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A Healthy Brain is just a Workout Away

BDNF Exercise

Did you know that your brain health is not definitive? Just because a family member has Alzheimer’s disease does not guarantee that you will too. There IS something you can do about it. Check out my latest article on Brain Health to learn more! 

By: Angela Joy

Increasing research is being done on brain health, specifically neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia. Recent findings have concluded that though there is no definitive cure for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or dementia, neurogenesis of the brain cells is possible! Confirming that brain health can be improved and potentially regenerated.

Neurogenesis is defined as the formation of new neurons in the brain, as stated by an article published by the Queensland Brain Institute in Australia. The article goes on to state that neuroscientists have discovered stem cells within adult brains, confirming that adult neurogenesis is now recognized as a “normal process that occurs in the healthy brain.”

The neurogenesis process can occur in any area of the brain, however in terms of its impact on neurodegenerative diseases specifically AD, the area of the brain we want to focus on most is the hippocampus. You may have heard of the hippocampus. It is a small organ in the medial temporal lobe of the brain, which is part of the limbic system. It regulates emotions, plays an important role in spatial navigation, in addition to its incredibly important role in memory (specifically long-term memory), among many other things.

 

 

 

 

In the progression of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) the hippocampus is one of the first areas of the brain that is affected. A recent study stated that “the hippocampus is one of the most affects areas in AD.” The study, published March 25, 2019 in the journal of Nature Medicine, discussed the process of adult hippocampal neurogenesis (AHN) and the correlation of AD development.

Hippo

Throughout the progression of the study it was discovered that “… the number and maturation of these neurons progressively declined as AD advanced.” In other words, as the neurons in the hippocampus formed, the development of Alzheimer’s disease declined. Furthermore, as Alzheimer’s disease developed in an individual it was concluded that hippocampal neuron development decreased.

Therefore, the study findings state that, “Restoration of normal levels of AHN in these patients emerges as a potential therapeutic approach to counteract the progression of this as yet incurable disease.”

BDNF Benefits

So, how can we promote neurogenesis in the hippocampus?

A 2016 study found that the Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) can promote neurogenesis in addition to the growth and differentiation of new neurons and synapses. BDNF, which is encoded by the BDNF gene, is a member of the neurotropic family of growth factors in the body, specifically the brain and periphery.

The study states that BDNF is “expressed in areas that are vital for learning, memory, and executive function (i.e. hippocampus, cortex and basal forebrain). It is also expressed in peripheral tissues such as kidneys and prostate and in blood and saliva.”

BDNF

In this 2016 study published in the American Academy of Neurology, the authors examined the expression of BDNF in the brains of 535 elderly participants annually for six years, measuring cognitive decline and dementia. Following their deaths, a neuropathic assessment was completed.

The results of the longitudinal study found that “high brain BDNF expression was associated with slower rate of cognitive decline during life.” The study measured BDNF levels among those with AD, dementia, and those with normal cognitive function. Those with Dementia expressed slower cognitive decline when higher levels of BDNF was present.

In summary, the study findings “promote the idea that increasing BDNF gene expression might be a reasonable therapeutic strategy for AD in humans.”

bdnf-2

How can we increase BDNF in humans?

Physical activity has been found to be one of the strongest methods associated with increased BDNF levels, thus decreasing rates of cognitive decline and dementia. Additional ways to increase BDNF and decrease cognitive decline include; social interaction and environmental enrichment.

Dr. David Perlmutter, author of the book, “Brain Wash,” further discusses the impact of BDNF levels and brain health. In addition to his unwavering stance on the benefits of consistent exercise and brain health, he also recommends following a more ketogenic dietary approach (decreasing carbohydrate intake and reliance on high sugar foods), circumin/turmeric supplements, DHA in the form of wild caught fish or fish oil, optimal vitamin D levels (60-90), prebiotic-rich foods, and more.

BDNF-foods-630x315

In summary:

The consensus here is our brain health is not inevitable. There is something we can do about it. Our brain has the potential to regrow new neurons, thus improving memory.
Our first step, start exercising!

To learn more about your brain health, refer to the references listed below. Also, consider Dr. Dale Bredesen’s book, “The End of Alzheimer’s,” Dr. David Perlmutter’s book, “Brain Wash,” also the work of Dr. Daniel Amen. There are many more resources available on brain health and longevity, these are my favorites.

