Posted by Ramneek S. Bhogal, DC, DABCI on Aug 20, 2020 1:53:28 PM
The human brain is a massive series of conduits that transmit signals from the tips of your toes to the top of your head, and all of the inner workings in-between.
We need two things in abundance for basic brain health: oxygen and sugar (or ketones). So, like many things in this world, our brains need O2 and fuel to function. We want out our neurons to be charged up and firing effectively so they can adequately transmit information throughout the body.
But how do we gauge deterioration or impairment?
Telomere length is a significant factor that we use as a biomarker of aging. Obstructed signal paths are another sign, such as amyloid plaque (beta-amyloid protein build-up) neuro-entanglement. But perhaps the first most significant thing to look at with regards to brain function is cell structure itself.
Much of the brain is made of healthy fats and many of its neurons are covered in a protective, fatty, glycolipid sheath called myelin. Think of it like insulated wires versus bare wires; each of our neurons is either myelinated or unmyelinated.
A Self-Guided Brain Health Assessment
Full disclosure —this exercise is intended as a non-clinical self brain health assessment so you can identify some of the standard markers associated with natural cognitive decline and reflect on whether you should see a functional medicine doctor regarding your brain health.
One of the first questions a physician will ask is, what is the integrity of the myelin sheath around the cell and the integrity of the cell itself?
Although everyone’s baseline for natural, age-related atrophy is slightly different, we can make an educated guess as to the overall integrity of these vital neurotransmitters based on some basic lifestyle choices:
Smoking, drinking, and poor lifestyle choices are associated with a higher risk of accelerated neurocognitive decline and mild neurocognitive impairment. Long-term elevated cortisol levels (stress) will contribute to neuro-structure breakdowns as well, like myelin. So we can reflect on our lifestyle and emotional state, and ask ourselves some specific questions to estimate some generalities about our overall brain health and function.
Everyone is different. So, the more abstract questions should be looked at using your ‘peak self’ as a baseline. For example, some people inherently have a better memory than others. Instead of answering the questions by comparing yourself to others or what you think the societal average might be, formulate your answers by comparing the you right now against the you of five or ten years ago – depending on your current age and when you feel like you were in your mental prime.
Section 1 | Lifestyle:
Tally the number of ‘yes’ answers.
Section 2 | Abstract:
Give a 1 to 10 rating as compared to how you’ve felt in the past:
1 or 2 = never or almost never
3 or 4 = not often or a little
5 or 6 = sometimes
7 or 8, = often or quite frequently
9 or 10 = usually or always
Tally up the sum of the points for all answers (min. 15, max 150) for your score.
If you answered ‘yes’ to five or fewer questions in Section 1, congratulations are in order. Your lifestyle choices are pretty good. If you answered yes to just three or fewer, you’re actively helping to maintain your brain health and overall well-being in general.*
If you answered yes to more than five questions, some simple lifestyle adjustments will help to get you on track to reducing your risk of accelerated neurocognitive decline.*
If you scored around 75 or under in Section 2, your cognitive function and rate of normal age-related decline are probably within ‘normal’ parameters.* If you scored significantly higher than 75, it might be a good idea to visit your functional medical practitioner to talk about your overall well-being.
This self-guided brain health assessment is not a test and is not intended to be a clinical examination of your brain health, but rather a way to reflect on your lifestyle and feelings in a quantitative manner to make you more self-aware of any potential for accelerated decline.
Eating a well-balanced diet that avoids processed foods and excess sugar as much as possible, along with sufficient rest, exercise, and taking measures to limit emotional stress is the easiest way to ensure that your cognitive function stays at optimal levels for as long as possible.
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