Exercises, Aging and Your Brain

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Exercises, Aging and Your Brain

It was long believed that the brain you got was the one that you had to live with. Once you reached adulthood and full brain development had occurred it was assumed there would be no further neuron development. If you unfortunately lost some aspect of your brain due to aging, stroke, disease etc. it was believed you were left with a limited capacity that at best would hopefully lead to no further deterioration. What we now know is the brain is capable of having neuroplasticity, meaning that it is has the ability to generate new neurons. Gratefully it turns out aerobic exercise is one way this can be achieved! This occurs because aerobic exercise increases the production of a protein called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which increases the size and connectivity in the hippocampus. This occurs when stem cells, which are essentially a blank slate, are developed in to new nascent neurons, which in turn create new brain cells.

There are many ways to increase neuroplasticity but one thing we now know is that exercise has a significant impact on the development of new neurons particularly in the part of the brain called the hippocampus and the neo-cortex. This is important because these are the regions of the brain that degenerate as aging occurs. Further research has revealed that the most effective way to achieve this is to add some form of cognitive challenge during exercising. This includes things such as having to process spatial awareness, making choices and processing stimulus input while exercising. Adding this cognitive component has the greatest impact on neuron development. So what this means in real time is that getting on the bike at the gym and turning on the TV where your only cognitive input is staring idly at the TV is not nearly as beneficial as riding a bike outside, dealing with spatial awareness, traffic, pedestrians and while still needing to be cognizant of the direction you are travelling. The increase utilization of cognitive function while doing any aerobic exercise is the most efficient and effective way to increase BDNF.

While exercise has many effects on all parts of our body if you are approaching middle age you may want to seriously consider the way that you exercise to help prevent atrophy of the hippocampus and the neo-cortex. By simply adding a cognitive component to any aerobic exercise you are already doing you will increase the development of new neural cells. Any advantage that we can utilize to increase brain cell development will help diminish the effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

There have been many studies done to assess how much exercise is necessary to receive the neurogenic benefits and cellular development. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that you should engage in aerobic exercise of moderate intensity for at least 150 minutes per week or 75 minutes a week for intense exercise or an equivalent combination of the two. More clinical trials are still being done to find the best way to target, physiological pathways to link the brain and the body to exploit our brain’s ability of exercised induces plasticity as we age but for now simply adding a cognitive component to your exercises will help tremendously.

A new year is upon us and is the case for many an opportunity to create new habits to increase our health and the joy we create in out life. As we begin this New Year consider not only exercising but also exercising in a way that helps protect the aging brain. I wish you and your family excellent health and many blessings as we begin this new decade.

With Gratitude,
Pat

CBD Products: Yeah or Nay?

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CBD Products: Yay or Nay?

CBD products are taking the country by storm. They have been promoted to aid in everything from anxiety and depression to acne and heart disease. Many wonder about its safety and others question its association with the cannabis plant. Understanding how CBD works can be confusing and for those who want an in depth discussion of its properties and effect on different CB receptors as well as its influence on the endocannabinoid system I will refer you to cbdschool.com. Simply explained the endocannabinoid system is designed to maintain a homeostatic balance in your body making sure all systems are in balance with each other. CBD has been shown to have a favorable effect on this system. This is one of the reasons it has such widespread applications.

CBD is derived from the resins of the cannabis flower and has been used as a medicine for literally thousands of years. While THC, the active ingredient found in marijuana is also derived from the cannabis flower it is important to distinguish that CBD products do not produce the characteristic “high” or euphoric feeling that THC does. This is due to the ingredients of each effecting different receptors in the brain.

As a general rule the majority of CBD products are safe and can effectively be used by adults and children for a variety of issues. There are however some precautions that should be considered when using these products. Despite the fact that CBD is mostly safe and therapeutic there may be some unwanted side effects when combined with other drugs you take regularly. These include heart medications, anti-anxiety medications such as BuSpar, any medication that warns against being taken with grapefruit and certain blood pressure medications. For more information and interactive descriptions or to check the possible interactions with specific medications you currently take go to cdbsafely.com.

Another significant safety concern is the limited regulation of the manufacturing of CBD products. It has become a booming industry and as of yet fairly unregulated. This has led to a number of less than scrupulous pop-up companies attempting to capitalize on the lack of regulations. If you decided to purchase CBD products it is essential that a reputable company has manufactured the products. I would suggest you use caution when tempted to buy it at your hairdressers or a gym or other places that are not certified retailers of the product. This is not to imply in any way that these institutions don’t have reputable products but it is important that you are certain of its source and the products credibility before purchasing.

