Things That Can Destroy Brain’s Performance And Health
Why is your brain on a downward spiral? Why can’t your brain keep functioning like it did at its peak when you could soak up new information like a sponge, recall facts in nanoseconds, and stay alert for hours on end? Of course there are brain health tips that you can always use but Why are you spending half the day hunting down your glasses or the car keys? There are forces at work within your brain that, if left to their own devices, will ultimately destroy it. And everything that you do in your life, from your sleep habits, to the medication that you take, to what you put on your plate, can either halt this process or fast-forward it.
What is this insidious process that is targeting your brain?
The same forces that are aging your body are aging your brain, only they hit your brain earlier and harder. These culprits are at the core of virtually all brain problems, from mild memory issues to brain fog to severe Alzheimer’s disease. They are: (1) the proliferation in the brain of destructive chemicals called free radicals, and (2) the decline in the ability of brain cells to make energy. As I will show, these factors are closely related to each other, and their effects on brain function are profound.
Your brain is a hotbed of activity—literally. It is the most metabolically active organ of the body. It uses 20 percent of the oxygen you consume to make the energy to fuel all of its activities. Energy is made in the specialized parts of the cell called the mitochondria. There is a price to pay for making all of this energy. Every time a cell makes energy—any cell, in any part of the body—it also produces toxic substances called free radicals. Think of it as cellular pollution. Free radicals are unstable; they don’t keep to themselves, and they like to bond with other molecules in healthy cells. When they do, they release energy, or “heat,” that can damage surrounding tissues and organs, such as the heart, joints, and skin. This process is called oxidation. Given the choice, free radicals would rather bond with fat cells than with any other kind of cell. This is a problem because our brain and nerve cells are made mostly out of fat— particularly the cell membrane, the protective covering of the cell. The cell membrane is the most important part of the brain cell because it is where most of the brain’s work is done. Every time you learn something new, think, create, or speak, it involves brain cell membranes.Over time, unless arrested, free radicals can destroy substantial amounts of brain and nerve tissue through this process of oxidation.
If free radicals are allowed to run amok, they can cause another major headache for the brain: they interfere with its ability to make energy.They target particular fat-rich parts of the cell membrane, the mitochondria, the energy-producing centers of the cell. Think of them as the cell’s power plants. When the mitochondria of your brain cells are injured, they become less efficient, produce less energy, and increase free radical production. You fatigue more easily, you can’t concentrate as well as you used to, and you are more vulnerable to the damaging effects of stress.
A brain that is sharp and on the ball is a brain in which brain cells can communicate easily with each other. When you ask “Where did I put the keys?” you want your brain to respond instantaneously. Once again, free radicals clog up this vital process. Your brain cells talk to each other by releasing chemicals called neurotransmitters. They are the oil that keeps your brain running smoothly, and some are involved in particular functions. For example, one neurotransmitter called acetylcholine is involved in memory and learning.Another neurotransmitter, dopamine, is involved in balance and physical movement. Yet another neurotransmitter, serotonin, regulates mood and appetite. The right levels of neurotransmitters are critical for a well-functioning brain. Free radicals can inhibit the brain’s ability to produce neurotransmitters, which will have a profound impact on memory, learning, mood, and even balance and hand-eye coordination.
Free radicals pose another potentially deadly problem for the brain—they promote inflammation. High levels of free radicals spark a defensive response by the immune system, which sends out cells to attack what it sees as “invaders.” This creates even more free radicals, and more injured cells, less energy for your brain, and more inflammation! Like a fire out of control, inflammation can spread throughout your body. In recent years, inflammation has been linked to nearly all chronic brain diseases, including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease,multiple sclerosis, and dementia.
So what do free radicals have to do with misplacing your keys? Everything! The cells in the hippocampus, the memory center of the brain, are especially vulnerable to free radical attack. That’s why memory loss or, more precisely, the inability to retrieve information on demand is one of the first signs of brain aging. What do free radicals have to do with your ability to learn new tasks, or grasp new ideas or concepts? Everything! Damaged brain cells do not learn or store information as efficiently as healthy brain cells. The demands on one’s brain don’t decline, but the capacity of one’s brain to cope with the demands does decline. Mental activities that once came easily, such as remembering names and dates, finding the right word, or processing new information, become progressively harder.
Sources And Citations:
1. Better Brain Book By David Perlmutter