key to Reversing Your Biological Age. This week, we will explore the more technical side of the third hallmark of aging, epigenetic alterations, and how it contributes to the acceleration of aging.

In their landmark paper, The Hallmarks of Aging, Lopez-Ortiz et al composed three requisites and criteria that each hallmark should fulfill: “(i) it should manifest during normal aging; (ii) it’s experimental aggravation should accelerate aging; and (iii) its experimental amelioration should retard the normal aging process and, hence, increase healthy lifespan.” While each of the nine hallmarks meets these criteria in varying degrees, epigenetic alterations give us significant examples of all three.

Our DNA’s package

Before we elaborate, we must delve a little deeper into our biology lessons to get to the foundation of this hallmark of aging.

If you took a single DNA molecule and spread it out in a linear fashion, it would measure about six feet in length! In a human cell, this must be packaged into the nucleus of a cell with a diameter less than a human hair. So it goes without saying that our bodies have to do some pretty miraculous work to fit 46 of our 6-foot DNA molecules into the nucleus of every cell. And remember, we have approximately 30-40 trillion cells in our bodies!

In order to do this, the DNA must obviously be condensed. We’ve mentioned that our double-helix DNA is tightly woven around proteins. These proteins are called histones, and our cells wrap about 150 base pairs of DNA around a group of eight of these histones together – known as the histone octamer – to form what’s called the nucleosome. These resemble beads on a string, and they continuously spiral to form what’s known as the solenoid, which then supercoils further and stacks together to form a single fiber known as the chromatin. The end result is compacted DNA, histones, and a percentage of RNA, and the final condensed structure of this process results in the chromosome.

Chromatin is important because it strengthens the DNA to withstand cell division. It also allows for DNA replication, transcription (the process of making an RNA copy of a gene’s DNA sequence), DNA repair, and genetic recombination (diversity).

Our genetic on/off switch

There are many epigenetic alterations that affect our cells throughout our lifetime. The first change is what has been observed in DNA methylation patterns.

Remember that DNA is made up of nucleotide bases that form pairs of adenine (A), guanine (G), thymine (T), and cytosine (C), which in turn spell out our genetic code. One way that the body regulates how those genes are expressed is through a process called methylation. DNA can be tagged, or marked, with tiny molecules called methyl groups at some of its cytosine (C) locations. Like a switch, this literally silences that section of the gene, which can allow for normal cellular differentiation when we are developing as a fetus.

As we age, methylation can be thought of as a way for DNA to adapt to the never-ending changes in our environment – for better or for worse. The methyl groups need to be in the right place at the right time. It is when the methylation patterns become disrupted that things start to go awry. For example, some cancer cells are known for methylating areas of the DNA that are usually protected, and vice versa, which ultimately leads to abnormal suppression of activity in our DNA and thus, our gene expression.

Our genetic volume control

Another change that has been observed as an epigenetic alteration is modification of histones.

Remember the histone proteins and chromatin formation we mentioned earlier? Histones are not only one of the primary components of the chromatin but are also integral in the regulation of gene expression. They can alter how tightly or loosely the DNA is wound around them – the looser they are, the more the genes expressed; the tighter they are, the less genes expressed – similar to how a knob would control volume. Abnormal modifications of histones have been correlated with various diseases, including cancer, autoimmune disorders, inflammation and neurological conditions.

Our structural integrity

A third change that is characteristic of epigenetic alteration is chromatin remodeling. The chromatin’s tight coiling structure condenses and protects our DNA. It also prevents DNA from being transcribed continuously. However, in order for genes to be accessed and expressed, they must ‘open’ in a process known as chromatin remodeling. This is crucial for proper cell functioning.

In aging cells, enzymes that are involved in the DNA methylation and histone modification processes start to fade. This results in loss of integrity within the chromatin. Since the strength of the chromatin is necessary for DNA replication and repair, it becomes apparent that deterioration of this important structure can adversely affect the aging process. When the chromatin remodeling process starts to decline, epigenetic abnormalities accumulate, which can result in diseases such as cancer.

Food is medicine

In my best-selling book, The Longevity Equation, I indicate, “Research shows that epigenetic alterations can be slowed down by including plenty of bioactive compounds in your diet. You can do this by consuming healthy fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and oils.”

There is also research that these bioactive compounds alter DNA methylation and histone modifications and have the ability to favorably alter gene expression and prevent tumorigenesis. Foods particularly effective include turmeric, soybean, green tea, grapes, and cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower. The authors state, “The emerging field of nutritional genomics targets nutrient-related genetic and epigenetic changes for prevention and therapy of various diseases including cancer.”

Find out your epigenetic age

The Longevity Equation provides a step-by-step blueprint to hack your genes, optimize your health and master the art of existence. In my book, I take an in-depth look at aging, explore what it means to extend your healthspan, and outline the pathways and factors that lead to a lifelong solution to the burdens of aging.

In collaboration with TruDiagnostic™, I have developed The Longevity Equation Epigenetic Consult. We are offering a revolutionary new way to access your health using an epigenetic test called TruAge™. This test will help tell you what your body is actually doing right now and what that means. 

