We’re back with Pharmacist and Natural Wellness Expert Gina Ruffa and this week, we are examining the aging brain. As Gina noted upon beginning this conversation, Alzheimer’s and dementia are the fastest growing 21st century epidemics in the western world, with 6.5 million people in the United States currently diagnosed.
Recently, groundbreaking research has shown CBD has the potential to reduce dementia risk by inducing a brain-cleaning process known as autophagy. So, what does this mean for at-risk groups, and what other lifestyle changes can we pair with CBD to help us preserve our brain health long-term? Gina fills us in.
Farmulated: The term “anti-aging” has become closely associated with physical appearance, however, one of the most troublesome components of aging is dementia, which approximately 14 percent of older Americans will experience. Why do you think brain health tends to get put on the backburner?Gina: Because, number one, it isn’t anything we see instantly. Hair color, skin texture and muscular strength diminish and wrinkles become very apparent but dementia has a gradual, insidious onset at least 20 to 30 years before symptoms begin to show. So, it creeps up on us silently as our cognitive function gradually declines.
A study published by the journal Lancet Neurology showed excessive hippocampal activation, reduced gray matter and toxic beta-amyloid plaque buildup were all found in study participants genetically at risk of early-onset Alzheimer’s by their late 20s.
What are some of the potential causes of declining brain health?
Everything weakens and becomes more delicate as we age, putting us at greater risk for disease, but there are so many other potential factors.
- Environmental toxins, which can enter through the vagus nerve and get into the brain, causing damage.
- Chronic inflammation, which can cause blood-brain barrier (BBB) leakiness similar to a “leaky” gut.
- CRAP diets (Carbonated beverages, Refined foods, Artificial and Processed foods) that contain high amounts of sugar and chemicals as well as trans fats clog our arteries and trigger inflammation. Because of this, dementia is often called “glaucoma of the brain.”
- Chronic stress, which shrinks the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and, in turn, shrinks the hippocampus part of our brain. This is also referred to as “white matter disease” of the central brain.
- Insulin resistance doubles our risk of Alzheimer’s. In fact, 6-7 percent of cases are attributed to insulin resistance, which is sometimes referred to as “type 3 diabetes.”
- Lack of sleep, as adequate sleep plays a significant role in clearing “bad” cells and optimizing our health.
- Lack of exercise, as exercise is essential to our BDNF and overall cognitive abilities.
With that being said, what can we do to be more proactive about dementia and Alzheimer’s prevention?
On a very basic level, when you retire, you need to develop hobbies, take exercise classes and keep your brain active; otherwise, you can go downhill really quickly. On a more comprehensive level, we know that many chronic diseases are up to 95 percent preventable via specific lifestyle modifications.
Here are some steps you can take for optimal brain health and dementia prevention:
- Induce autophagy via intermittent fasting, which decreases the neuroinflammation of the brain.
- Increase your BDNF via strength training. Weights are for everyone!
- Get adequate sleep. 7-8 hours per night is not just a recommendation, but an absolute requirement for optimal brain health.
- Reduce stress. Try meditation, yoga or anything that centers you.
- Train your brain. Working on crossword puzzles, learning a foreign language or playing a musical instrument all increase neuronal pathways and connections in your brain.
- Take herbs and supplements, including CBD, to support your overall health and brain health.
Speaking of CBD, let’s touch on the study we’re most excited about. Research published last month shows CBD has the potential to reduce dementia risk by promoting autophagic degradation. Can you describe the process of autophagy to us?
Autophagy is a cellular cleaning process similar to a vacuum cleaner that goes around and “suctions” up all the bad cells. It’s associated with longevity because it regenerates new, healthy cells. CBD showing the potential to induce autophagy is a huge win.
We would have to agree! How do you see this new study impacting the public?
More research and studies will need to be conducted, but there is so much promise in the over 100 cannabinoids within the cannabis plant to help reverse memory loss and improve neuronal connections!
Perhaps we could start with our aging population already impacted. Maybe CBD could mitigate some of the more troubling side effects of memory loss? There is really so much untapped potential.
And we can’t wait to see what’s to come as more research is published! We already know CBD can help with so many aspects of health maintenance, but the ability to reduce declining brain functioning is exciting news for the billions of people impacted by Alzheimer’s and dementia.
As always, thank you for your helpful insight, Gina!
If you want to learn more about Pharmacist and Natural Wellness Expert Gina Ruffa, visit her website at what-supp.org.