Forget Me Not Pt. 2: Mental Stimulation and Food for Thought

May 16th, 2016

 


 

 

 

“You should pray for a healthy mind in a healthy body…what I commend to you, you can give to yourself.”
– from Satire X of the Roman poet Juvenal

 

 

 

Remembering last week…

 

 

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In part one of this short series on dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) (click here if you missed it) we saw that AD is classified as a form of diabetes (type 3) and how the dramatic rise in sugar consumption affects brain functioning and health in general. We also looked at the mechanism of stress and its effect on the brain in particular.

 

 

This week, we will look at the effects of ageing – both physical and psychological – on the development of dementia and AD. Of course, this being the Monday Conscious Health blog, we will outline our options in combating these effects by maintaining a sound mind and body regardless of age.

 

 

Ageing, dementia and the Water element

 

In traditional Chinese medicine, the Water element controls both the ageing process and the central nervous system along with structures like the bones and bone marrow. (for more on the Water element click here). In part one we observed the effect that skeletal degeneration of osteoporosis can have on posture and even oxygenation to the brain. It created the possibility that some people with dementia-like symptoms may actually be suffering from postural-based hypoxia to the brain.

 

 

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The brain itself can degenerate with the ageing process too, however. This is yet another reason to not ‘slow down’ in retirement but instead keep learning and growing through new challenges. For a blog specifically about the ‘trap’ of retirement click here. The Water element also controls the ageing process itself. Interestingly and perhaps not coincidentally it rules over the adrenal glands. The hormones they produce that are relevant to this discussion are cortisol and adrenaline.

 

 

As readers/listeners may remember from part one, stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline (which are also neurotransmitters) can age the body and brain prematurely. This is particularly true when we place ourselves under stress and anxiety states for prolonged periods of time without the counterbalance of relaxation and reflective, meditative states, the cleansing flush of exercise or the endorphin-rich, counter-balancing states of love, joy and creativity.

 

 

Think of our adrenal glands as reserve batteries. We should only use them for acute, short-term bursts when we need them, not as a day to day energy source. The cost of chronically high levels of stress hormones is accelerated ageing – of the heart and brain/CNS in particular.

 

 

 

‘Medicinal Alzheimers’

 

 

In a recent series of the corporatisation of modern medicine (click here if you missed it) we had the view of Danish doctor Peter Gøtsche on the particularly damaging effect of medicines on the elderly.  What has been observed by many doctors is that the elderly are particularly vulnerable to the toxic side effects of multiple medical prescriptions. An article with a short video about the effects of prescription drugs on elderly brain function can be found here.

 

 

Senior couple taking medication

 

The most noticeable of these side effects are mental disorientation, poor concentration and memory loss. This can be easily mistaken as indicators of dementia or early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

 

 

 

The Psycho-emotional view of ageing and dementia

 

Our health in later years is largely determined by how we have lived our whole life up till that point. If we have taken the ‘all work and no play’ approach through maintaining high stress levels in a single focus while ignoring proper health practices and signals from our body to rest and broaden our interests we risk entering our autumn years exhausted, disillusioned and purposeless.

 

The popularly promoted idea that retirement is a time to lie back in a hammock on some faraway island is at odds with most people’s experience. One of the biggest battles for many is a combination of poor health and lack of purpose and mental stimulation.

 

 

Boredom and the under-stimulated mind

 

 

At the unconscious psycho-emotional level, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease may simply be a way of ‘checking out’ early from an under-stimulated or unwanted life. Loss of purpose after retirement, death of a partner, poor physical health and so on can lead to a repetitive, under-stimulated and aimless existence.
Consider one version of the aged pensioner lifestyle:

 

– Children have grown up and moved out so the inspiration to cook varied and nutritious meals turns into the so-called ‘pensioner’s diet’ of gluten and carbohydrate rich comfort foods like sandwiches, cakes and biscuits accompanied by endless cups of tea or coffee.