TruAge™ works by using mathematical models and a powerful algorithm to measure DNA methylation-based biomarkers. Methylation is what modifies the function of the genes in the body by adding what’s called a methyl group to DNA, which is what signals genes to turn on or off. DNA methylation is the best indicator of age-related changes and is the best-studied biomarker of age. This comprehensive testing method determines your epigenetic, or biological age, and can detect the acceleration of aging before the signs of aging even begin to appear.

The Longevity Equation Epigenetic Consult is intended to give you a snapshot of your biological age, as well as the lifestyle and environmental shifts you can make right away to start adding vitality and wellness into your life. Click here to schedule your consult!

More about The Institute for Human Optimization

The Institute for Human Optimization is committed to helping you create a personalized plan for living your longest, healthiest life possible. My team and I leverage the most cutting-edge advances in genetic testing, nutritional analysis, and functional medicine to get to the root biological imbalances that cause aging.

The Institute for Human Optimization was created with the intention of pursuing a highly personalized approach to longevity medicine to help enhance healthspan. Where lifespan is the actual number of years we’re alive, healthspan is how many of those years are spent in health and wellness.

We believe that a long healthspan – not just a long lifespan – is the most important thing you can cultivate. A long healthspan means you don’t miss out on life as you get older. It means remaining independent and having the vitality to travel and see the world.  A long healthspan means that you can be there – in full body and mind – for the people who need you the most and that every day will feel like a gift.

We know that each person is truly unique. From DNA to iris, we all possess a blueprint that is genetically inherited and environmentally influenced. By gaining a deeper appreciation for the person on a molecular level and addressing the root causes driving disease, we can help promote optimized health through our unique scientific, N of 1, approach to individualized care.

The Institute for Human Optimization provides the most comprehensive, data-driven, personalized approach to wellness. It is:

·   Predictive – We use genomics and advanced biomarker testing to risk stratification and empowerment.

·   Personalized – We use data-driven health information to curate actionable change for disease mitigation and prevention.

·   Preventive – We utilize highly individualized programs tailored to your unique genomic blueprint.

·   Participatory – We empower engagement in personal choices, which allows for improved outcomes and enhanced results.

I am so excited about the possibility to support you on this cutting-edge journey to extend your lifespan AND your healthspan. Click here to schedule Your Longevity Equation Epigenetic Consult! Can’t wait to meet you!

We have a sophisticated and specialized part of our DNA that protects all of the genetic information in our cells. Let’s take a look at how the break-down of these important complexes contributes to the acceleration of aging.

.  .  .

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Age is the number one independent risk factor for all chronic diseases. The biological definition of aging is the many processes of cellular damage accumulation in the body and these are known in the scientific literature as the Nine Hallmarks of Aging. I’ve also talked about how the first four hallmarks are considered primary since they are believed to be actual causes of aging and have a definitively negative effect on DNA.

We talked about the first hallmark of aging, genomic instability, in our last blog. This week, we will look at the second hallmark of aging: telomere attrition. In order to understand what this particular process of aging means, we must again revisit high school biology.

The rungs on the twisted ladder

Our DNA is made up of smaller units called nucleotide bases. There are 4 bases: adenine (A), guanine (G), thymine (T), and cytosine (C). Each of these bases forms a pair that shows the iconic visual of rungs on a twisted ladder. Adenine forms a base pair with thymine, and cytosine forms a pair with guanine. These base pairs spell out a letter code that allows the DNA to function in different ways in our bodies.

Remember that our DNA carries our genetic blueprint or instructions in the form of genes. Our DNA is tightly woven around protein to structure our chromosomes, which are found in the nucleus, or control center, of our cells.

Now picture the rungs of base pairs on that twisted ladder – there are millions of them. The middle section of rungs is made up of long stretches of our genes. The last few thousand rungs on ends of that twisted DNA ladder are called telomeres. They are repetitive, short sequences of non-coding nucleotide bases, bound by a special protein called shelterin. They protect the ends of our DNA, and thus our genetic information, in the same way, that the aglets, or plastic tips, on our shoelaces keep them from fraying.

This is extremely important as we age and our cells divide to produce new cells to replace those that are old and worn-out. Telomeres allow our cells to divide, and thus our DNA to replicate, without harming our genetic information. They do this by preventing the ends of chromosomes from fusing together, which would cause considerable genomic instability.

Telomeres do this with the help of the aforementioned protein called shelterin, which masks the ends of the chromosomes and suppresses the signaling process in the body that cleans up damaged DNA. The enzyme telomerase also helps to replenish the repetitive telomere sequences during each cell cycle.

Good things don’t last forever

This amazing protective mechanism in the body sadly does not last forever. In my book, The Longevity Equation, I point out that, “Our natural DNA replication mechanisms do not duplicate all of the telomeres when each cell divides, so each chromosome has fewer telomeres. Once the telomeres run out, you hit what’s called a cell growth arrest. This means you are limited to how much new tissue you can regenerate as you age.” Some say that telomeres are the molecular clock that stops cell division.

Each time a cell divides, 25-200 bases are lost from the ends of the telomeres on each chromosome. As telomeres start to fray and become shorter, they start to resemble broken DNA and become more likely to be targeted by a process called DNA damage response (DDR), which ultimately leads to cell death. Shorter telomeres are associated with most diseases of aging in humans.

