Last week, I posted a blog about Bruce Willis’ FTD issue. Today, I want to share what exactly can cause the prefrontal cortex and temporal lobes to malfunction or completely go offline.
There is mnemonic I use called Bright Minds, B R I G H T M I N D S, where each letter stands for a risk factor to brain health and can lead to cognitive decline. It will help you remember these as you look to make adjustments in your life to ensure a better quality of life as you age.
B stands for blood flow.
R stands for retirement and aging.
I stands for inflammation
G stands for genetics and family history.
H stands for head trauma.
T stands for toxins.
M stands for mental health issues.
I stands for immunity and infection.
N stands for neurohormone deficiencies.
D stands for diabetes, and
S stands for sleep issues.
So let’s go through these to really dive deep and if you’re interested in doing the assessment yourself to find out your specific risk and working with me to improve your cognitive health, you can book a call here.
Let’s talk about blood flow. If you have any of the following conditions – cardiovascular disease, history of heart problems, high blood pressure, lack of exercise – they’re all risk factors to impaired cognitive health as we age. When working with my clients, I grade them on these risk factors so we can see what their health risk and work towards improving overall health and well being.
R is for retirement and aging. If you’re 65 to 84, there’s an increased risk. However, those 85 and older have an even higher risk.
But we all know everyone’s story is different–take Chef Babette for example. I met her in L.A. and learned even more about her journey on a recent Rich Roll podcast. She had experienced a lot of hardship, including struggles with drugs–which can obviously affect the brain. But despite it all, she made so many changes in her life. Will those drugs affect her cognition even though she has made some major positive lifestyle changes? I don’t know. No one knows.
We can only do what we can do. We’re all aiming to do our best!
The body is always regenerating itself. We have this thing called apoptosis where cells are dying off, new cells are coming online. So every time you make a good decision with the foods that you’re making and positive lifestyle changes, you’re helping your body at the same time.
We can only control the controls. Then there are things that are out of our control, so we just kind of have to do the best we can and keep moving forward.
Also in retirement and aging, watching too much tv, like more than two hours a day is a risk. I think honestly, this has to do with the fact that we are basically vegging out when we watch TV. Not much brain connections being made in that activity. Also, we’re sitting down. We’re not moving. So, if you’re doing excessive amounts of sitting, obviously there’s no or limited blood flow to the brain. And our bodies were not made to sit for long periods of time anyway. We are already living sedentary lives so excessive tv watching can affect that in just adding more sitting time.
Another risk factor is if you’re in a job that doesn’t require new learning or you’re retired without new learning endeavors, which is why I really encourage folks who are retired to start a business venture, volunteer, do things in the community. Don’t stop living your life. Still continue to have purpose, learn, grow, expand, and do things because that’s only going to help keep you living longer and thriving in your retirement years.
Loneliness and social isolation can be big risk factors, but the good news is that it’s easy to stay connected! Reach out to your church, family, and friends. Just keep doing the things you enjoy and engage in social activities.
Inflammation is a risk factor, like if you have periodontal gum disease. Low omega-3 fatty acid intake are common, since a lot of people’s diets lack the foods that contain them.
It’s essential to remain aware of the risk factors affecting our brain health – it’s running our entire body around the clock! It’s always active, even when we’re asleep; there are processes that are still happening.
Let’s talk genetics and family history, which can be a risk factor for cognitive impairment. If a family member has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, it more than doubles your risk. Additionally, if you have the APOE4 genes it increases your risk factor. So you can see how important it is to take preventative measures!
Head trauma is pretty self explanatory but what many people don’t realize is that the brain is as soft as hard butter or tofu and it sits in a skull that has bony ridges as sharp as knives. Being in a car crash with a whiplash can cause damage. Falling from a tree or playing ball with your head like football and soccer players do are all dangerous for our brains.
There’s also a risk factor if you’ve lost your sense of smell, which I know some people said they’ve had this experience with COVID.
T for toxins includes smoking cigarettes for 10 years or longer, either currently or in the past, alcohol or drug dependency, a history of radiation for head and neck cancers, chemotherapy for breast cancer or colorectal cancer. If you’ve had chronic exposure to heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, mercury, arsenic, or aluminum, you’ve had chronic mold exposure, all of these can hurt the brain.
M for mental health issues includes a history of PTSD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, chronic stress – all of these hurt the brain.
Immunity and infection issues are also a risk factor. If you have autoimmune issues such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Crohn’s disease, severe psoriasis, adult asthma, or chronic Lyme disease or other infectious diseases that aren’t fully treated that increases your risk.
Neurohormone deficiencies means you’re low in thyroid, estrogen in females or testosterone in males and females. It also includes hysterectomy without estrogen replacement.
If you have a history of prostate cancer with testosterone lowering treatment that also can be a risk factor for the brain.
Diabetes gets it’s own category of hurt on the brain. If you’ve had a history or currently have pre-diabetes or diabetes, a fasting blood sugar of over a hundred milligrams per dl, or overweight or obese in your middle age.
S for sleep issues – if you have chronic insomnia or you’re dealing with sleep apnea.
So those are all risk factors that can damage your prefrontal cortex and temporal lobes. Once you know your risks, you’ll know how to move forward.
It’s a good idea to work with a professional, such as myself or another brain health expert, licensed trainer, or health coach to help you address these issues. That way you can work on improving your quality of life as you age. You can heal your brain. There are steps we can take before damage is too far gone.
If you want more information, I have a checklist here on how to diversify your gut microbiome. Having a healthy gut microbiome is essential for both your body and your mind, as it affects your mood and overall quality of life. The gut is ground zero for the health of the entire body.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this blog and the checklist. Share with me in the comments below how these resources are helping you and where you need support.