 

– This dull, nutrition-less food cycle is accompanied by equally under-stimulating distractions like the cycle of bland TV-based entertainment watched from behind a food tray in the bedroom and lounge room.

 

– No focus on personal development, creativity and one’s inner life makes one vulnerable to superficial distractions to relieve boredom. This requires very little of the brain and mind however and it is easy to see how it could be tempted to ‘leave early’.

 

– Cognitive breakdown like dementia may also be result of compartmentalising the mind over a lifetime. Factors like guilt, shame and emotional repression divorces one part of ourselves from the others and encourages dissociative states. This can lead to the person seeking narrower and narrower mental paths of escape and distraction from their discomfort like those listed above.

 

If you don’t use it, you lose it.” – the preventative approach to mental deterioration
There are several ways we can stay youthful in mind and body for the whole of our lives. Here are a few tips:

  • Don’t act your age.
  • All too often we allow society to tell us how to act. Just because we are a certain chronological age does not mean we have to suddenly become frail and unadventurous.
  • On the contrary, we can use this time to learn new and creative skills; to gather our thoughts and experiences; to act as resource for others; to challenge our mental and physical sides through learning new skills; to open up our inner resources through meditation and reflection; to open our hearts to love and shared experience.
  • Alternative energy sources for mental functioning.
    • Because AD is a form of diabetes we need to find new sources other than glucose for our brain. One such form is ketones. Ketones are a molecule that the brain uses for energy when there isn’t enough glucose around. Ketones are produced by the body as a byproduct of fat oxidation. Foods rich in oil and some types of fat cause greater ketone production. Such foods include coconut oil, avocados, fatty fish, olive oil and so on.
    • Other beneficial substances shown to have some positive effects with dementia states are flavonoids (and flavanols) present in many fruits and vegetables.1
  • Find and fan the flame of love in all that we do.
    • Whether this be the personal love of a relationship, the yogic fire of tantric practice, the love of family and friends, the joy of resting in our Self through meditation and spiritual practice, the satisfaction of creativity or our reconnection with nature – where love exists, fear, anxiety and purposelessness cannot.
    • The state or ‘frequency’ of love is healing in itself as we have covered many times in the Monday Conscious Health blog.
  • Studies have shown that the behaviour and demeanour of aged care patients improved dramatically with the introduction of touch and something/someone to care for.

 

old people and pets 2

 

 

  • Domestic pets, for example, represent unconditional love for their caregivers and can be a reason for the heart and mind to stay present in the moment.
  • Regular treatments like tactile massage, shiatsu and healing techniques go a long way to reintegrating people back into their own body. Touch is often underestimated as a healing tool but is a basic requirement of all mammals – humans in particular.
  • By touching another we confirm that they exist, are valued and worthy of our love and attention. It convinces the mind to stay here, integrated with the body so long as we have physical existence.

 

 

Re-member

 

The word itself means to put the separate pieces/members (of ourself) back together. It urges us to ‘bring to mind’ again and again our awareness of the Self on this plane of existence. Without this reminder the mind is apt to wander off prematurely.

 

Life in this three-dimensional, material world is a gift to be explored, an opportunity to be taken. It would be a shame to miss it.

 

 

Till another Monday presents us with the possibility to create new memories…

 

 

…or some old ones about short memory….

 

 

 

 

 

 


1 There has been are rather mischievous campaign doing the rounds of the internet to promote a link between regular consumption of champagne and its positive effects on those suffering with dementia. The thin logic is that champagne contains flavonoids. The fact that it also contains alcohol – which is infamous in its very negative affects on cognition, particularly with regular use – is conveniently ignored.


© Jeremy Halpin all rights reserved. All images are the author’s own unless otherwise indicated or if the original source is unknown at the time of writing. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking the button in the bottom right hand corner of the page – or share it on the social media of your choice. If you have any wishes or questions regarding subjects to be discussed on this blog use the contact information below. Jeremy is also available for seminars, lectures and personal consultation: info@jeremyhalpin.com

 

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