The issue of course with the lack of regulation is that what is listed on the ingredients may be less or more potent than what is represented. Most people unwittingly assume it will be less than what is listed but in a recent study of multiple products including oils, edibles and creams 30% contained more than the listed ingredients. For most adults this generally doesn’t present too much of an issue but for children it could potentially cause significant problems. As with all medications weight is the critical component in dosing. With children who may weigh any where from 35 to 100 pounds the higher doses have the potential for complications. A 2017 study by Bonn-Miller found that 7 out of 10 products did not contain the amount of extract listed on the label therefore diligence in checking out the product you are considering is critical especially if you will be administering to children.

All things considered CBD oil has many very favorable effects with little to no side effects. Before deciding to try CBD it is important to check with your doctor for any negative side effects that my interfere or complicate the medications you are currently taking. Surveys of CBD users have reported favorable effects in reducing pain, anxiety, depression and a whole host of other disorders. Personally I have found it effective for knee pain. If you elect to try CBD oil exercise good judgment, check with your doc and be the wise soul you are.

With Gratitude,
Pat

Are You In The Blue Zone?

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Are You in The Blue Zone?

Before you even think of going there this is not an article on political discourse and has nothing to do with politics. Through out the world there are specific regions where the majority of the population experience exceedingly long healthy lives and many live to be well over a hundred. These regions are called the “Blue Zones” and extensive studies have been done in an effort to understand what the common denominators are that lend themselves to such a healthy long positive life. Some of the reasons will make perfect sense but some of the most important may surprise you.

The five blue zones where researchers have discovered where people live the longest are: 1.Sardinia, Italy, 2. Ikaria, Greece, 3. Okinawa, Japan, 4. Nicoya, Costa Rica and lastly right here in the U.S. in Loma Linda, California (primary home to the seventh-day Adventist). Researchers have determined that there are seven essential considerations that create these environments. These first five won’t surprise you. They include:

  1. Utilize whole foods especially plants in your diet- consistently most of the diets in these regions favored the Mediterranean type
  2. Avoid Processed foods: a no brainer. Processed foods are filled with chemicals that, accelerates aging and are toxic to your tissues and chemical balance.
  3. Create a healthy living environment. This includes things such as buying the right foods, planning ahead, eating, living and working in a peaceful environment and developing a good sleep pattern.
  4. Maintain a good body weight for your height and size, which, they found, was directly correlated to the amount of sleep you get. A good eight plus hours was necessary to maintain good hormonal balance. There is a saying that “hormones are stronger than diet”. It doesn’t matter how little you eat or how much you exercise, if your hormones are out of balance it is very difficult to maintain a healthy body weight so make sleep a priority. Create a comfortable dark inviting, peaceful space that is free of TV’s and screens.
  5. Exercise: They found that most of the centenarians exercises frequently but not in a gym. They walked everywhere they went, used their hands instead of machines to do work, and for more traditional exercise they did yoga, Tai Chi and played games with their friends instead of going to the gym. Many of these people also had physical jobs such as farming which is very different than the way most of us work. In addition most were found to have gardens of their own. Movement reduces inflammation and improves heart, bone and muscular health and for this to be beneficial you have to move everyday.

All of these findings make perfect sense and are fairly obvious but these last two results were found to play an even more significant role than the first five reported.

  1. A Strong healthy support system– According to researchers this was the most important and powerful thing you can do to increase your chances for longevity. For the blue zone residents this was a natural way of life and is built into the culture. People in the blue zones have strong systems of support and are much more willing to engage and help each other. We however spend significant part of our lives with our heads down and focused on a phone, iPad or computer. This has become such a problem that we now have neck injuries related to posture changes from this behavior! To derive this benefit we have to be willing to look up, connect with those around you and engage. Studies have shown that loneliness can decrease your longevity significantly. Sadly, many people in our country don’t even know the people they live next to. Blue Zone studies have shown that it doesn’t necessarily have to be intimate connectedness. Just being connected and knowing someone is aware of you has been shown to increase your chances for longevity.
  2. Spend time outdoors with friends and family: Not surprisingly many recent studies have extolled the value of being out in nature. In fact many physicians have begun prescribing it as a treatment regimen for depression. For the people in the blue zones this is a way of life. Staying connected to family and others is the single most important thing to them. The other benefit that being out in nature provides is that they are usually getting exercise at the same time. Additionally there are no “old folks” homes in the blue zone because they don’t need them and older people are cared for by family.

Living a healthy long life is obviously correlated to how committed you are to eating and sleeping well. Most importantly however is how willing are you to lift up your head, smile and connect to the people around you, step a way from the technology and head outdoors. No matter what gene pool you swim in making these choices greatly increase your chances of living a healthy long life. What will you choose?

With Gratitude,
Pat