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.

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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!