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Taking Care of Our Brain

by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | June 21st, 2020

Taking Care of Our Brain

I have a friend who is a cardiologist and when he introduces himself, he says “…I am your cardiologist and I will be taking care of you from head to toe”. He believes that although he is a specialist focusing on the heart, he is still responsible for the whole person. I wholeheartedly agree with him and that is why I am talking about brain health.  June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month and I believe we can be proactive in taking care of our brain.

The CDC states that dementia is a general term for impaired ability to remember, think or make decisions that interferes with doing everyday activity. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. Though dementia mostly affects older adults, it not a part of normal aging.

Some facts about Alzheimer’s disease:

  • It is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.
  • More than 5 million American are living with Alzheimer’s disease. It is projected that the amount of people with Alzheimer’s disease will triple by 2060.
  • 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. It kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
  • 14 percent of African-Americans aged 65 years and older have Alzheimer’s disease compared with 12% of Hispanics and 10% of non-Hispanic Whites.

Although scientists do not yet fully understand what causes Alzheimer’s disease, there are things that we can do to help keep our brain healthy. Last year, I introduced you to a book by Dr. Daniel Amen, titled Memory Rescue. I had a chance to hear Dr. Amen speak. His belief is that we do not do enough to take care of the most important organ in our body which he believes is the brain. We have the potential to maintain good brain health.

He believes we need to take care of our brain and we do that by preventing or treating 11 risk factors. He has summarized the risk factors with the mnemonic BRIGHT MINDS.

BBlood flow – Blood flow is important to all parts of our body especially our brain. Anything that reduces blood flow to our brain has the potential to cause injury to our brain. Tobacco use and uncontrolled blood pressure are examples of what can affect blood flow. Recommendations – have your blood pressure controlled (less than 130/80), quit smoking, exercise, drink water, and eat foods like beets and green leafy vegetables.

R Retirement (aging)  – When you stop learning, your brain starts dying. Recommendations – Stay connected with people, volunteer, learn something new, and read.

I – Inflammation – We are learning that inflammation in the body is not good. Recommendations – maintain good dental health, avoid processed food. Increase foods that are anti-inflammatory like green leafy vegetables, fish, walnuts, and avocados.

G- Genetics – Although we cannot change our family, it is not our destiny. By improving on the other risks factors we can decrease the risks of having problems with our brain.

H- Head trauma – Try to minimize trauma to the brain as much as possible. We should think twice when having our young people engage in sports like football or soccer. Recommendations – manage concussions with the assistance of a health care provider. Wear helmets when you are supposed to.

T – Toxins – I know it may be hard to avoid all toxins, but when we can, we should. Tobacco, marijuana, cocaine are toxins and should be avoided.  Recommendations – wash your fruits and vegetables thoroughly to wash off the pesticides. Avoid microwaving in plastics even if it is BPA free. Check out the ingredients in your make up.

M – Mental Health– Chronic stress, emotional trauma, grief, depression, addictions are just a few stressful events that affect brain health. Recommendations– Learn how to pause, taking deep breaths and meditation are helpful. Exercising is also great for our mental health.

I – Immunity/Infections – If you have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, you want to work with your health care provider. Certain foods are good at building your immunity, garlic, onions, and shiitake mushrooms. Limit your alcohol use, add Vitamin D and vitamin C to your diet.

N- Neurohormone Deficiency –Check your thyroid levels. Avoid what we call hormone disruptors – BPA (found in plastics), phthalates (found in some make ups), parabens (found in some lotions), and pesticides.

D – Diabesity – Diabetes and being obese can affect brain health. Get your diabetes under control. Exercise and modify your diet to maintain a healthy weight.

S – Sleep Issues – Sleep is important for overall good health. If someone has told you that you snore, you may want to get checked for sleep apnea especially if you are having trouble staying up during the day. Strategies to help you get a good night sleep – Have a regular sleep schedule even on the weekends, sleep in a cool, dark quiet room, avoid heavy evening meals, exercise however not close to bedtime, turn off the electronics.

Dr. Amen says, “Your brain’s history is not your destiny”. We can do a lot to maintain our brain health so that we can decrease our risk of such diseases as Alzheimer and dementia.

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The book discusses common gynecological and women’s health issues in a series of witty and entertaining letters. These letters, all educational, offer suggestions on what approaches to take in tackling the medical problems that typically bring women to an ob/gynecologist. The letters are spiced with art, a poem and quotes. Although its emphasis is on gynecology and women’s health, it touches on some other medical issues that make women visit their doctors.

The second half of the book briefly discusses the most common gynecological conditions and also provides an overview of sexually transmitted infections. A list of annotated websites dealing with the different topics in the book is provided for the reader who wants to pursue each subject in depth.




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