Maintenance requirements

Telomerase is an enzyme that adds DNA to the ends of chromosomes, which helps maintain chromosomal length. However, it is only found in low concentrations in somatic cells (any cells other than the reproductive cells) but in high concentrations of stem cells and germ cells (egg and sperm). For this reason, as we age, our telomeres reduce in normal function. Unfortunately, telomerase is also found in high levels in cancer cells, which enables these cells to divide indefinitely.

What all of this means is that we need to have enough telomerase activity to keep our cells healthy and prevent them from degrading prematurely, but not so much that it contributes to the growth of cancer cells. So in a word: moderation.

If our cells are exposed to stress or injury – such as hormonal stress, inflammatory stress, and oxidative stress – they will be forced to divide more frequently, and consequently, our telomeres will shorten more quickly. The end result: accelerated aging.

Some easy ways we can maintain our telomere length, and possibly extend them:

·  Regular, moderate exercise

·  Stress reduction

·  Healthy diet

·  Weight loss

·  Smoking cessation

Let us provide you with guidance

Since telomeres are essential in cellular functioning, they continue to be actively researched as a therapeutic intervention in nearly every known disease state. They are considered a biomarker of aging, and thus we have the ability to test and measure telomeres directly. However, because of their direct and significant role in genomic instability, we suggest another way of looking at the current state of your DNA.

My best-selling book, The Longevity Equation, provides a step-by-step blueprint to hack your genes, optimize your health and master the art of existence. In my book, I take an in-depth look at aging, explore what it means to extend your healthspan, and outline the pathways and factors that lead to a lifelong solution to the burdens of aging.

In collaboration with TruDiagnostic™, I have developed The Longevity Equation Epigenetic Consult. We are offering a revolutionary new way to access your health using an epigenetic test called TruAge™. This test will help tell you what your body is actually doing right now and what that means. 

TruAge™ works by using mathematical models and a powerful algorithm to measure DNA methylation-based biomarkers. Methylation is what modifies the function of the genes in the body by adding what’s called a methyl group to DNA, which is what signals genes to turn on or off. DNA methylation is the best indicator of age-related changes and is the best-studied biomarker of age. This comprehensive testing method determines your epigenetic, or biological age, and can detect the acceleration of aging before the signs of aging even begin to appear.

The Longevity Equation Epigenetic Consult is intended to give you a snapshot of your biological age, as well as the lifestyle and environmental shifts you can make right away to start adding vitality and wellness into your life. Click here to schedule your consult!

More about The Institute for Human Optimization

The Institute for Human Optimization is committed to helping you create a personalized plan for living your longest, healthiest life possible. My team and I leverage the most cutting-edge advances in genetic testing, nutritional analysis, and functional medicine to get to the root biological imbalances that cause aging.

The Institute for Human Optimization was created with the intention of pursuing a highly personalized approach to longevity medicine to help enhance healthspan. Where lifespan is the actual number of years we’re alive, healthspan is how many of those years are spent in health and wellness.

We believe that a long healthspan – not just a long lifespan – is the most important thing you can cultivate. A long healthspan means you don’t miss out on life as you get older. It means remaining independent and having the vitality to travel and see the world.  A long healthspan means that you can be there – in full body and mind – for the people who need you the most and that every day will feel like a gift.

We know that each person is truly unique. From DNA to iris, we all possess a blueprint that is genetically inherited and environmentally influenced. By gaining a deeper appreciation for the person on a molecular level and addressing the root causes driving disease, we can help promote optimized health through our unique scientific, N of 1, approach to individualized care.

The Institute for Human Optimization provides the most comprehensive, data-driven, personalized approach to wellness. It is:

·   Predictive – We use genomics and advanced biomarker testing to risk stratification and empowerment.

·   Personalized – We use data-driven health information to curate actionable change for disease mitigation and prevention.

·   Preventive – We utilize highly individualized programs tailored to your unique genomic blueprint.

·   Participatory – We empower engagement in personal choices, which allows for improved outcomes and enhanced results.

I am so excited about the possibility to support you on this cutting-edge journey to extend your lifespan AND your healthspan. Click here to schedule Your Longevity Equation Epigenetic Consult! Can’t wait to meet you!

Ever wonder what causes ‘gut feelings’ and ‘butterflies’ in your stomach? Or why your stomach gets upset when you’re worried or fearful? There is an elaborate and intriguing system in our bodies that connects and communicates without any effort on our part!

.  .  .

Our microscopic friends

In an earlier blog, we pointed out that your unique microbiome is so important that it is considered a hidden organ by some researchers. It started as soon as you were born, if not before, and is continually influenced by your diet, your experiences, what you’ve been exposed to and where you live. We also illustrated how vital it is to keep your microbiome healthy, and what can happen when this community of microorganisms gets tipped out of balance.

We depend on these complex social networks of microorganisms to help break down nutrients and produce important vitamins and enzymes in our digestive system, which in turn strengthens our immune system. And although it might seem strange, it has been shown that our microbiome is intricately linked to our central nervous system (CNS) through neural, hormonal, metabolic, and immunological signaling pathways.

