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Minimizing Subtle Brain Rot

Your brain is so sensitive that you risk damaging it in ways that are so subtle that you may not have thought it possible. You can avoid many of these damaging effects (or at least minimize them) if you watch your diet, make sure you aren't exposed to toxins, and pay close attention to what medications you do or don't take.

Dealing with free radicals

One of the subtle destructive effects on the brain occurs through what has been called free-radical damage. Free radicals aren't peace loving, anti-war protesters from the 1960s. They're actually warmongers that attack your brain, and there's nothing peace loving about them.

Many fat cells in your brain are support cells, which help neurons do their job, and they are particularly vulnerable to damage. Damage to the mitochondria, the energy-producing factory in your cells, impairs DNA and messenger RNA (a type of nucleic acid that participates in the expression of genes).

Your body produces its own antioxidants to battle the free radicals and the damage they produce. Unfortunately, as you age, these free-radical scavengers subside. In addition, if you're doing things that neutralize these naturally produced antioxidants and if you're maintaining a lifestyle that increases free radicals, then your brain is going to more than resent the double-whammy to its cells.

Many lifestyle choices increase free-radical activity, such as:

  • Smoking
  • Eating fatty foods
  • Being exposed to environmental toxins

You can fight back the free radicals by:

  • Eating a diet rich in antioxidants
  • Taking vitamin supplements, such as vitamins C and E, which help break down the bad oxygen and neutralize free radicals

Keeping your detox system A-OK

When your body needs detoxifying, it uses a number of mechanisms, one of which is methylation. However, as you age, your body's ability to detoxify breaks down, especially if you have a poor diet.

One of the destructive compounds that methylation normally cleans out is called homocystine, which is a regular by-product of amino acid metabolism. When homocystine builds up, however, it slows down your blood circulation by encouraging blood platelets to stick together.

As if this effect isn't bad enough, homocystine also contributes to free-radical damage and a number of other major problems including atherosclerosis, cancer, DNA damage, and Alzheimer's disease.

A bad diet can cause defects in your methylation system. For example, if your diet is deficient in foods containing vitamin B12 and folic acid, you'll not only have defects in methylation, but also in your memory.

Make sure you have a balanced diet by including foods that support methylation:

  • For vitamin B12, eat eggs, liver, and milk.
  • For folic acid, eat carrots, dark leafy vegetables, and whole wheat.
  • Take supplements in both

Bringing inflammation under control

Inflammation can damage your brain subtly and not so subtly. Inflammation occurs normally when you are injured or when your cells have been under attack by bacteria. The area around your injured cells is put into an alarm state so that repair and healing can happen. Blood vessels dilate to bring in supplies. Swelling often occurs, however, as blood vessels leak fluid. Immune system cells come to the rescue, and blood-clotting agents form.

Unfortunately, as you age, the inflammation that's so helpful to healing doesn't bounce back as quickly as when you were younger. This slowdown occurs because your circulatory system can get sluggish as plaque builds up on your artery walls. In addition, your immune system may misidentify your healthy cells for unhealthy ones because the signaling mechanism can break down. If all this happens, you run the risk of chronic inflammation.

Chronic inflammation occurs with several serious diseases, including cardiovascular disease and arthritis. Recently, it has been found as a major factor in Alzheimer's disease.

Because inflammation has been so strongly associated with brain impairment, many doctors recommend a moderate use of anti-inflammatory drugs.

Anti-inflammatory drugs come in two classes, steroidal and non-steroidal. Because steroids can also damage your hippocampus, many doctors recommend non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs such as acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) or ibuprofen (Motrin).

Minimize inflammation in your brain by

  • Maintaining a diet free of artery-clogging fats.
  • Taking a low dose of a non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drug as you get older.
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