Brain Health Part 1 - Stress
Dear Health Enthusiast,
Here's the text version of my first online brain health workshop, from September 29 in case you missed it! Giving yourself ten minutes to read what I have to share below will be an invaluable investment in your health!
The fact is, this stuff is a really big deal, and I'm sharing the content from my class with you since I don't want you to miss out on such an important topic.
Like I've emphasized in my recent online classes, there's no debating that the health of your brain largely determines the quality of your life - it's responsible for your mood, memory, thinking, problem solving, communicating with others, and longevity, to name a few. And so improving these invaluable parts of our lives deserves as much of our care as anything. The good news is the health of your brain can be improved at any stage of your life, making this information important for all readers.
The goals of the brain health workshops include:
- Mood and energy enhancement
- Improved stress management
- Improved mental clarity and sharper focus
- Alzheimer's prevention
- Linking brain health and immune health
- And weight-loss relative to brain health
The information I have to share can improve the health of your brain in all of the ways I listed above, beginning right away. I’m excited to share with you just what the protocols include and then how to apply them to your day to day life - some of which you will find to be surprisingly easy - and mind-blowingly effective. You'll see.
I'll go ahead and share with you here (and you may know this already), brain health is my jam since healing my brain required fourteen years of my complete focus. While having thousands of seizures during this period was massively inconvenient (to say the least), this provided the extraordinary opportunity to learn so much about brain health from the top doctors in the world of neurology. It was mapping out the path to my healing that I now have something out of the ordinary to share with you that I guarantee can make a big difference in the quality of your life, even if you feel you are already healthy.
The reason there’s actually an urgency for this information is due to a very recent decline of the overall average brain health, especially in the United States.
- The risk of Alzheimer's has more than doubled in just the last ten years. This means that after the age of 85, your risk is 50% - and it's due to specific causes that very few people even know about. And these statistics are still fast increasing.
- Nearly 70% of Americans are now considered to be overweight, and in my upcoming newsletters I will explain the direct correlation between weight and brain health. The commonly gained weight over the last eight months of the pandemic, referred to as the ‘quarantine 15’, is directly linked to brain health which I will also explain.
- The increasing rate of type 2 diabetes with children is linked to brain health as well.
The reason it's important to take note of these statistical facts is because in the human psyche there is a loyalty to belief systems that does not like to be challenged. The fact is no one wants to think that they need to change the way they live their lives. Fortunately facts break such barriers since you can’t really argue with the powers of nature. And statistics. And there is good news to this which is what I have to share...
Facts about the brain to use to our advantage
One of the primary factors for the enduring, long-lasting neurological system is healthy circulation. The brain is a vascular organ with 400 miles of blood vessels.
I've always emphasized that if there ever was a 'silver bullet' to health it would be nutrient and oxygen rich blood. Strong circulation of healthy blood is what preserves the health of everything in the body, and is the primary ticket to an enduring neurological system.
Due to this fact, inflammation is the biggest enemy when it comes to brain health. The inflammation we're talking about is different from the commonly known inflammation associated with aches and pains. This inflammation is an inflammation of tissues in the body on a microscopic level, and the problem is it reduces blood-flow.
The problems caused from restricted blood flow include:
1) Inflammation damages the brain since it is limiting the delivery of vital oxygen and nutrients.
2) Healthy blood flow is essential for removal of metabolic waste. Metabolic waste that lingers in tissues essentially goes rancid and causes more inflammation.
3) Reduced blood flow shrinks the brain, especially in the hippocampus (memory center) - naturally a factor of Alzheimer's more than doubling.
4) Activity of neural pathways is reduced, and brain cells die faster.
5) Then of course there are the followup sensations of brain-fog, being forgetful, lack of motivation, and feeling tired or depressed.
Pet scans have even shown that brain inflammation is linked to all disease. Essentially it's a domino effect of the body becoming less capable of healing itself since the brain is what orchestrates the activity of all of the body's organs.
So, in essence, the key to preserve brain health is to hone the anti-inflammatory lifestyle in order to optimize blood-flow. Make sense?
The really good news is brain health can be improved at any time.
