Tag Archives: Brain

BRAIN HEALTH: “DEMENTIA” – SYMPTOMS AND CONDITIONS

We ARE our brains. Reduce the function of any other organ, and we may be sick, but reduce the function of the brain, and WE have changed.

PROGRESSIVE LOSS of brain function is called DEMENTIA. A sudden, temporary (if the cause can be found) is called Delirium. A variety of bad things can cause dementia, such as infections (AIDS), toxins (lead, mercury), chemicals (alcohol), traumatic (CTE from football), diet deficiencies (B12, folic acid), Endocrine deficiencies (thyroid),Psychiatric problems (depression), drugs, and Vascular problems.

The Preceding article on dementia discussed APATHY, as opposed to the somewhat similar DEPRESSION, as a warning sign for SVD, or small blood-vessel disease. SVD is the most common VASCULAR cause of Dementia.

The most common overall cause of Dementia, especially in old age, is ALZHEIMER’S disease (AD). “Senior Moments” are so common as to be a cliche. But this problem is not limited to old age. My 3-year-old Grandson came crying to me that he lost his favorite toy. “Where was it when you last saw it”?, I asked. “It was in my hand” he answered.

He had laid it somewhere, unthinkingly. You can’t remember something unless you ENCODE it. You must be paying attention to, be “mindful” of an action if you are to remember that action.. You will not remember where you put your glasses if you wander around in “default mode”, daydreaming, preoccupied. Everybody occasionally forgets a name, or item which hangs on “the end of my tongue”.

These things, especially “short term memory” do DETERIORATE AS WE GET OLDER. It is common to wonder if we, or a loved one. are getting Alzheimer’s disease, as our mental powers wane.It is often difficult to distinguish the normal forgetfulness of age from DEMENTIA, including Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) It might be a source of REASSURANCE to realize that if you are worried about getting AD YOURSELF, you almost certainly don’t have it; It takes a lot of mental functioning to contemplate that possibility.

Most often, you will be wondering about the possibility in a loved one having AD. There are 2 ideas that I ran across in my reading that might help you do a little evaluation Yourself.

BCGuidelines.ca has a 21 item questionnaire that you can score yourself. 4 points or less is considered normal, so common is forgetfulness. 5-14 points suggests mild cognitive impairment. 15 or more points suggests Dementia, of which AD is the most common type.

The test I really liked was the “Clock Test”. In this test, you draw a large circle. You then ask your loved one to draw a clock, with all the numbers and hands that will indicate 10 minutes after 11. If it is drawn correctly, you can with reasonable certainty EXCLUDE Dementia.

If incorrect, further tests are warranted. I consulted with a Neurologist regarding a friend of mine who has marked memory loss, but is very sweet, is physically capable, takes care of herself personally, doesn’t wander around, has no apparent anxiety, depression or other psychological problems.

I asked if it was reasonable to just watch without any medical intervention. The neurologist said that she should have a blood test, a metabolic panel, TSH (thyroid), LFTs, folic acid and B12 tests, and a CT to rule out NPH (normal pressure hydrocephalus). It is rare to find anything treatable, but a shame to neglect it if present.

If you do see a doctor about a Spouse or Parent with possible dementia, you might request that they discuss the possibilities with you, but ask them not to write the diagnosis of “Alzheimer’s “ in the chart. Private Assisted Living Homes CHARGE A LOT MORE for that Diagnosis– locked facilities, more personnel and the like. BDNF- brain derived neurotrophic factor- can fend off Dementia.

That is the good news. The bad news is that it takes effort and discipline to increase your level od BDNF.; I’m sure medical science is hot on the trail of a pill. But until then, our old friends, Sleep, Diet and Exercise ride to the rescue. Sleep, both N3 and REM stages, increases BDNF. Dietary polyphenols and butyrate increase BDNF. exercise of all kinds will do it.

The BDNF gene codes for the BDNF protein, which promotes the survival, expansion, and differentiation of Neuronal stem cells, and promotes neuronal PLASTICITY, neuronal response to experience. Grit your teeth and develop the HABIT of exposing your Postmodern Body to 3 of the most ICONIC and NATURAL things mandated by Evolution, Treat your Body to the Health-giving Benefits of SLEEP, DIET and EXERCISE!

