Prevent Spending Your Last 10 Years in a Diaper and a Wheelchair

How to Prevent Spending the Last 10 Years of Your Life in a Diaper and a Wheelchair

by Chris Kresser

Last updated on

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Everything you have ever experienced, felt, or conducted in life is due to brain function. The ability to enjoy, perceive, sense and experience live is dictated by the firing rate and health of your brain. It is impossible for a person to become healthy mentally or physiologically without a healthy brain. – Datis Kharrazian, DC, MS

Maybe this goes without saying, but I think it’s worth pointing out: our ability to enjoy life is brain-based. The capacity to taste food, appreciate and create art and music, smell a flower, feel the sun or wind on our skin, experience orgasm, and contribute to life in a meaningful way is entirely mediated by the brain.

In fact, everything we’ve ever done, are doing now or will do depends on brain function.

With that in mind, consider this. Two things in life we can be absolutely sure of are:

  1. We are all going to die.
  2. Our brains are going to degenerate before we die.

While this might seem morbid to some, it’s the simple truth. And the more you’re able to accept this truth and act accordingly, the better chance you’ll have of aging gracefully.

Aging = neurodegeneration

We associate the symptoms of neurodegeneration with normal aging. We see advertisements for Depends diapers, nursing homes, medications for Alzheimers and Parkinson’s and laxatives all around us. Expressions like “having a senior moment” are part of the vernacular, and we’re often quick to explain loss of brain or physiological function as “just getting older”.

We assume that the aches, pains and frustrating and sometimes embarrassing decline in quality of life we experience as we age is “normal”, because we see others around us going through the same changes.

But as I’ve pointed out many times, what’s common isn’t necessarily normal.

Studies that have looked only at only the healthiest elderly people find minimal cognitive decline even into the ninth decade. These data suggest that significant cognitive decline is not an inevitable consequence of advanced age.

Yet more than 4 million Americans have dementia today, and that number is projected to grow to 14 million in the next 50 years. 1 in 100 Americans over the age of 60 have full-blown Parkinson’s disease, and a greater number has “Parkionsonian-like” symptoms (early Parkinson’s).

There is no cure for dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkison’s, and they are devastating diseases. What’s more, conventional medicine is hopeless when it comes to diagnosing and treating these conditions. If you go to the doctor with early dementia signs, most will tell you to come back when your symptoms have progressed to the point that they are irreversible. By then it’s too late. You’ve lost too many neurons, and your brain is quite literally atrophied and shrunken. And there are no drugs that improve brain function.

So if you want to age well, minimize neurodegeneration and protect against common (but not normal) conditions associated with aging, you need to take matters into your own hands.

You had more brain cells the day you were born than you’ll ever have again

The first, and perhaps most important thing you need to know about the brain is that you have the most neurons (brain cells) you’ll ever have on the day you’re born. Brain tissue is post-mytotic, which means it does not regenerate. You start losing neurons from the first day of your life, and whatever neurons you lose are forever lost.

While that might sound depressing (and it is, really), it’s not the whole story. Because of a phenomenon called neurotropism, neurons have the ability to form new connections with other neurons to preserve function even in the face of declining quantity or quality of brain cells.

Let’s say neuron A is connected to neuron B which is connected to neuron C. If neuron B dies, or loses function, the connection between A & C will be interrupted. But neurotropism, also known as neuroplasticity, means that neuron A can form a new connection with neuron C without involving neuron B. This occurs through something called dendritic branching, where the threadlike extensions of a neuron reach out and form new connections with other neurons.

The short video below illustrates an example of this occurring with a single neuron over 36 hours.

httpv://youtube.com/4Vx_FzG1m5E

But there’s a limit, of course, to how much function neuroplasticity can preserve. The more brain cells you lose, the fewer neurons there will be to form connections. So while plasticity can prevent some of the loss of function we experience from neurodegeneration, it’s not magic.

3 signs that you’re losing brain cells (neurodegenerating)

The following are the 3 earliest signs of neurodegeneration.

Fatigue promoted by brain activity

Let’s say you used to be able to study for 3 hours at a time without getting tired, but now you can only go for 30 minutes before your brain turns to mush. Or maybe you get really tired after driving, or doing your taxes or performing other tasks that heavily involve your brain. This is a sign your neurons are degenerating and have lost the ability to make ATP.

Depression

In depression, the frontal cortex (the part of the brain thought to be involved with higher level thinking, planning and goal formation) is not firing well and actually atrophies. This is one reason why taking antidepressants, which increase neurotransmitter levels in the synaptic cleft but do nothing to increase the health of the brain environment, are often limited in their effect.

