Reducing Cognitive Decline

I had my 1st meeting with my new team last week. It is the team that is creating a brand new graduate degree program at Lamar University – Digital Learning and Leading. I was amazed at the collection of innovative educators that had been gathered. I was also very impressed by the list of corporate partnerships that had been acquired: Microsoft, Apple, CoSN. One of the things all team members are required to have is an online, electronic portfolio or website where all work products and resources can be stored and accessed. That is the purpose of The Bird’s Nest.

As I was considering what to write for my 1st blog post, I received the following email. It seemed like a wonderful item to begin with and something that I wanted to share with others and keep for myself. 

Jensen                                                               Brighter-Brain                                                               Bulletin
Make it a Habit To Connect Recent Brain Research
with Practical Classroom LIFE Strategies”7 Ways You Can Prevent Or Reduce the Effects of Cognitive Decline (including Alzheimer’s)”Let’s focus on how to prevent or reduce the effects of cognitive decline. This issue may apply to a family member, or even yourself. After all, every 60 seconds another American is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and it’s a cold, cruel way to die.

When our thinking and memory capacity becomes diminished (by a stroke, trauma, aging or Alzheimer’s) we begin to lose our sense of self and we frustrate those around us. The good news is that there are some well-researched approaches that can make dramatic differences in brain health. The first thing you can do is…

Follow the Research:

First, I am required by law to make a disclaimer: “The following comments are not meant to diagnose or treat any disease, nor have they been approved by the FDA, and I am not a MD.”

1. Protect your brain
Make your brain work hard with new learning 3-5 times a week. Upgrade your reading from the “brain-dead” variety to some that is more challenging. Sitting around is a risk factor, learning new and challenging things is better for the brain. Here is a website to take your parents to where they can build their cognitive capacity, or at least delay the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms.
Go to: http://www.brainhq.com/why-brainhq

2. Stay Active
Get physical: find ways to stay active (walks, swimming and yoga are the best). Worry less about WHAT you do for activity and more that you do SOMETHING at all each day.

3. Fish, Wine & Spice
Protective foods must reduce inflammation in the brain. Olive oil works well to fight inflammation and it’s perfect to cook with. A glass of red wine a day is protective (5 glasses is not). Consume other alcohol sparingly.

Cold-water fish (such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and cod) are an excellent source of choline, along with whole-grain cereals, legumes, eggs, meat, and royal jelly (all of which contain both vitamin B5, omega 3s and choline).

Use spices! Turmeric, the bright yellow spice that is a primary ingredient in curry powder, shows great promise against Alzheimer’s disease (29 peer-reviewed studies) due to a variety of actions, including its ability to inhibit and even reverse beta-amyloids. Curry and ginger are both anti-inflammatory brain protective spices.

4. CUT the sugars
Choose greens and proteins over carbs and sugars. The key scientific principle, which forms the basis for these diets, is the relationship between consumption of carbohydrates and the subsequent effect on blood sugar (i.e. blood glucose) and specific hormones.

Cut your carbohydrate consumption in HALF. Blood sugar levels in the human body must be maintained in a fairly narrow range to maintain health. High carb diets raise your risk!

5. Stay up on the research
Even though this BrighterBrain Bulletin comes out each month, it only discusses Alzheimer’s once a year. Medicine is not our primary focus. Keep up on the latest discoveries. You might bookmark sites you like on this topic including: http://www.sciencedaily.com/news/mind_brain/alzheimer’s/

6. Supplements
a) Omega-3 fatty acids are neuroprotective during development and aging. With Omega 3 supplements (186 studies), positive effects were observed in some studies with very mild AD, especially for early onset conditions. Get it as fish oil capsules or liquid. This non-prescriptive product (fish oil) may be purchased at a health food store or Amazon. Our favorite is Pure Antarctic Krill Oil (capsules) with Astaxanthin; Double-Strength with 1000mg of Superba® Krill Oil per liquid softgel. Contains the highest levels of Omega 3 currently on the market.

b) Lipoic acid (available in health food stores) is a naturally occurring cofactor for the mitochondrial enzymes. It has properties which can interfere with the pathogenesis or progression of Alzheimer’s (Maczurek A, Hager K, Kenklies M, Sharman M, Martins R, Engel J, Carlson DA, Münch G. 2008).

c) Small does of lithium (283 studies found at last count) suggest it may be a neuroprotective agent (it’s available in tablet form at health food stores) and have been shown to reduce the rate of dementia and AD (Wada A, Yokoo H, Yanagita T, Kobayashi H. 2005).

d) CoQ10 is widely available and very well tolerated with minimal adverse effects, making it an attractive potential therapy. Available in health food stores. Phase III trials of high-dose CoQ10 in large sample sizes are needed to further ascertain or confirm the effects of CoQ10 in neurodegenerative diseases, but early indications look promising (Spindler M, Beal MF, Henchcliffe C. 2009).