–Dr. C

COGNITION & BRAIN STUDIES: APATHY, NOT DEPRESSION, ASSOCIATED WITH DEMENTIA

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We tested the hypothesis that apathy, but not depression, is associated with dementia in patients with SVD. We found that higher baseline apathy, as well as increasing apathy over time, were associated with an increased dementia risk. In contrast, neither baseline depression or change in depression was associated with dementia. The relationship between apathy and dementia remained after controlling for other well-established risk factors including age, education and cognition. Finally, adding apathy to models predicting dementia improved model fit. These results suggest that apathy may be a prodromal symptom of dementia in patients with SVD.

Cerebral small vessel disease (SVD) is the leading vascular cause of dementia and plays a major role in cognitive decline and mortality.1 2 SVD affects the small vessels of the brain, leading to damage in the subcortical grey and white matter.1 The resulting clinical presentation includes cognitive and neuropsychiatric symptoms.1

Apathy is a reduction in goal-directed behaviour, which is a common neuropsychiatric symptom in SVD.3 Importantly, apathy is dissociable from depression,3 4 another symptom in SVD for which low mood is a predominant manifestation.5 Although there is some symptomatic overlap between the two,6 research using diffusion imaging reported that apathy, but not depression, was associated with white matter network damage in SVD.3 Many of the white matter pathways underlying apathy overlap with those related to cognitive impairment, and accordingly apathy, rather than depression, has been associated with cognitive deficits in SVD.7 These results suggest that apathy and cognitive impairment are symptomatic of prodromal dementia in SVD.

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PREVENTION: THE HEALTH AND HEALING BENEFITS OF PROPER BREATHING

From a Wall Street Journal article (May 21, 2020):

Breathing properly can allow us to live longer and healthier lives. Breathing poorly, by contrast, can exacerbate and sometimes cause a laundry list of chronic diseases: asthma, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, hypertension and more. Poor breathing habits can even change the physical structure of our skeletons, depleting essential minerals and weakening our bones.

Most of us misunderstand breathing. We see it as passive, something that we just do. Breathe, live; stop breathing, die. But breathing is not that simple and binary. How we breathe matters, too.

Last year, I wanted to see just how dramatically breathing habits—good and bad ones—could affect my own brain and body. I’d learned that up to 50% of us are chronic mouth breathers, a problem well described by an ancient Tao text: “The breath inhaled through the mouth is called ‘Ni Ch’i, adverse breath,’ which is extremely harmful.”

Scientists have known for decades that inhaling through this pathway saps the body of moisture, irritates the lungs and loosens the soft tissues at the back of the mouth. Mouth breathing has also been linked with neurological disorders, periodontal disease and increased risk of respiratory infection. But nobody knew how quickly this damage came on.

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COMMENTARY

Breathing is something we don’t think about. It comfortably transcends the merely habitual, and there is a complex of controllers in the brain to Drive breathing should we be unable or forget to breathe voluntarily.
Breathing has it’s own poets and cults, one of which is MINDFULNESS MEDITATION, which uses our BREATHING as the focus of our consciousness, to get us outside ourselves.

With DEEP breathing,  I noticed an INCREASED pO2, as registered on my Pulse Oximeter.

In the 1960’s asthma was not so well controlled as now. The mechanics of breathing were more important, so we taught our Patients how to breathe properly.

There are 2 sets of muscles we use to EXPAND our lungs, the DIAPHRAGM at the bottom of the chest, and the chest muscles themselves, the INTERCOSTALS. We refer to diaphragmatic breathing as “stomach” breathing, because the stomach bulges out as the descending diaphragm compresses the abdominal contents.

We refer to intercostal breathing as “chest” breathing because the chest expands when the inspiratory intercostals contract.

Diaphragmatic breathing is more efficient, and we encourage our asthmatic patients to Use their more efficient diaphragm to prevent them from tiring as they struggle to get their air out through their narrated airways.

You can squeeze a little extra air out of your lungs by contracting your abdominal muscles.

So to take a DEEP BREATH, see that your stomach rises and your chest expands with the breath IN, and that you squeeze both your abdomen and your chest with the breath out.

Your AIR SACS expand, your lungs are flushed with fresh air, and you blood oxygen, and BRAIN OXYGEN INCREASES with a deep breath in. The “stale air” is cleared by a full breath out.

When you are quietly breathing, letting that vital process take place automatically, notice that a deep breath, or “sigh”, occurs about once every 2 minutes. This is nature’s way to help lung surfactant PREVENT LUNG COLLAPSE and PNEUMONIA.

It is HEALTHFUL to PAY ATTENTION to your BREATHING occasionally! If uninclined to breathe deeply yourself, take a brisk walk up a hill, and let Nature do it for you.

—Dr. C.