High on the wish list (probably highest, actually) of a new patient coming into WholeHealth Chicago for “wellness” is not just “longevity” but “longevity plus ‘brains/wit/wisdom’”, a la Betty White, Norman Lear, George Burns, actor Mike Nussbaum.

So let’s talk “brain” and say you’re in one of these four situations: 

  1. There’s dementia in your family and you’re a bit worried about this. 
  2. There’s no dementia in your family, but you have been experiencing some symptoms that are either so mild no one notices (Subjective Cognitive Impairment<SCI>) or symptoms that might be interfering with your life (Mild Cognitive Impairment<MCI>), or, 
  3. You have neither of the above but simply want your brain to function at its maximum potential for your entire (and hopefully, long, long) life. 

For everyone listed above, 1 through 3, for your brain to function at its best, start the following:

  1. Regular physical exercise. Yes, I know, you hear this all the time, but the data showing that exercise prevents dementia is getting more and more compelling. The very important Swedish study got a lot of people moving. It showed that highly fit middle-aged women were 90% less likely to get dementia in their later decades than deconditioned or even moderately fit women. 90%?! That should be sufficient for you to at least buy an elliptical and guiltily look at it. Also very useful for memory enhancement and prevention of dementia were t’ai chi and taekwondo.
  2. Chronic stress from any source definitely increases your dementia risks. Make your life decisions based on how you answer “Will the result of this choice increase or decrease my stress level?”. Planning to get engaged to a heroin addict you’re sure you can change? (Sounds like that might increase your stress) Thinking of a well-paying job with the Trump Organization? Talk to Cassidy Hutchinson and get counseling.
  3. If you’ve read the words “Going keto”, that’s how you’ll be eating. Your liver starts making specific chemicals called ‘ketones’ from stored fats when it’s running low on carbs. Blood levels of ketones increase, a condition called “ketosis,” your brain function improves. There are two steps to produce more ketones. First, switch to a low carbohydrate, high-fiber diet. Second, go ‘NPO’ (that’s ‘nothing by mouth except water) 12 hours every day. Finish your dinner by 7 PM and hold off breakfast until 7 AM or later. In addition, because gluten and dairy add unnecessary inflammation, try to avoid them. Keep your saturated fats low by using meat as a condiment rather than as a main course. Familiarize yourself with the Glycemic Index and try to keep your food selections below 35; increase “good” fats by eating more fish, using olive oil, and other healthy fats. This is low inflammation eating. Consider a cheeseburger, fries, and a Coke after a late-night movie as the worst possible things to eat, your “Berfooda Triangle,” and take it from there.
  4. Practice good sleep hygiene: dark room (or sleep mask), quiet environment, go to bed before midnight. Oh, since just about everyone after age 45 wakes up sometime between 1 AM and 3 AM, don’t agonize over it. Go empty your bladder, get back into bed and meditate. Morning will come.
  5. Make a conscious effort to reduce inflammation in your body. Interestingly, some people can sense when they’re inflamed with symptoms like fatigue, general achiness, skin eruptions, brain fog, and digestive problems. Your doctor can measure your inflammation with an hsCRP test. If your hsCRP is elevated, you (and your doctor) will need to play detective to find the sources. The big villains of inflammation are dietary, leaky gut syndrome, chronic infections (like Lyme, mold, chronic viruses, poor oral hygiene, chronic sinusitis), autoimmune disease (like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Hashimoto’s).
  6. Get your hearing checked (untreated hearing loss=diminished brain function=increased dementia risks) and your teeth regularly cleaned. Floss every day.
  7. Keep your hormones (thyroid, adrenal, sex hormones) at healthy levels. Your may have to apply pressure to your doctor for cooperation on this but “borderline hypothyroid” is not “normal”. For women, long-term sex hormone replacement (starting at the onset of menopause) definitely reduced dementia risks.
  8. Keep your exposure to chemicals very low. If not you’re not buying organic, wash fruit and veggies thoroughly. Read labels: if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it. Challenge the necessity of any drugs you’re prescribed. Over 3/4th of Americans over age 50 are taking one or more prescription drugs, most of the drugs are being used to treat the consequences of unhealthful lifestyle choices.
  9. Challenge your brain endlessly. Read more books (and check your smartphone less); take some evening courses; create art or write a journal; garden; learn something new, like a foreign language; prepare exotic new dishes you’ve never tried before even if you live alone; watch less TV.
  10. Personally, I’ve become skeptical of those numerous “brain training” apps, touted to boost your attention, focus, and cognition by playing games on your Smartphone. Millions of people paying monthly fees doing puzzles with unproven results but lots of ads from companies which have paid fines to the Federal Trade Commission for “misleading advertising”. Actually doing NYT crossword puzzles has shown beneficial effects on the brain and you get smarter reading the New York Times as well.

Here’s a list of the basic nutritional supplements that most researchers consider most helpful for maintaining optimal brain health (all available in our apothecary): 

A high potency multiple vitamin, with or without iron (‘with’ iron is only for menstruating women), like O.N.E. (Pure Encapsulations), one a day

Vitamin D 5,000 IU, one a day 

Resveratrol Ultra (High Potency 175 mg) (by Integrative Therapeutics), once a day

Cognicare (Researched Nutritionals), twice a day 

Phophatidyl Choline (BodyBio), twice a day 

Pure EFA (Integrative Therapeutics), one capsule twice a day 

Be well,

David Edelberg, MD

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