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4 Steps To Brain Health


New studies bring to our attention that high levels of cholesterol might make the brain cells more prone to dementia. The heart and brain are connected to long term health - many things that heart patients do are good for all of us to keep our brain healthy, too. So by preventing a heart attack, you can avoid brain drain.

1. Take B Vitamins.

B vitamins can help stifle homocysteine, an amino acid that damages blood vessels. A new study of seniors from researchers at the Chicago-based Rush Institute found in 2004 that seniors with low levels of niacin were more likely to suffer from Alzheimer's. Get in the habit of taking a quality B Complex every day.

2. Try Ginkgo Biloba.

Extracted from the ancient ginkgo tree, ginkgo biloba is considered the best of all brain-boosting supplements on the market. Studies of people with Alzheimer's disease show that ginkgo enhances blood flow to the brain and improves memory recall. In addition, ginkgo is a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Ginkgo does thin the blood and can clash with some medications, especially blood thinners; so check with your doctor before taking and make sure not to take before a surgery.

3. Avoid inflammation.

Chronic inflammation, whether from an irritated bowel disease, inflamed gums, or an autoimmune disease, weakens the arteries in both the heart and the head. Inflammation makes the arteries more vulnerable to rupture and increases the danger of heart attack and stroke. Keep an eye on early warning signs of inflammation.

4. Exercise your brain.

Older folks who are readers stay sharp while those who watch TV melt into the couch. When researchers compared those struck by Alzheimer's and their activity level, 47% are less likely to develop the disease than those who taxed their brains the least. Do crossword puzzles, read, play cards, write detailed and interesting e-mails to all your friends, surf the web, and just plain stay busy.

Supplements of the Month:

Ginkgo Biloba

The ginkgo is the oldest living tree species, geological records indicate this plant has been growing on earth for 150 - 200 million years. It was first brought to Europe in the 1700's and it is now a commonly prescribed drug in France and Germany.

In the last 30 years, more that 300 studies have given clinical evidence that ginkgo prevents and benefits many problems throughout the entire body. Ginkgo is gaining recognition as a brain tonic that enhances memory because of its positive effects on the vascular system, especially in the cerebellum.

Ginkgo may help to counteract the effects of aging, including mental fatigue and lack of energy.

Ginkgo works by increasing blood flow to the brain and throughout the body's network of blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the organ systems. It increases metabolism efficiency, regulates neurotransmitters, and boosts oxygen levels in the brain which uses 20% of the body's oxygen.

Ginkgo has been used to relieve tension and anxiety and improve mental alertness, elevate mood and restore energy.

Ginkgo also acts as a powerful antioxidant and contributes to the oxidation of free radicals which are believed to contribute to premature aging and dementia. Antioxidants also protect the eyes, cardiovascular system and central nervous system.

Ginkgo may also help control the transformation of cholesterol to plaque associated with the hardening of arteries, and can relax constricted blood vessels.

Studies have confirmed that ginkgo increases blood flow to the retina, and can slow retinal deterioration resulting in an increase of visual acuity.

Flush-Free Niacin

Vitamin B 3 - (Niacin) is used in the process of releasing energy from carbohydrates, forming fat from carbohydrates and to metabolize alcohol. Vitamin B3 comes in two basic forms - niacin (also called nicotinic acid) and niacinamide (also called nicotinamide). Inositol hexaniacinate, a "flush-free" niacin, is also available and has many of the same benefits of niacin, and is becoming increasingly popular. Dietary niacin and niacin formed within the body from the amino acid tryptophan are converted to niacinamide. Niacinamide is the biologically active form of niacin.

The RDA for men and women is in the range 14-18mg, and is easily achieved. Prescribed doses of the supplement go as high as 3gm per day and sometimes even higher.

The best food sources of vitamin B3 are peanuts, brewer's yeast, fish and meat, and fortified breakfast cereals. Some vitamin B3 is also found in whole grains. Vitamin B3 is found in most vitamin supplements, but additional supplementation is needed to achieve many of the proven health benefits.

Food sources (mg per 100gm):

Rice bran (18.5)
Tuna (11.6)
Chicken liver (9.3)
Chicken, white meat (8.1)
Wheat germ (5.6)
Brown rice (4.7)
Broccoli (0.8)
Dried figs (0.4)

Niacin is one of the most stable of the B-vitamins. It is resistant to the effects of heat, light, air, acid and alkali. A white crystalline substance that is soluble in water and alcohol, niacin and niacinamide are both readily absorbed from the small intestine. Small amounts may be stored in the liver, but most of the excess is excreted in the urine. The only appreciable loss of niacin occurs when it leaches into cooking water.

Caution:

Niacin, taken orally as nicotinic acid, can produce redness, warmth, and itching over areas of the skin; this "niacin flush" usually occurs when doses of 50mg or more are taken and is a result of the release of histamine by the cells, which causes vasodilatation. 'Take Your Vitamins' brand of Flush Free Niacin can be taken, as it will not produce this reaction.

As with any vitamin or supplement, please consult your doctor before taking.

Author Beverly Terhune speaks from 35 years of living with Rheumatoid Arthritis and shares her experience, strength & hope on how to lead a healthy, substance-free life.

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