Quest for eternal brain youth

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Although medication that would prevent the aging of the human brain is still sought for, and according to research a discovery is very close, for now it is of great importance what we, ourselves, do to keep a sharp and clear mind.

Expertise shared by dr. med. Zanda Priede, neurologist at the ORTO Clinic, associate professor at the Riga Stradins University Faculty of Medicine, Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery

In the decline of years, not everybody loses that which makes us human — their mind. To a certain extent, memory failure and forgetfulness  is quite a normal process for any human’s brain, when aging naturally. However, brain diseases are not a self-evident part of aging. The job of a neurologist is to recognize the border between a normal state and the beginning of dangerous processes. But while scientists are seeking for medications that will ensure eternal youth of the brain, our own input for maintaining our brain in good health is equally important.

Proteins – the cause of neurodegenerative diseases of the brain

Neurons are those brain cells that use mediators to transmit and detect signals, that make us capable of moving, perceiving, thinking, feeling, reasoning, remembering, caring and loving. Scientists have found that the lifespan of neurons can exceed a hundred years. Degenerative diseases of the brain impact neurons, in particular, by destroying them and the impulse exchange they ensure in the brain. The destroyers of neurons and the cause of degenerative brain diseases are several types of proteins, that begin accumulating in the brain as a result of certain pathological processes.

Different brain regions are responsible for different human capabilities. The proteins endangering the neurons may accumulate in any region of the brain. Thus the symptoms caused by the damage may manifest themselves as disorders of perception, memory, behavior or impairment of the ability to move. Generally, pathological proteins are concentrated in the hypothalamus, one of the functions of which is preservation of the memory capability. For this reason all types of dementia – the most recognizable of which is Alzheimer’s disease – form up to 70% of all degenerative brain diseases.

Scientists strive to find a medication that would either dissolve the disrupting proteins or remove them from the brain. Currently, if the disease has been found, it is treated in the same way everywhere worldwide, namely, with medicine that provides the missing substances to the brain and thus helps to maintain impulse exchange between the neurons.

Brain care, while everything is in order

However, well before any medicine is used, and changes in memory or information processing capabilities are observed, it is possible to consciously care for your health and control your brain load.

As we employ our brain more, as we use it diversely and experience a wealth of impressions, it becomes healthier and more sustainable. However, it must be ‘fed”not only with intellectual activities –we also need healthy sleep, calmness of the nervous system, fresh air and regular physical activity.

Sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure – how do they impact the brain?

Zanda Priede, neurologist at the ORTO Clinic, emphasizes that brain care is multidimensional and one of its essential aspects is to be aware of your general health condition. Problems seemingly unrelated to the brain, such as elevated cholesterol, sugar indices and blood pressure have a direct impact on brain activity. These negative changes are usually related to an increased cardiovascular disease risk. Research, however, has revealed an important correlation – incitants of cardiovascular diseases and neurodegenerative brain diseases are identical. Therefore, when selecting medications and deciding on thought-out lifestyle habits that would lower blood pressure, sugar indices and cholesterol, it is worth bearing in mind that this is necessary not only for preventing infarction but also to maintain a clear mind. If we live with untreated arterial pressure or elevated cholesterol for an extended period of time, brain vessels are damaged, and the so-called vascular dementia develops based on small vessel damages with subsequent cognitive disorders

When something is not right, see a neurologist!

It is not easy to admit to yourself that the cause of forgetfulness, absent-mindedness, difficulties concentrating could be a neurodegenerative brain disease. And sometimes, indeed, the aforementioned symptoms are caused, for example, by stress, poor nutrition, other diseases of the organism such as thyroid disorders and systemic diseases. However, if in your behavior or memory capability, a difference between “I used to be able” and “I cannot do this anymore” appears more regularly, it is worth asking a neurologist to evaluate the situation.

Several examinations are available worldwide, and also in our country, that help analyzing the activity of the brain and its health perspective comprehensively and thoroughly. These include various cognitive and memory function tests, structural and functional examinations of the brain, magnetic resonance, positron-emission tomography (PET).

Zanda Priede points out that not always the symptoms people worry about are related with the degeneration process of the brain, just as memory disorders not always are precursory symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. By determining the cause, it may be successfully prevented, also getting rid of disturbing symptoms. Whereas if the clinical and radiological examinations reveal the onset of a degenerative disease or processes that could progress, it is definitely worth starting taking medications prescribed by a neurologist. Although currently medications cannot stop neurodegeneration of the brain, they do delay the damaging effects. “By detecting the problem on time, it is possible to delay further progression of the disease. When the disease has been found, it also makes sense to pay more attention to brain-tire and your health. Learn a new language, take long walks, spend at least half an hour per day for physical activities, solve crossword puzzles and memorize poetry. That will not heal the disease but you will be willfully resisting it,” says Zanda Priede.

Patients in Latvia have access to the same solutions that are offered by the world’s most expensive clinic

The doctor also encouragingly mentions that, both in matters of practice and those of science, Latvian neurologists are closely related to active and progressive colleagues in Europe and worldwide, who conduct research and look for solutions.

“Brain research is conducted in Latvia, as well. Together with other colleagues, I take part in international professional work groups that constantly share information, latest research and trends. Currently the treatment options for dementia patients in Latvia and other countries are identical. If medication and examinations are prescribed by a colleague in London, it is possible to obtain and conduct them in Latvia, as well. Neurodegenerative disease modification treatment possibilities that could stop the disease or influence it somehow, are currently in the research stage. Scientists look toward the future hoping that medicine will be invented that will remove the cause of the degenerative brain diseases, and this medicine will be available to us, as well, “ Zanda Priede is convinced, and she calls to keep in mind that equal responsibility currently lies upon both the individual and the doctor who prevents factors stimulating brain degeneration and starts pharmaceutical treatment.