Poor digestive function

90 percent of the brain’s output goes into something called the pontomedullary system. The brain is constantly receiving input from receptors, and it is constantly sending outputs as well. The main output conduit is the brain stem; specifically, the parasympathetic cranial nerve nuclei and especially the vagus nerve.

The vagus nerve enervates the digestive tract and controls everything from the secretion of stomach acid and pancreatic enzymes to intestinal motility and gall bladder contraction.

If 90 percent of the brain’s output goes into the vagus area, and your brain is not firing well, you’re going to have digestive problems. (I recently recorded a podcast on the gut-brain axis with much more detail on this topic. You can find it here.)

Other symptoms of gut-brain axis dysregulation include cold hands and feet, toenail fungus that won’t heal and brain fog.

Okay. Now, guess what 3 of the main problems seniors experience are? That’s right – fatigue, depression and digestive problems. That is not a coincidence. That’s neurodegeneration.

What causes neurodegeneration?

As I said at the beginning of the article, some amount of neurodegeneration is completely unavoidable. However, the following factors are likely to kill your brain cells at a much faster rate:

  • blood sugar problems (Alzheimer’s is now referred to as “diabetes of the brain” in some circles)
  • hypoxia (reduced oxygen deliverability, often caused by poor circulation or anemias)
  • systemic inflammation (autoimmunity, leaky gut, chronic infections, food toxins, etc.)
  • hormone imbalances
  • altered methylation (leading to elevated homocysteine and atrophy of the hippocampus)
  • traumatic brain injury

Anti-aging = fix your brain

The current anti-aging movement is about botox and plastic surgery, tanning machines and hormone creams. That’s a complete joke. There’s nothing about these activities that does anything at all to slow down neurodegeneration and improve plasticity, which is the ultimate goal of any true “anti-aging” program.

You do this by following these guidelines:

  • Avoid food toxins. These include industrial seed oils, excess sugar (especially fructose), cereal grains and processed soy
  • Ensure adequate micronutrient status. Especially those nutrients involved in oxygen deliverability (B12, iron & folate)
  • Improve fatty acid balance (n-6:n-3 ratio). 60% of the brain is phospholipid, and DHA has been shown to enhance plasticity and brain function while reducing inflammation and neurodegenerative conditions.
  • Fix the gut. There’s a saying in functional medicine, “Fire in the gut = fire in the brain”. Inflammation in the gut will cause activation of the microglial cells (immune cells) of the brain.
  • Stay mentally active. Neurons need constant stimulation or they will atrophy and die. This is why elderly people that stay active and mentally engaged in something age better than those that view retirement as an opportunity to watch golf on TV for 6 hours a day.
  • Increase blood flow to the brain. Exercise is one of the best ways to do this. Acupuncture and stress management are also important.
  • Get enough sleep. Not getting enough sleep can sabotage brain health in just about every conceivable way.

Finally, there are certain nutrients and botanicals that have been shown to protect against neurodeneration, prevent and even reverse neuroinflammation and preserve brain function. In fact, nutritional medicine really shines in this area.

If you look in the scientific literature, you’ll see that almost all of the treatments being studied are either micronutrients or botanicals. That’s because there are no drugs that actually improve the health of the brain environment like natural therapies can.

These include:

  • DHA (as mentioned above)
  • Huperzine A. Has been shown to increase acetyl-choline activity, activate eNOS and nNOS systems (increasing blood flow to the brain) and suppress iNOS (which causes tissue damage).
  • Vinpocetine. Also increases blood flow to peripheral tissues, including the brain.
  • Gingko Biloba. Increases blood flow to the brain and promotes healthy brain function via multiple mechanisms.
  • Polyphenols like apigenin, luteolin, baicalin, rutin, catechin and tumeric. Shown to reduce microglial activation and inflammation, which protect the neurons against degeneration.

Please don’t go out and buy a shopping bag full of these and start taking them all. The key is to identify the underlying mechanism and address that. Is it gut inflammation? Is it micronutrient deficiency? Is it blood sugar dysregulation? You’ll make far more progress correcting those problems than you will taking a bunch of supplements.

That said, the supplements and botanicals can provide additional support and therapeutic effect, especially when the problem is advanced or recalcitrant.

A healthy brain is the key to aging well

The next time someone says they’re having a senior moment, you’ll know what that really means: their brain is neurodegenerating. If you don’t want to be “that guy”, start following the guidelines above if you’re not already. You’ve only got one brain, you’re not making any more neurons, and your capacity to enjoy life and be productive is entirely dependent upon your brain health.