Another brain?

Just as fascinating is that hidden in the walls of our digestive systems is our enteric nervous system (ENS), referred to as the ‘second brain,’ due to its ability to operate independently of the central nervous system. While researchers are still learning exactly how the ENS works and the full extent of its functions, we do know that the ENS plays a significant role in disease and mental health.

The main role of the ENS is to control digestion from start to finish. But because of its ability to also communicate with our brain through the central nervous system and autonomic nervous system (ANS), researchers are now finding that people with gastrointestinal symptoms may experience mood changes as a result. We outlined the ANS and its two branches, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, in our last blog on stress.

Our communication channel

Our microbiome, central nervous system, autonomic nervous system, enteric nervous system, immunological and neuroendocrine systems all interact to comprise what’s called our gut-brain axis. An essential role of this multidirectional interaction is to help the body maintain metabolic homeostasis.

Signals are sent back and forth between the gut and the CNS, which causes the hypothalamus and brain stem to regulate how your body consumes and uses energy. In addition, since roughly 70% of our immune system is in our gut, the gut-brain axis also allows our brain to monitor the interactions taking place between our immune cells and our microbes, hormones, and neuronal cells in our gut so it can respond to changes if needed.

Our multi-tasking wonder nerve

A special and significant part of our parasympathetic nervous system, and ultimately our gut-brain axis, is the vagus nerve. On page 165 in my book, The Longevity Equation, I mention that “The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve in the body. It runs through the brain stem, esophagus, lungs, heart, digestive tract, and all the way down to the colon.” 

When we are not stressed, the vagus nerve serves as a communication superhighway, sending sensory information from the peripheral system to the brain so it can monitor function, and transmitting motor signals from the brain to the rest of the body.

The vagus nerve has immunomodulatory properties and therefore it “plays important roles in the relationship between the gut, the brain, and inflammation.” It stimulates muscles in the heart, almost like a natural pacemaker, where it helps to lower resting heart rate. In the gut, the vagus nerve can even let our brains know the status of our microbiome!

A healthy vagus nerve helps us to access parts of the brain responsible for creativity, higher cognition, and complex decision making. As you can see, this nerve has a critical place in our bodies, affecting our thoughts, many internal organs, and our gastrointestinal system. Some say it is the key to our well-being.

Why is all of this important?

The function of the vagus nerve can be impaired by anxiety, poor lifestyle, smoking, alcohol and overworking, as well as lack of proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep – basically whenever the body is in a state of stress.

Simply put, stress inhibits the vagus nerve and stimulates the sympathetic nervous system to initiate the ‘fight or flight’ response. Since the vagus nerve plays a role in reducing inflammation, stress can conversely cause inflammation. Therefore, repeated and increased exposure to stress can counteract the parasympathetic system’s ability to help the body recover and contributes to allostatic load, which is the wear and tear of stress on your body and brain. In the end, this could hinder the overall protective effect that the vagus nerve has on the body.

This has particular effects in the gut where an inhibited vagus nerve has harmful effects on our microbiota and contributes to gastrointestinal disorders such as leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease. This disrupts our metabolic homeostasis and has a cascade of effects on the body. Consequently, it is imperative to do what we can to maintain a healthy and functioning vagus nerve.

Restoring the gut-brain axis

Bringing this full circle, there is an abundance of ways that we can create and bring balance to our all-important gut-brain axis, one of the most significant communication pathways in our bodies. We can monitor our vagal tone, supplement with high quality prebiotics and probiotics, meditate, practice deep breathing, and exercise.

Ways to strengthen vagal tone:

·   Gargling vigorously with water after you brush your teeth every morning can strengthen your vagus nerve. This will help improve movement in your digestive tract and can help with constipation and a sluggish bowel.

·   Chanting, humming and singing out loud help to activate the vagus nerve. Next time you’re in your car, sing as loud as you can!

·   Deep breathing helps to lower blood pressure and heart rate. Inhale for the count of five, and exhale for a count of five for one minute. This then sends a signal to the brain to stimulate vagal activation and put us in a rest and digest state, rather than fight or flight.

·   Tongue depressors stimulate a gag reflex and strengthen the vagus nerve similar to gargling. You can also use your toothbrush and brush your tongue far enough to produce a gag reflex.

·   For the busy person, there’s one simple way to stimulate the vagus nerve, and it takes just 5 seconds to do. If you find yourself feeling sleepy, stressed, or lacking focus, you can use this to retune your nervous system. Here’s how it works: take a long deep breath, filling your lungs completely with air, and then let it out slowly. It’s that simple. Try it for yourself.

How can The Institute for Human Optimization assist me?

We believe that each person is truly unique. From DNA to iris, we all possess a blueprint that is genetically inherited and environmentally influenced. By gaining a deeper appreciation for the person on a molecular level and addressing the root causes driving disease, we can help promote optimized health through our unique scientific, N of 1, approach to individualized care.