e) The hormone melatonin (available in tablet form at health food stores) may be effective against the famous and pesky plaques found in AD patients. Melatonin interacts with amyloyd beta and inhibits its aggregation (Maya Vetencourt JF, Sale A, Viegi A, Baroncelli L, De Pasquale R, O’Leary OF, Castre, E, & Maffei L., 2008). This hormone (which also regulates sleep) is protective against Alzheimer’s.

f) The most proven intervention is galantamine (683 peer-reviewed studies). Galantamine, a natural substance found in certain flowers, has shown strong results in delaying the progression of Alzheimer’s by protecting and enhancing cholinergic function. Although this intervention is available as an FDA-approved prescription drug for the treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, it is also available as the original nutritional supplement. The real deal is a natural product, not one a drug company made into a prescription and the FDA declared a “drug”.

In fact, in quality-controlled, randomized trials, Galantamine studies have documented a consistent, albeit sometimes modest, effect on cognition, behavioral symptoms and activities of daily living (ADLs). Although minor adverse effects are commonly reported, the products are generally well tolerated and have a favorable safety profile. This does NOT cure AD, but a modest effect may make a big difference, especially when it’s a loved one’s mind or even your own. It is not cheap, but it is WAY better than the alternative. One reputable company that sells galantamine capsules without a prescription is Life Enhancement. Sold under the name GalantaMind, you can buy it from Amazon.

7. FDA Approved Drug Approved (sort of…)
Have you been waiting for a drug, tested by the FDA to reduce or eliminate the symptoms of Alzheimer’s? A new study shows it might already exist. Here’s what the actual study said:

“The Beta-amyloyd plaque area was reduced more than 50% within just 72 hours. Furthermore, bexarotene (the intervention) stimulated the rapid reversal of cognitive, social, and olfactory deficits and improved neural circuit function.” (Cramer PE, Cirrito JR, Wesson DW, Lee CY, Karlo JC, Zinn AE, Casali BT, Restivo JL, Goebel WD, James MJ, Brunden KR, Wilson DA, & Landreth GE, 2012).

We have successfully reversed all of the known pathological features and behavioral deficits found in mouse models of Alzheimer’s diseaseNever before has anyone observed clearance of amyloyd plaques with such speed in mouse models.”
– Gary Landreth (lead author of study)

So why isn’t the drug out yet? It is. The drug is called bexarotene in a pill form under the trade name Targretin. It is an FDA approved treatment for certain lymphoma cancers that attack the body’s immune system. Bexarotene is also commonly used “off label” to treat other (use your imagination, wink nod) illnesses.

But this new development has a problem:

The FDA has NOT approved this drug for Alzheimer’s, since no one has done the clinical trials for it. Some people suffering from Alzheimer’s are already trying it “off label” but no doctor or company can legally or ethically promote it as a treatment for Alzheimer’s until the human studies are done.

Personal Applications

First, I’m not a medical doctor (and if I were, I might be too worried about lawsuits to suggest alternative interventions anyway). That means I am not qualified, nor can I diagnose, prescribe or suggest any specific treatment. Do not take anything based on this newsletter; rather, allow it to inform your decisions based on a wide range of qualified advice. Having said that, I am qualified to share the science and let you make your own decisions. There are some positive choices to prevent, delay or even reverse Alzheimer’s.

Wishing the best to you,

Eric Jensen, PhD
CEO, Jensen Learning

P.S. Anytime you’d like to give us some feedback, we’d appreciate it at info@jensenlearning.com.

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Maya Vetencourt JF, Sale A, Viegi A, Baroncelli L, De Pasquale R, O’Leary OF, Castre, E, Maffei L (2008) The antidepressant fluoxetine restores plasticity in the adult visual cortex. Science 320:385-388.
Maczurek A, Hager K, Kenklies M, Sharman M, Martins R, Engel J, Carlson DA, Münch G. (2008) Lipoic acid as an anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Adv Drug Deliv Rev. Oct-Nov;60(13-14):1463-70
Moreno JA, Halliday M, Molloy C, Radford H, Verity N, Axten JM, Ortori CA, Willis AE, Fischer PM, Barrett DA & Mallucci GR. (2013). Oral treatment targeting the unfolded protein response prevents neurodegeneration and clinical disease in prion-infected mice. Sci Transl Med. 5(206):206ra138.
Redolat R, Mesa-Gresa P. (2011) Potential Benefits and Limitations of Enriched Environments and Cognitive Activity on Age-Related Behavioural Decline. Curr Top Behav Neurosci. Jun 4
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Brain-Based                                                           Teaching                                                           Strategies                                                           from Eric                                                           Jensen

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