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  1. I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in my mid to late 40’s. I had hand tremors for several years. Gradually became worse. I then noticed when I was tired the tremors were worse. I started falling for no apparent reason. I now have stiffness in my legs and need to walk with 2 canes or a walker. I am very slow getting around. I am now 52 years old. I am forgetful at times and have difficulty expressing myself. I have difficulty swallowing at times. I become tired easily, I also become quite dizzy when performing any athletic function (jogging). I was on Levodopa/Carbidopa, 100/25. nothing was really working to help my condition. Finally i started on parkinson’s natural herbal formula i ordered from MED LAB TEC, i read alot of great reviews from other patients who used the parkinson’s herbal treatment. My symptoms totally declined over a 4-5 weeks use of the Health herbal clinic Parkinsons disease natural herbal formula. , its effects on parkinson’s is amazing, all My symptoms gradually faded away, I have been active and hope to continue! or email at ere unbelievably reversed, herbs are truly gift from God. contact this herbal clinic via their email;medlabtec(AT)mail(DOT)com) I recommend this Parkinson’s herbal formula for all Parkinson’s Patients. and other similar sickness HPB,ALS Hepatitis Virus etc ;never stop trying .

  2. PARKINSONS DISEASE
    My husband was diagnosed of Parkinsons disease nearly 7 years ago, when he was 49. He had a stooped posture, tremors, right arm does not move and also a pulsating feeling in his body. He was placed on Senemet for 8 months and then Siferol was introduced and replaced the Senemet, during this time span he was also diagnosed with dementia. He started having hallucinations, lost touch with reality. Suspecting it was the medication I took him off the Siferol (with the doctor’s knowledge) and started him on PD natural herbal formula we ordered from NEWLIFE HERBAL CLINIC, his symptoms totally declined over a 3-4 weeks use of the Newlife Parkinsons disease natural herbal formula. He is now almost 57 and doing very well, the disease is totally reversed! (Visit their website www . newlifeherbalclinic . com)

  3. I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 3 year ago at the age of 69. For several months I had noticed tremors in my right hand and the shaking of my right foot when sitting, as the disease progressed i totally lost balance. Neurologist had me walk down the hall and said I didn’t swing my right arm. I had never noticed! I was in denial for a while as there is no history in my family. I used amantadine, Carbidopa/levodopa and physical therapy to strenghten muscles all failed. In 2016 a friend suggested Newife Heral Clinic who have successful heral treatment for Parkinson’s disease, i contacted the heral clinic via their website and purchased the Parkinson’s disease herbal supplement, i used the herbs for 7 weeks and my symptoms were reveresed. Its been 6 months no sign of parkinson’s disease, contact this herbal clinic via their email (newlifeherbal @ gmail. com) or visit their website (www. newlifeherbalclinic. weebly. com)

  4. Make sure you get enough cholesterol. I also believe mycoplasmas contribute to Alzheimer’s because they consume cholesterol. They get it from the glial cells. High LDL levels indicate an infection. I bet if they checked Alzheimer’s patients cholesterol they will have high LDL levels.

  5. Smoke marijuana. It repairs the myelin sheath and I’ve heard that as a result, it can heal the brain and prevent further degeneration. I would recommend a healthy diet like Paleo. Get off of all grains, legumes and dairy.

  6. Some of the natural ingredients that helps to control ageing and signs of aging are Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Aloe Vera, Beta Carotene, Salicylic Acid, Tea Tree Oil all this ingredients are present in Skinception AntiAgeing Products which helps you to reduces wrinkles that start developing on your skin and the cells start to loosen up and their strength to remain taut decrease. This product gives firmness and strengthens the cells of the skin. Moreover it tightens the skin and even removes the dark circles.

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  7. Agree with you!
    I suffered a very severe Traumatic Brain Injury (1988). Like you outline, I focussed and was mentally active. Through this my abilities returned slowly -but noticeably! (it has been a long haul, but I now thing other fellow TBI survivors (esp under the age of 50) ought to be aware of this.
    I also benefited my abilities –> reintegration through boosting Blood flow. Especially, through Ginkgo biloba and Zinc!

  8. I wonder about the supplements to stop brain atrophy.
    What do you think of “Huperzine A”? Any other advice?

  9. Does Mr. Kresser really mean “enervates” or am I missing something? Just wondering.

    The vagus nerve enervates the digestive tract and controls everything from the secretion of stomach acid and pancreatic enzymes to intestinal motility and gall bladder contraction.

    en·er·vate
    [v. en-er-veyt; adj. ih-nur-vit]
    verb (used with object), en·er·vat·ed, en·er·vat·ing.
    1.
    to deprive of force or strength; destroy the vigor of; weaken. Synonyms: enfeeble, debilitate, sap, exhaust.
    adjective
    2.
    enervated.
    Origin:
    1595–1605; < Latin ēnervātus weakened (past participle of ēnervāre )

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