At The Institute for Human Optimization, my team and I leverage the most cutting-edge advances in genetic testing, nutritional, and functional medicine to help our patients treat the root biological imbalances that cause aging. I believe that a long healthspan – not just a long lifespan – is the most important thing you can cultivate. A long healthspan means you don’t miss out on life as you get older. It means remaining independent and having the vitality to travel and see the world.  A long healthspan means that you can be there – in full body and mind – for the people who need you the most and that every day will feel like a gift.

The Institute for Human Optimization provides the most comprehensive, data-driven, personalized approach to wellness. It is:

·   Predictive – We use genomics and advanced biomarker testing to risk stratification and empowerment.

·   Personalized – We use data-driven health information to curate actionable change for disease mitigation and prevention.

·   Preventive – We utilize highly individualized programs tailored to your unique genomic blueprint.

·   Participatory – We empower engagement in personal choices, which allows for improved outcomes and enhanced results.

Let’s work together to keep that communication open!

Stress is an everyday word that we can all relate to. Understanding what happens in our bodies when we encounter a stressful situation is the first step towards creating harmony and stability in our lives.

.   .   .

In a previous blog, we used our friend, Jack, to illustrate how the body responds to stress. We discuss the mechanisms behind the central stress response system, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, how it regulates the cascade of hormones that the body uses to navigate a stressful situation, and the impact that process has on the body.

Interconnected to this hormonal response process lies the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which comprises two opposite, yet complementary branches called the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The ANS is part of the peripheral nervous system that regulates the function of your internal organs, cardiac muscle fibers, and glands, without conscious control.

The yin and yang of stress

The autonomic nervous system also plays an essential role in helping to maintain homeostasis, or internal stability and balance, in the body, where it is constantly fine-tuning bodily functions based on the signals it receives from the central nervous system. How it does this depends on which branch of the ANS is activated at any given moment. Both branches affect the same organs, but they create contrasting effects on them.

The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is what triggers the well-known ‘fight or flight’ reaction in the body, or what is also known as the E division: exercise, excitement, emergency, embarrassment. What’s very interesting about this is that the nerve fibers of the SNS are located between your thoracic and lumbar vertebrae and lie very close to your spinal column. The name comes from the Greek words ‘feeling together’. This location means that the synapses, or communication, between nerves necessary to initiate a bodily reaction to stress can happen more quickly and affect many organs at once.

The parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) is responsible for the ‘rest and digest’ response in the body, or what’s also called the D division: digestion, defecation, diuresis (urination). These nerve fibers are located above and below the SNS nerves, in the base of the brain and the sacrum, above your tailbone. ‘Para’ in Greek means ‘beside,’ so this system is aptly named for being ‘beside the sympathetic.’ The PSNS normalizes bodily functions when it has the time and energy to do so, thus its nerve fibers are further away from the spinal column, sometimes even in the organs themselves.

The all-important messenger

One of the 12 cranial nerves that serve motor and sensory functions is called the vagus nerve. On page 165 in my book, The Longevity Equation, I mention that “The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve in the body. It runs through the brain stem, esophagus, lungs, heart, digestive tract, and all the way down to the colon.” Although referred to singularly, it is a pair of nerves that emerge from the left and right side of the brain stem. It’s no surprise then that its name originates from the Latin for ‘wandering.’

The vagus nerve works hand in hand with the parasympathetic nervous system during the ‘rest and digest’ response in the body. When we are not stressed, the vagus nerve serves as a communication superhighway, sending sensory information from the peripheral system to the brain so it can monitor function, and transmitting motor signals from the brain to the rest of the body, such as:

·   Keeping the larynx open for breathing

·   Feeding oxygen into the lungs and diaphragm

·   Slowing and regulating the heartbeat

·   Stimulating the secretion of saliva, release of bile, and peristalsis (contraction) of the bowels

·   Contracting the bladder

·   Sending messages to the brain to produce/release oxytocin (feel-good/bonding hormone)

·   Reducing anxiety and depression

·   Reducing inflammation

·   Increasing immunity and longevity

The tipping point

Our stress response is important no matter what is going on in our lives. We all know it is useful when we are in danger or need a boost to get us through a workout. Hormones are released, our heart rate speeds up, our respiratory rate increases and our liver produces more glucose to give us energy. Our bodies are experts at keeping us on high alert when we need it.

However, this alert is designed to be occasional and temporary. What happens when stress becomes chronic and our bodies become overwhelmed by the constant state of vigilance? The accumulation of hormones and chemical messengers increases something called your allostatic load, or the wear and tear of stress on your body and brain. On page 73 of The Longevity Equation, I indicate that “An allostatic state is when your body is trying to deal with the fallout of stressors to try to reach a state of homeostasis. Over time, a heavy allostatic load will cause serious disruptions in the body.”

I continue with, “Keep in mind that though most stressors impose no real immediate danger, your body treats them as if they are serious life-or-death situations and prepares to fight or run away. This means that every time you encounter stress. . .your body prepares to deal with a dangerous situation. In turn, the stress hormones overpower the body and increase your allostatic load.”

Shifting the scales

There are little things we can do every day to counter the overwhelm and accumulation in our nervous systems. Here are a few suggestions:

·   Call a friend: Research shows that social support can help to mediate many factors that contribute to mental health and can help us develop coping strategies.