Brain Loves BDNF

References:

https://www.drperlmutter.com/can-our-brain-activity-affect-the-gene-expression-of-future-generations/

https://qbi.uq.edu.au/brain-basics/brain-physiology/what-neurogenesis

https://www.news-medical.net/health/Hippocampus-Functions.aspx

https://www.drperlmutter.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/BDNF-reserve-Editorial-2016.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5677569/

https://www.the-scientist.com/features/this-is-your-brain-on-exercise-64934

 

 

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Behavior Change – How to Create New Habits

Over the weekend I learned a new term; neuroplasticity.

This term may sound scientific and intimidating, however do not allow the length or technical nature of the word steer you away.  

Neuroplasticity is actually quite amazing. The term, which was not discovered until recent years, allows our minds to change and develop throughout the entirety of our lives. We do not learn a certain amount of information up until a certain point and then remain stagnant. Our mind is able to develop, change, improve, expand and alter every day.  

neuroplas

In an article published by Stephanie Liou, Project Leader and Student Researcher for the Stanford University’s Huntington Outreach Project for Education, explained that scientists previously believed that the brain “stopped developing after the first few years of life.”

As a result of new research, scientists now believe that, “the brain continues to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life,” Liou explains in the Stanford University article titled, “Neuroplasticity.” Through neuroplasticity the neurons in the brain are able to compensate for injury and adjust their activity in response to new situations or changes in the environment.

How is this possible? Neuroplasticity makes learning new skills, information or habits possible.

Neuroplasticity, as defined by Medicinenet.com, is the brain’s ability to reorganize through the formation of new neural connections.

In other words, neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to create new habits and process new information.

Each time a new experience occurs, a new decision is made, or a new action takes place, the brain will create a new pathway for this thought to take place.

Imagine walking to the store around the corner each morning for a cup of coffee. Today, instead of walking to the store you regularly frequent you decide to make a pot of coffee at home. As this new decision is made the brain will create a new neural pathway allowing this new decision to be possible.

The process is better known as the “reorganization” of the brain allowing the formation of new neural connections, according to Liou. This reorganization process is one that we can all benefit from throughout the entirety of our lives.

neuroplasticity

Putting Neuroplasticity into Practice
On the first day this new activity may feel strange or uncomfortable. The second day, you still may feel uncomfortable, while slightly familiar. The third day you may begin to think making coffee at home may not be that bad. And finally by the fourth day making coffee at home may become second nature as you recognize the cost-effective benefits.  

Each day that you choose to make a new decision the neural pathway that allows the activity to take place is strengthened. As the neural pathway is strengthen the previous pathway begins to weaken. Overtime the previous pathway will become so weak that the brain no longer triggers the mind to make the previous decision, allowing for the new decision to become second nature.

Consider how difficult it may feel the first time you drive to a new location, begin a new activity, or learn a new skill. The activity feels foreign and unfamiliar, the word sounds like a different language, and the location feels out of place.

neuro-plasticity

Putting Neuroplasticity to the Test
Sounds awesome right? Maybe even too good to be true? How about putting neuroplasticity to the test. In an effort to give this new scientific-sounding new neurological pathway to the test.

Step 1: Select a new activity which you will do a minimum of once per day for 28 days. Make sure the activity is completely new and you are not currently doing it in any way.

Step 2: Commit to completing this activity once per day for 28 days. Allot time to complete this task.

Step 3: Put the activity to the test. Make a note of the difficulty level to begin the new task each day. Complete a mental check in. Do you feel out of place? Does the word sound foreign? Does the activity feel uncomfortable? Chances are “no,” instead you will in fact feel comfortable, at ease and you may even enjoy the activity.

Angela’s 28-Day Neuroplasticity Behavior Change Challenge
Over the next 28 days I have decided to take on a daily meditation challenge: “I will meditate, every day, a minimum of once per day, for a total of 28 days.” – Angela Joy

I chose 28 days because it is the length of time of the month of February, not because of the belief that a habit is formed in 21 or so days.

Psychologist Jeremy Dean, the author of, “Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don’t, and How to Make Any Change Stick,” found that creating habits is not a one-size-fits-all solution. In other words, there is not a set amount of time that every person will complete a daily task thus forming a habit.

Therefore, my timeline was not selected with the assumption that I will create a habit in 28 days, however I would like to measure how my body feels and reacts to 28 days of consistently completing this new activity.

In sum, I hope this article will inspire you to learn new information, try new things and attempt new healthy habits!

If you are interested, join the 28-day challenge and commit to complete this new activity for a total of 28 days.

If you do decide to take on the challenge, please share with me! Send me the challenge you have selected and why you have chosen to complete.

❤ Wishing you joy, love and blessings along the way as you allow neuroplasticity to occur in your brain!

Best,

Angela Joy

 

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