Judson Haims: There is no magic pill for brain health | AspenTimes.com

Judson Haims: There is no magic pill for brain health

Judson Haims
Special to The Aspen Times

There are no lack of pharmaceuticals in America. According to a 2015 report by the Mayo Clinic, “Nearly 70% of all Americans are on at least one prescription drug.”

While some studies indicate that per capita dollars spent on prescription drugs in the U.S. has slightly declined, revenue of prescription drugs has increased dramatically. It’s conceivable that this inverse trend may be due in part to three factors:

1. Cost and corporate profit increases

2. Higher drug and out-of-pocket costs have caused people to consider alternatives to drugs

3. More people are becoming open to alternatives to drugs, i.e. supplements and healthier lifestyles.

In the U.S., too many people and medical providers have been conditioned to think just about every ailment can be improved with a drug. Drug companies have spent billions of dollars in marketing and lobbying to condition us to believe their drugs can resolve our ailments. Unfortunately, we have bought into this culture.

Are you too fat? Take a pill or buy a nutrient drink. Whatever you do, don’t stop buying the 1,000-calorie fast food burger followed by the soda sweetened with more than an ounce of sugar.

Are you having concern of mood swings or maybe symptoms of ADHD or ADD? A doctor can solve that with Adderall. Don’t be too concerned with “possible” side effects like nausea, headaches, increased blood pressure or even sleep issues. After all, there are pills for these issues, too.

When it comes to pills that address dementia or Alzheimer’s, there are none that work for everyone, provide a cure, or stops its progression. Rather, pills that address mild/moderate or severe decline in cognition are believed to reduce symptoms and thereby may provide improvements to quality of life.

Currently, there are four prescription drugs approved by the FDA that treat dementia: donepezil, galantamine, rivastigmine and memantine. Donepezil, galantamine and rivastigmine are of a class of drugs called cholinesterase inhibitors. These drugs help block the breakdown of neurotransmitter. Unfortunately, they have side effects that include slowing heart rate, constriction of the airways, muscle cramps, nausea and others.

Memantine assists in regulating the activity of glutamate, a chemical that is thought to damage nerve cells in the brain. Side effects of this drug can include bloating, tingling of the hands or feet, blurred vision, headaches and others.

While new discoveries are being made all the time, claims that supplements, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs and other products can promote brain health and prevent cognitive decline have not been scientifically proven and clinical evidence is not substantiated.

There are however a few supplements that may provide modest benefit for memory and cognition for some people. Some supplements that have antioxidant properties and are thought to contribute to better brain health include; omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, various B vitamins, Ginkgo Biloba and turmeric.

Quality diet may be best option

Overwhelming research proves that people who eat a well-balanced diet not only have less risk of dementias, but also do not have a need to take supplementary vitamins or minerals.

The brain, like any organ or muscle, is affected by the foods we eat. Diets and lifestyles that promote higher quantities of leafy greens, vegetables, nuts, berries and omega-3 fats are proving to matter in reducing inflammation which causes damage to blood vessels and tissue in the brain.

Lifestyle and diet

Research from the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins, Massachusetts General Hospital and the Cleveland Clinic (our nation’s leading neurological hospitals and research centers) all confirm that diet and exercise directly impact your brain health. So, when you think of how your diet and lifestyle will enable you to remain active, it is essential that your brain functions with optimal performance.

Quality foods provide the body with minerals, nutrients, essential fatty acids and antioxidants that promote brain health and are needed to fight many chronic diseases. While foods like cruciferous vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, fatty fish and fruits rank high on the “super” food list, ones that are rich in antioxidants may be particularly important to brain health as they are believed to assist in preventing cellular damage.

Although new research is occurring all the time, there is substantial evidence that a healthy diet/lifestyle promotes better mental well-being. Be proactive in mitigating your chances of dementia.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale. He is an advocate for our elderly and is available to answer questions. His contact information is http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns, 970-328-5526