·   Get outside: a 2010 multi-study analysis showed, “Every green environment improved both self-esteem and mood; the presence of water generated greater effects.”

·   Listen to music: A large scale review at McGill University found that music reduces stress and even improves the immune system!

·   Read our blog on mindfulness for even more insight!

How can The Institute for Human Optimization assist me?

We believe that each person is truly unique. From DNA to iris, we all possess a blueprint that is genetically inherited and environmentally influenced. By gaining a deeper appreciation for the person on a molecular level and addressing the root causes driving disease, we can help promote optimized health through our unique scientific, N of 1, approach to individualized care.

At The Institute for Human Optimization, my team and I leverage the most cutting-edge advances in genetic testing, nutritional, and functional medicine to help our patients treat the root biological imbalances that cause aging. I believe that a long healthspan – not just a long lifespan – is the most important thing you can cultivate. A long healthspan means you don’t miss out on life as you get older. It means remaining independent and having the vitality to travel and see the world.  A long healthspan means that you can be there – in full body and mind – for the people who need you the most and that every day will feel like a gift.

The Institute for Human Optimization provides the most comprehensive, data-driven, personalized approach to wellness. It is:

·   Predictive – We use genomics and advanced biomarker testing to risk stratification and empowerment.

·   Personalized – We use data-driven health information to curate actionable change for disease mitigation and prevention.

·   Preventive – We utilize highly individualized programs tailored to your unique genomic blueprint.

·   Participatory – We empower engagement in personal choices, which allows for improved outcomes and enhanced results.

Let’s work together to find that balance!

_________________________________________________________________________

Understanding how our brains are wired and what keeps them running is a significant component of keeping an aging brain healthy.

. . .

In Part 1 of our Aging Brain series, we covered contributing factors to the aging brain. In Part 2, we elaborated on how lifestyle choices affect the health of our brain as we age. In our final installment, we will look at the more technical side.

Out with the old, in with the new

There is a popular saying in neuroscience that goes, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” Neurons are fundamental cells in the brain and spinal column, and we have between 86-100 billion of them! They act like electrical devices that are responsible for sensory input, sending motor commands, forming memories, and transforming many other signals in our brains.

Glia, or glial cells, are known as the neuron’s sidekick. They don’t produce electrical impulses, yet they maintain homeostasis so that neurons can do their job efficiently. Just as important as building synaptic connections between neurons, it is equally as important to break down neuronal connections that are no longer needed – and that’s what glial cells do! This is actually part of the learning process in our brains – in order to learn something new, we need to get rid of the old.

The health and function of our neurons and glial cells determine how aging will affect our brain. Some researchers even think that cognitive decline is not necessarily a consequence of old age. On page 13 of my book, The Longevity Equation, I mention that “in what researchers call ‘Blue Zones,’ people routinely live one hundred or more. Despite their advanced age, they remain virtually free from . . . age-related illnesses that take so many lives. At the same time, they retain their mobility, their sharpness of mind, and their zest for life.”

Use it or lose it

During a literature review, researchers found that learning creates neurogenesis, which is the ability to grow new neurons. They asserted that “Concurrent and synchronous activity provides a mechanism whereby the new neurons become integrated with the other neurons. This integration allows the present experience to become integrated with memories from the recent past in order to learn and predict when events will occur in the near future. In this way, neurogenesis and learning interact to maintain a fit brain.”

Here’s where the glial cells come in. Some of them can help to speed up signals between certain neurons. And as our bodies make new neurons, others, called microglial cells, break down old neuronal cells in a process called synaptic pruning. This allows our bodies to build new and stronger connections so that we can learn more.

It’s also important to pay attention to our thoughts and patterns. Synaptic connections that we use less get marked with a protein for removal and those same microglial cells search for that marker and prune the synapse. In other words, what you focus on, you get more of. In a literature review, researchers elaborated on this concept and stressed the significance on the part microglial cells in strengthening neurogenesis.

Communication is key

Neurotransmitters are molecules that play important roles in the nervous system. They are the body’s chemical messengers and are used by the nervous system to transmit signals to target cells, such as other nerves, muscles, or glands. They then attach to different receptors, which triggers action in those target cells.

There are more than 100 known neurotransmitters and they have different types of action. Some are excitatory, which encourage target cells to take action. Some are inhibitory, which decreases the likelihood that target cells will take action. And some are modulatory, which means they can send signals to many neurons at the same time.

A previous blog goes into detail on the intricacies of some of the more well-known neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, acetylcholine, and others. A balance of neurotransmitters is necessary to prevent certain health conditions, especially degeneration in the brain.

Remember our cause for hope

To help with neurogenesis and neurotransmitter production, I’ve developed a state-of-the-art cognitive supplement perfect for anyone looking to enjoy crystal clear thinking, rapid memory, and a clear memory that won’t let them down.

Puromind provides you with the nutrients you need to maintain healthy, sharp, lifelong cognitive health. You will find an improved ability to recall the things most important to you, enjoy a heightened sense of well-being and peace of mind, and benefit from your mind operating better than it ever has. If you want to learn a new language, have a sharper wit, or simply want to stop dealing with those annoying ‘senior’ moments that interrupt your life, Puromind can give your brain the fuel it needs to function at 100%.

