Diet, weight control, exercise are keys to healthy living

February 22, 2013

Dr. Norman Brown

By Dr. Norman K. Brown
UTU Medical Consultant

We have known for a long time that inadequate oxygen from poor heart or lung function, or poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide carried from breathing into our lungs, can injure our brains.

Recent studies of women exposed to second hand smoke showed statistical increases in dementia over time as compared to unexposed women. Similarly, particulate air pollution exposure appears to increase the chance of dementia in later years.

People with periodontal gum disease have a higher incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. However, brushing your teeth and seeing your dentist for a cleaning regularly will help greatly to prevent gum disease.

Recently, it has been found that two major components of our so-called Western diet, namely saturated fatty foods – think French fries – and simple carbohydrates such as sugar in soda pop, can alter brain cell function.

Most interestingly, it is theorized that one result of this impaired hippocampus is a tendency to overeat, leading to a vicious cycle of ongoing weight gain.

Although it seems paradoxical, our brains depend upon sugar for all their energy; yet, sugar surges in the blood stream from high sugar foods can apparently be difficult for the brain. Our brains need a steady, continuous flow of the sugar glucose from our blood, such as from complex carbohydrates like starch in fruits and vegetables, but jolts such as after drinking soda may be not so good.

There is some consensus that the following food items may help our brains to function better longer:

• Complex sugars (e.g., vegetables, fruits) that are embedded with fiber so the payout of sugar to our bloodstreams is slow and steady.

• Antioxidant-containing foods: berries, especially blueberries, spinach, and tomatoes.

• Omega 3 containing fish, especially salmon, flax seed oil, cod liver oil, or fish oil pills.

• Bananas for potassium.

• Avocados and nuts, raw or dry roasted, which contain unsaturated fat.

Please also think about some of the conditions in your family such as diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, for which a double effort to prevent these conditions will in turn benefit your general health, including your brain.

I believe in the concept that in future years there will be more tests available to detect a genetic tendency a toward particular condition and, furthermore, that there will be some biochemical interventions to help certain patterns.

But before that time, please work on the basics: good diet, weight control, supplements and exercise, which we know are good for all of us.