Today I watched Episode 09 of Alzheimers – Science of Prevention, a groundbreaking documentary series, featuring David Perlmutter, MD, board-certified neurologist and #1 NYT bestselling author, along with leading experts in the field of brain health. For my notes on Episode 08, click here.
This fantastic series reveals the powerful ways we can decrease our chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease. According to Wikipedia, Alzheimer’s is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that usually starts slowly and worsens over time. It is the cause of 60–70% of cases of dementia.
With Alzheimers reported to be the fastest growing epidemic among the aging, I want to know what I can do now to optimize my brain health long-term. I took copious notes while watching this episode and want to share these important insights from the series with you below.
For full access to this series, as well as for bonus interviews not included in the free series, check out access to the series here.
Episode 09 Notes:
Your Brain’s Destiny Is In Your Hands.
Exercise is one of the most powerful tools we have for preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
Healthy insulin sensitivity is critical when it comes to Alzheimers disease prevention.
If you have diabetes, your risk for developing Alzheimer’s is more than doubled. And when you become insulin resistant, you are well on your way toward Type 2 diabetes.
However, there are ways to prevent this from happening. And regular exercise is one of the important factors.
Exercise is a powerful insulin sensitizer. This means is actually makes your cells hungry for glucose. And when this is combined with a healthy diet, this effect of exercise is amplified even more.
Exercise one of the best ways to stimulate production of BDNF
Exercise increases blood flow which helps your body clean up the messes it makes. It increases something called BDNF (brain derived neurotropic factor) which is Miracle Grow for the brain. And it’s a powerful compound that increases when you exercise. It reduces inflammation, increases detoxification, increases your antioxidant enzymes, helps your microbiome, helps your sleep cycle and regulatory pathways. It helps your metabolism and insulin resistance. All which, when they’re disregulated, lead to brain dysfunction or Alzheimers. – Dr Mark Hyman
Exercise is actually the thing that grows the brain. When we exercise, there are a lot of chemicals and hormones that are created in our body. But one of the most important that is created is called BDNF, or brain derived neurotrophic factor. It’s like growth hormone for your brain. This BDNF goes and creates connections between brain cells. Your cells can have little connections between them, but 30,000 connections. These connections determine the speed of processing your brain’s strength and resilience against disease. So when BDNF is circulating in your body, the brain actually makes these connections. And you can increase your BDNF significantly within hours of exercise. And there have been studies that have studied these chemicals and hormones in your circulation after one session of aerobic activity and it’s just sky high. So why is it important to have an exercise regimen in our life on a regular basis? Because of BDNF. – Ayesha Sherzai
Exercise is very important for brain health. You may even notice after you work out, a boost. You feel on your A-Game. I think there’s a reason for this, specifically in regards to influencing Alzheimers and reducing risk, there’s two main things I think exercise does in that regard. And the first is it improves insulin sensitivity. If chronically high insulin is a major driving risk factor in this illness, and exercise helps to improve sensitivity, then that’s a slam dunk right there. The other thing is that exercise increases the synthesis of something called BDNF. If you want to make new synaptic connections, have neuroplasticity, then BDNF is your friend. And exercise is one way to help increase that. – Amy Berger, MS
Exercise is one of the best ways to boost a growth factor called BDNF which has been called the brain’s miracle grow. The reason for that is when you sprinkle BDNF on neurons in a petri dish, they sprout dendrites which are the structures required for learning. It’s this powerful fertilizer for brain cells and one of the best ways to express it in the brain is through physical exercise. – Max Lugavere
What we’ve been able to demonstrate is that exercise influences cognition, influences memory function through it’s direct impact on the size and function of these brain regions that support memory function. So one of the ways we know that exercise influences the brain is through its effects on BDNF. BDNF is a really critical molecule in the brain that’s involved in memory formation. It’s linked to many neurologic conditions. But interestingly, exercise seems to positively impact this particular molecule, increases its expression, increases the amount of BDNF in the brain. So we think that exercise may be influencing a number of brain pathways, including memory formation and memory function through BDNF pathways. – Kirk Erickson, PhD
BDNF is brain derived neurotrophic factor. – They’re essential growth factors that are produced in the brain in neurons or in neighboring astrocytes. BNDF plays a key role in enhancing synaptic activity or synaptic function. The cells of the brain communicate to one another through synapses. Synapses are formed through a very dynamic process that requires BDNF. Certain dietary protocols and exercise, in particular, can stimulate the amount of BDNF that the cells make and also the activation of BDNF receptors. And that can actually stimulate, by virtue of BDNF receptor activation, the formation of new neurons and the strengthening of the connections between the neurons which is a process called long-term potentiation and that is the underlying foundation of learning and memory. – Dominic D’Agostino, PhD
Exercise: an effective way to get oxygen to the brain
The brain is an oxygen-rich tissue and it has to get oxygen to stimulate its function. It’s something like 3-4% of body weight but consumes over 40% of oxygen. It’s a very high percentage relative to its weight of the body of consumption of glucose, blood sugar and oxygen. So how do you deliver oxygen to the tissues? It’s very interesting that every culture has some way of increasing oxygen to the tissues. It could be yoga, tantric dancing. Exercise not only brings oxygen to the brain, it also brings trophic factors that occur from exercise that stimulate the cell renewal. Exercise is a very important part of a therapeutic delivery of the most important single nutrient for the brain which is oxygen. – Jeffrey Bland, PhD
Also, when you exercise, your biggest pump – which is your legs, not your heart – pump a lot of blood back into your circulation and into your brain. And with better brain blood flow, the brain is able to get rid of all toxic byproducts that it has accumulated over the day. So you have great hormones circulating around your brain, you have better blood flow that gets rid of all the garbage byproducts, and with the combination of these two, you’ve given your brain an excellent chance of resilience. – Ayesha Sherzai, MD
Exercise improves overall blood flow. It’s really that increase in blood flow that can facilitate the many beneficial effects of exercise on the brain. So anything that’s good for the heart is going to be good for the brain. Exercise improves cardiovascular health. And cardiovascular health is intimately tied to brain health. If we want to make our brain healthy, we really have to focus on our heart. – Dominic D’Agostino, PhD
There’s evidence that exercise is protective against Alzheimer’s. Clinical studies show that active elderly have a much lower risk of dementia later in life than sedentary elderly. And we can see in brain scans that you can see that very clearly also in people who are not over 60 but who are in their 40s. There is a very large study done in Colombia, South America, which is one of the countries with the highest density and frequency of genetic mutations, showing that in people who do carry this genetic mutation, those who were very physically active throughout their life, have a delayed onset of dementia compared to people from the same families with the same genetic mutations who do not exercise. – Lisa Mosconi, PhD
Exercise cannot be ignored. Take a look at your lifestyle. Are you sedentary? How often do you work out? Are your brain and body missing out on all the amazing and unique health benefits we get just from exercising?
Thank you, Dr. David Perlmutter and experts featured in this series for sharing your life-changing knowledge, practical tips and habits to help us optimize our brain health. It’s incredibly empowering and inspiring to know that we have more control over our cognitive health than statistics suggest.
Actionable steps you can take today to reap the benefits of exercise:
- Increase physical activity in your life overall
- Walk of bike to work
- Take the stairs
- Park away from the entrance of the grocery store
- Incorporate community into your exercise routine
- Start an exercise program with a friend
- Join the ymca, community center or gym
- Look up group classes
- Find meetups online
- 150 minutes exercise each week
- Meet a friend for a weekly walk