We manufacture each premium batch in an FDA-compliant, GMP-certified facility right here in the USA, and every bottle is tested for both purity and potency, so you can know that you are putting only the most nutritious, beneficial ingredients into your body. Puromind is crafted with the following five powerful, brain-boosting nutrients:

·         LION’S MANE MUSHROOM: In a clinical trial at Tohoku University in Japan, researchers found that the group of people who received lion’s mane mushroom ‘showed significantly increased scores on the cognitive function scale compared with the placebo group,’ and had no side effects!

·       BACOPA MONNIERI: In a study published in the journal, Neuropsychopharmacology, researchers revealed that of the 76 adults aged between 40 and 65 involved in the study, the group that received 300 mg of bacopa daily had improved their memory recall and retention by 100%!

·         ALPHA-GPC:  A study published in the journal, Clinical Therapeutics, found that patients who supplemented with alpha-GPC experienced a dramatic improvement in their memory and ability to perform cognitive tasks.

·         HUPERZINE A: Huperzine A protects acetylcholine from being broken down by your body and can help you maintain healthy acetylcholine levels. A clinical trial performed at the Traditional Chinese Medicine Epicenter in Shanghai found that 58% of patients who took Huperzine A showed 36% memory improvements compared to placebo!

·         GINKGO BILOBA: Ginkgo biloba boosts cerebral blood flow and makes it easier for your brain to absorb Puromind’s other ingredients, magnifying their powerful effects and delivering maximum cognitive support potential. Clinical studies also show that ginkgo is able to dramatically boost blood flow to your brain and the rest of your body almost immediately after taking it.

(These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. Puromind is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.)

How can The Institute for Human Optimization assist me?

At The Institute for Human Optimization, my team and I leverage the most cutting-edge advances in genetic testing, nutritional, and functional medicine to help our patients treat the root biological imbalances that cause aging. I believe that a long healthspan – not just a long lifespan – is the most important thing you can cultivate. A long healthspan means you don’t miss out on life as you get older. It means remaining independent and having the vitality to travel and see the world.  A long healthspan means that you can be there – in full body and mind – for the people who need you the most and that every day will feel like a gift.

The Institute for Human Optimization provides the most comprehensive, data-driven, personalized approach to wellness. It is:

·         Predictive – We use genomics and advanced biomarker testing to risk stratification and empowerment.

·         Personalized – We use data-driven health information to curate actionable change for disease mitigation and prevention.

·         Preventive – We utilize highly individualized programs tailored to your unique genomic blueprint.

·         Participatory – We empower engagement in personal choices, which allows for improved outcomes and enhanced results.

Let’s work together to make a long healthspan your reality!

Cognitive decline does not have to be a consequence of aging. There are ways to intercept and mediate our lifestyle to encourage the growth of new brain cells!

.  .  .

In Part 1 of our Aging Brain series, we showed how the accumulation of amyloid beta in the brain, the effects of oxidative stress, and the lack of a special nutrient called acetylcholine can all contribute to our brain degenerating over time. Today, we will delve into more ways that affect the health of our brain and functional cognition.

The inflammatory response

Both infectious and non-infectious stimuli activate inflammation in the body, which can be caused by pathogens, toxins, and damaged cells, among dozens of other reasons. The body perceives these as a threat and uses inflammation as a protective mechanism that triggers the immune system to remove the stimuli and initiate the healing process. In an acute situation, this inflammatory process works efficiently to bring the body back into balance. It is when the threatful stimuli become chronic that the inflammatory process becomes overly activated and eventually harmful.

As discussed in Part 1, the brain’s protective inflammatory response is to produce amyloid, which has repeatedly been shown to contribute to cognitive decline. This accumulates over time because of constant threats and assaults on the brain via the way we live our lives. And although evidence indicates that amyloid beta has antimicrobial effects and is made to initially protect our brains, it eventually overreacts and interferes with nerve synapses.

It is because of this accumulation that it is critically important to mediate inflammation by focusing on the foods we eat, moving our bodies, and other supporting ways to keep our brains healthy!

Insight on diet

On page 144 in my book, The Longevity Equation, I talk about how, “Many toxins found in food can cause long-term and irreversible brain damage. And it’s likely you have already encountered some of them. But as the old saying goes: The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second-best time is now. Although you can’t undo the past, you can start to eliminate neurotoxic substances, optimize your neurotransmitter levels, and ignite the growth of healthy new brain cells for a healthier brain today.”

There is much evidence on the connection between a healthy diet and cognitive function. One pair of researchers found that the Mediterranean diet pattern and the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) are both “neuroprotective, with potential to delay cognitive decline.”

The European Food Information Council defines the Mediterranean diet pattern as “generally characterized by a high intake of plant-based foods (e.g. fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, and cereals) and olive oil, a moderate intake of fish and poultry, and low intakes of dairy products (mostly yogurt and cheese), red and processed meats, and sweets.”