Neurogenesis, the renewal of brain cells is the breakthrough discovery thought to be impossible until about the year 2000. We now know that the body can grow new brain cells until the end of life. Naturally the goal should always be to grow cells faster than they die. Don't go with the notion that after mid-life it’s all downhill. The brilliance is you can enhance the process of neurogenesis - the brain thrives on a healthy diet, lots of exercise, good sleep, and proper stress management. This is all very good news. These are the topics I will be sharing with you in Part 2, 3, and 4. But now is certainly the time to jump on it. While you can improve the production of brain cells even as you age, the fact is, even how you live your life today affects the health of your brain in later years.
Today in this first newsletter the focus is stress since, when it comes to brain health, it’s as big of an influence as diet - and maybe even more….
We know stress affects our health. The strong connection between stress and immune system, for example, is not breaking news.
But what about brain health? Before we talk about how stress affects the brain, first, what is stress?
Stress….We’re talking the day to day pressures about paying the bills on time, driving to and from work, appointments, errands like to the grocery store, constant stimulation by cell phones, computers, more traffic, unpleasant news, televisions, radios, and the continuous stream of decisions facing us from the moment we wake up. These stresses add up and can negatively affect the functioning of the brain. Compare it to having too many programs open on your computer which makes it not function as well.
Unhappy relationships also fall into this category. Even movies that include themes of horror, thriller, or tragedy cause a specific kind of stress on the brain. Observing physical or emotional trauma of others (even if it's for entertainment) can negatively impact the brain since we are built to be an empathetic species. Violent video games popular with younger generations fall into this same category.
The reality is stress is something humans have always had to deal with; so we're fit to do it. But the listed stressors have accelerated, especially in the past several years. And even in the past several months due to the pandemic.
In response to stress the body naturally produces cortisol, a stress hormone which is a stimulant. Some cortisol production is not all bad. But the body's cortisol production was originally for more acute stressors. We've all heard of the 'fight or flight' concept relative to being chased by a tiger. A burst of cortisol makes everything in the body stronger and faster for a short period.
The problem, however with the day-to-day chronic stressors is this produces a 'chronic cortisol', which slowly damages the brain.
- 1) Stress produces oxidative (chemical) stress which causes the undesirable inflammation.
- 2) Cortisol production steals substrates otherwise used for oxytocin (the hugging hormone) which would otherwise improve our mood.
- 3) The amygdala is the center in the brain that handles stress. Stress demands more blood-flow to the amygdala that would otherwise go toward supporting the hippocampus which is dedicated to supporting memory.
- 4) Cortisol alters the microbiome (the foundation of your digestive health) which directly affects the health of the brain. This is demonstrated by the 'butterfly feeling' when you feel nervous. The microbiome is what produces the majority of the brain's serotonin which regulates mood. More stress equals less serotonin.
These factors are why the modern day stress can’t go unchecked. Yes, the reality is we all deal with stress. The question is how do you deal with it. Are you able to spend less time on your phone? Less time in front of the television? Less time on the road? There is always the opportunity to cut back on the things in life that don't offer us improvement.
The goal here is to cut back on stressors to be replaced with the things in life that can bring us joy, a sense of achievement, and improved relationships with friends and family.
Here are five suggestions for how to reduce stress that you can start today:
1) Right now, sit up tall, smile, take a deep breath. Do this for five minutes. Simple law of nature is you are engaging the parasympathetic nervous system. This is a direct way to always feel better - a part of the purpose to having a meditation practice, and this simple version totally counts.
2) Reflect on the fact that you being here on earth is a mind blowing phenomena, in the first place, and you have much more in your life going well than not, even though it may not always feel that way. So count ten or more things for which you have to be grateful. Daily.
3) Exercise in your backyard (need ideas? check out the Infinity blog page) or check out an online class with Yonder Yoga. They're amazing.
4) Go for a walk. Take your dog with you if you have one.
5) Share a cup of tea with a family member or friend that you admire. Or have a FaceTime with them (with tea in hand).
Bonus — Read something positive before you go to bed. Or listen to an audiobook that is oriented toward self improvement. Running positive material through your neural pathways opens up the science of neuro-plasticity which we will be addressing in Part 4! Want to know one of my favorites? 'The Power of I am' by Joel Osteen.
Now you know, there's no debating that the health of your brain largely determines the quality of your life. This considered, please share this newsletter with everyone you care about!