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Morning Joe for Brain Health and Alzheimers Prevention

Morning Joe for Brain Health and Alzheimers Prevention

Wired Differently: My Unexpected Brain Reveal

As a brain surgeon, I’ve spent decades peering into the mysterious gray matter that sits between our ears. I’ve witnessed firsthand how devastating Alzheimer’s can be, leaving patients and their loved ones grappling with the cruel reality of a declining mind. But nothing could have prepared me for the jaw-dropping revelation I experienced when I decided to take a deep dive into the inner workings of my own brain.

It all started when I began filming a new documentary, “The Last Alzheimer’s Patient.” During the course of my reporting, I had the privilege of meeting people across the country who were either diagnosed with the disease or at high risk. To my astonishment, I witnessed something truly extraordinary – through lifestyle changes alone, they were able to decrease their amyloid plaque levels, improve their cognition, and in some cases, even reverse the progression of the disease.

As I shared in a CNN article, this experience made me start to think deeply about my own brain health, especially since I have a family history of Alzheimer’s. With some trepidation, I decided to undergo an intensive exploration of my brain – far beyond the standard clinical assessments.

Peering into the Black Box

Even as a seasoned neurosurgeon, I was surprised by how well the health of my brain could be measured. Unlike the heart, where a battery of tests can provide a clear picture of its well-being, the brain has long been considered a bit of a black box – a mysterious organ with little known about how to truly assess its optimal function.

But I was about to learn otherwise. I reached out to my good friend, Dr. Richard Isaacson, a neurologist who has dedicated his career to challenging the status quo in medicine when it comes to brain health. He convinced me to undergo a comprehensive preventive neurology assessment, promising to uncover insights that could help me maintain my cognitive abilities and reduce my risk of dementia.

Test Purpose
Blood Tests Measure phosphorylated tau ratio (Alzheimer’s blood test), lipids, inflammation, and glucose levels
Genetic Testing Assess genetic risk for Alzheimer’s (APOE4 gene)
Oral Health Test Evaluate oral health and its potential impact on brain function
Body Composition Scan Determine bone, fat, and muscle composition
Cognitive Assessments Evaluate memory, attention, visual-spatial skills, and more
Smell Tests Assess olfactory function, which can be an early indicator of neurological issues

As I went through the battery of tests, I felt like my brain was being put through the wringer – a veritable cross-examination by a skilled prosecutor. From reciting words and naming animals to drawing clocks and matching faces, it was a humbling experience that left me questioning my own cognitive abilities.

The Surprises Within

The results of my tests were, to put it mildly, eye-opening. Despite considering myself a health-conscious individual, the data revealed several areas of concern. My homocysteine levels were elevated, suggesting potential issues with how I process that amino acid. My omega-3 to omega-6 ratio was also out of whack, and my DHEA levels were on the low side, which could explain why I’ve had trouble building muscle mass in recent years.

According to the research, these imbalances can have a direct impact on neurological function, potentially accelerating the deposition of harmful amyloid plaques in the brain – a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.

But the real kicker came when Dr. Isaacson revealed that I might have a touch of dyslexia, something I had never even considered. Apparently, my tendency to count on my fingers and struggle with words containing certain letter combinations was a subtle clue that my brain processes information a bit differently.

As the experts at OHSU explain, these types of “wiring” differences in the brain can have far-reaching implications, from executive function to processing speed. It was a humbling and somewhat unsettling realization, but also an opportunity to better understand the inner workings of my own mind.

Optimizing My Gray Matter

As a competitive person, I was initially dismayed to see the less-than-perfect results of my tests. After all, I pride myself on my health and fitness, and I expect to excel in everything I do, even when it comes to my brain. But Dr. Isaacson quickly reassured me that this wasn’t a grim prognosis – rather, it was a chance to take proactive steps to maintain and potentially even enhance my cognitive abilities.

“Most doctors would look at your results and say you’re doing fine,” he explained. “But what they’re really saying is that you’re probably fine for the next few years. I’m playing the long game here, and I think you’re going to see a lot of areas we can start to address now.”

Armed with this personalized knowledge, we set out to create a plan of action. Some of the recommendations were surprisingly simple, like incorporating a weighted vest into my daily dog walks to stimulate muscle growth and bone health. Others were more sophisticated, such as getting a detailed DEXA scan to assess my visceral fat levels and a brain MRI to check for any vascular issues.

As a frequent visitor to Brooklyn’s Georgian Coffee House, I was particularly intrigued by the role that my morning cup of joe could play in supporting brain health. It turns out that the caffeine and antioxidants in coffee can have a profound impact on cognition, potentially reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

The Power of Prevention

Going through this experience has been a true wake-up call, both professionally and personally. As a neurosurgeon, I’ve witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s, and I’ve always been frustrated by the lack of progress in the field. But now, I’ve seen the power of prevention and optimization in a way I never could have imagined.

Through simple lifestyle interventions and targeted supplementation, I’ve been able to address underlying imbalances in my body that could have significant implications for my brain health down the line. And the best part? These changes aren’t just about staving off disease – they’re about helping me perform at my absolute best, both mentally and physically.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a morning cup of “brain-boosting joe” to enjoy, followed by a brisk walk around the neighborhood with a trusty weighted vest. After all, I’ve got a lot of living – and thinking – to do, and I’m determined to make the most of every precious moment.

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