The Mayo Clinic states that the DASH diet “encourages you to reduce the sodium in your diet and eat a variety of foods rich in nutrients that help lower blood pressure, such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium…The DASH diet include lots of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products. [It] also includes some fish, poultry and legumes, and encourages a small amount of nuts and seeds a few times a week. You can eat red meat, sweets and fats in small amounts. [It] is [also] low in saturated fat, trans fat and total fat.”

Movement is essential

Physical exercise is known to have a protective factor for neurodegeneration. In The Longevity Equation, I state that “Exercise is the key to staying mobile well into old age. It’s also one of the most important things for reducing stress, relieving pain, and keeping your cells healthy.” (p. 116)

And on page 152 in my book, I explore how “a 2008 study literally states that ‘exercise is brain food.’ Though you don’t ingest it, exercise is one of the best things you can do to help keep your brain healthy. Physical activity completely changes the way your brain functions. It helps increase neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to create new synaptic connections…Exercise also helps reduce your risk of stroke and increase the hormones that support brain development, happiness, and overall cognition.”

A new perspective

Professor Dale Bredesen, an internationally recognized expert in the mechanisms of neurodegenerative diseases, challenged existing research in 2014 with a peer-reviewed medical publication entitled Reversal of cognitive decline: a novel therapeutic program. He shared how his unique approach led to the reversal of cognitive decline in nine out of ten patients. Several years later, Dr. Bredesen and his team published Reversal of cognitive decline: 100 patients in which they “describe 100 patients with cognitive decline treated with this multi-component, precision medicine approach, and showing documented improvement.”

The Bredesen Protocol “is based on over three decades of Dr. Bredesen’s laboratory research, resulting in hundreds of peer-reviewed publications that have uncovered the biochemical mechanisms behind the erosion of memory…He’s identified over 36 factors (metabolic derangement, poor nutrient status, lack of trophic support, exposure to viruses, etc.) that can trigger “downsizing” in the brain, all of which can be addressed by using the Bredesen Protocol® designed to prevent cognitive decline …”

Remember our cause for hope

In addition to controlling inflammation, diet, exercise, and the Bredesen Protocol®, I’ve developed a state-of-the-art cognitive supplement perfect for anyone looking to enjoy crystal clear thinking, rapid memory, and a clear memory that won’t let them down.

Puromind provides you with the nutrients you need to maintain healthy, sharp, lifelong cognitive health. You will find an improved ability to recall the things most important to you, enjoy a heightened sense of well-being and peace of mind, and benefit from your mind operating better than it ever has. If you want to learn a new language, have a sharper wit, or simply want to stop dealing with those annoying ‘senior’ moments that interrupt your life, Puromind can give your brain the fuel it needs to function at 100%.

We manufacture each premium batch in an FDA-compliant, GMP-certified facility right here in the USA, and every bottle is tested for both purity and potency, so you can know that you are putting only the most nutritious, beneficial ingredients into your body. Puromind is crafted with the following five powerful, brain-boosting nutrients:

·         LION’S MANE MUSHROOM: In a clinical trial at Tohoku University in Japan, researchers found that the group of people who received lion’s mane mushroom ‘showed significantly increased scores on the cognitive function scale compared with the placebo group,’ and had no side effects!

·       BACOPA MONNIERI: In a study published in the journal, Neuropsychopharmacology, researchers revealed that of the 76 adults aged between 40 and 65 involved in the study, the group that received 300 mg of bacopa daily had improved their memory recall and retention by 100%!

·         ALPHA-GPC:  A study published in the journal, Clinical Therapeutics, found that patients who supplemented with alpha-GPC experienced a dramatic improvement in their memory and ability to perform cognitive tasks.

·         HUPERZINE A: Huperzine A protects acetylcholine from being broken down by your body and can help you maintain healthy acetylcholine levels. A clinical trial performed at the Traditional Chinese Medicine Epicenter in Shanghai found that 58% of patients who took Huperzine A showed 36% memory improvements compared to placebo!

·         GINKGO BILOBA: Ginkgo biloba boosts cerebral blood flow and makes it easier for your brain to absorb Puromind’s other ingredients, magnifying their powerful effects and delivering maximum cognitive support potential. Clinical studies also show that ginkgo is able to dramatically boost blood flow to your brain and the rest of your body almost immediately after taking it.

(These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. Puromind is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.)

How can The Institute for Human Optimization assist me?

At The Institute for Human Optimization, my team and I leverage the most cutting-edge advances in genetic testing, nutritional, and functional medicine to help our patients treat the root biological imbalances that cause aging. I believe that a long healthspan – not just a long lifespan – is the most important thing you can cultivate. A long healthspan means you don’t miss out on life as you get older. It means remaining independent and having the vitality to travel and see the world.  A long healthspan means that you can be there – in full body and mind – for the people who need you the most and that every day will feel like a gift.

The Institute for Human Optimization provides the most comprehensive, data-driven, personalized approach to wellness. It is:

·         Predictive – We use genomics and advanced biomarker testing to risk stratification and empowerment.

·         Personalized – We use data-driven health information to curate actionable change for disease mitigation and prevention.

·         Preventive – We utilize highly individualized programs tailored to your unique genomic blueprint.

·         Participatory – We empower engagement in personal choices, which allows for improved outcomes and enhanced results.

Let’s work together to make a long healthspan your reality!