Anti-Aging for the Brain

Posted on June 20th, 2013 by in Healthy Living, Medical Insights

We’re a nation fixated on youth—perhaps because our country isn’t even a quarter of a century old yet. Our anti-aging obsession has morphed into a multibillion dollar industry replete with cosmetics, creams, pills, work-out regimens, injections, and surgical procedures aimed at helping us look as youthful as possible.

I’m not immune to the pressure. I live in Los Angeles, after all. I inspect my skin in the mirror and wonder if I should do something about the sunspots appearing on my cheeks or the lines that are ever so slightly beginning to form around my mouth.  But for now, all I’m really doing is coloring my gray.

I suspect I’m less obsessed with my outer shell than many, but I do have concerns about my health and well-being as I age. Like just about everyone, I want to remain vibrant in my later years. Sure, I want my body to work, but I also want my mind to work. And I’m not just referring to the ability to recall names and places with ease or facility with learning a new language. What I mean is that I want to remain flexible, adaptable. I don’t want to be so stuck in my ways when I’m 75 that I can’t imagine new possibilities, that I don’t explore new opportunities.

According to Dr. Mark Pettus, what I desire is absolutely possible because our ability to grow new brain cells doesn’t die with the advent of crow’s feet and silver locks. Our ability to grow new brain cells is alive as long as we are. But just as we can’t neglect our bodies and expect them to run well in our later years, we can’t neglect our brains, either. They need nourishment, too.

Dr. Pettus offers some handy tips to keep our brain cells in regeneration mode even as we approach the century mark ourselves:

  • Get Moving: Exercise ensures that neurons stay lively and facilitates the birth of new brain cells.
  • Eat Less: Restricting calories while still obtaining an optimal amount of nutrients increases the number of functional brain cells.
  • Spice It Up: Curcumin, a key component of the Indian spice turmeric, has been shown to protect and regenerate brain cells after a stroke. Even if you haven’t suffered a stroke, curcumin can stimulate neural plasticity and repair.
  • Cultivate Meaning: When you’re engaged in relationships and activities that bring love and meaning into your life, your levels of oxytocin increase.  People under the influence of oxytocin, known as the love hormone, have shorter stress responses, which is good news because brain cell production is squelched during extreme stress.
  • Challenge Your Perceptions: If you want your brain cells to keep growing, you have to keep growing. Admit that you don’t know it all and try something new. If you’ve always believed that this is the way to behave, to work, to think, be willing to entertain an approach you haven’t tried before. It’ll keep you young!

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About Portland Helmich

Portland is the creator, host, and producer of the Kripalu Perspectives podcast series. She's also is the creator, host, and executive producer of What’s the Alternative?, a series of 52 half-hour talk shows about natural and alternative forms of healing the body-mind on Veria Living TV, a natural health channel on DISH, FiOS, and Frontier. For 15 years, Portland’s been investigating natural health and healing as a host, reporter, writer, and producer. She's been an alternative medicine correspondent for Oxygen, a health reporter for The American Consumer on PBS, and was the creator, host, and executive producer of Journeys Into Healing on Wisdom Television. She produced for HealthWeek and Healing Quest on PBS and was a medical producer for WCVB-TV (Boston’s ABC News affiliate). She’s also covered the subject as a freelance writer for Body + Soul, Alternative Medicine, and Spa magazines. Portland currently lives in Boston and produces other natural health programming for Veria Living TV.