Tag Archives: brain health

  • The Healthy Benefits of Omega-3s

    The reported health benefits of omega-3s keep piling up—from boosting heart health to improving memory and concentration. Omega-3s are considered “essential” fatty acids because our body needs them for a variety of bodily functions. Since we can’t make them on our own, however, we must get them through diet or supplementation. The two main omega-3s are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which are found most commonly in coldwater fish, but are also present in oils from algae, plants and flaxseed.

    Despite their “essential” label, many people are still deficient in omega-3s, and this deficiency has been cited as one of the top 10 causes of preventable death in the US among dietary, lifestyle and metabolic risk factors.

    Here are some of the most well-researched benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.

    Cardiovascular health
    Omega-3s have more scientific research backing their benefits for cardiovascular health than any other nutritional supplement. Strong evidence—thousands of clinical trials, in fact—suggest that EPA and DHA enhance overall cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol, high blood pressure and elevated triglycerides. The American Heart Association even recommends that people with coronary heart disease get 1 g each of EPA and DHA per day.

    Omega-3s also seem to reduce the risk of recurring heart attacks and abnormal heart rhythms in people who have already had a heart attack. In addition, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, large population studies have shown that people getting significant amounts of omega-3s in their diets have a 50 percent lower risk of stroke.

    Alzheimer’s and Dementia
    Recent research has shown that omega-3s may slow cognitive decline and reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. In a study published in May in the journal Neurology, researchers found that people who consumed the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids had the lowest levels of beta-amyloid plaque buildup, a marker in the brain for dementia and Alzheimer’s.

    Depression
    According to the Mayo Clinic, omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in brain function. Because people with depression may have lower levels of EPA and DHA—important brain chemicals—they can benefit from supplementing with the EPA and DHA found in fish oil. It has also been shown that cultures that consume more omega-3 rich foods have generally lower incidences of depression.

    Prenatal health
    It is widely know that the EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids are vital for healthy infant development, especially for the eyes, nervous system and brain. In addition, supplementing with fish oil during pregnancy has been found to reduce the rate of respiratory illness in infants (according to a study published last year in the journal Pediatrics).

    Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, MD, member of Pharmaca’s Integrative Health Advisory Board, recommends 200-300 mg of DHA starting in the 25th week of pregnancy (learn more about her prenatal nutrition recommendations).

    Rheumatoid arthritis
    A number of small studies have found that fish oil helps reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, including joint pain and stiffness. A 2007 article in the journal Pain analyzed studies that tested the effects of omega-3s on pain and inflammation and showed that by taking omega-3s, patients were able to lower their doses of prescription anti-inflammatory medications and experienced a decrease in pain.

    Dr. Tori Hudson, ND, and member of Pharmaca’s Integrative Health Advisory Board, highly recommends omega-3 fatty acids for her patients experiencing any kind of joint pain.

    Explore our selection of omega-3 fish oils either in store or at pharmaca.com.

  • Mediterranean Diet May Reduce Cognitive Decline

    We often hear that the Mediterranean diet is a great way to eat—when done right, it can be packed with good fats, fiber, fruits, veggies and antioxidants, all of which can help boost heart health, reduce inflammation and help stave off chronic diseases

    According to a study published last year in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the Mediterranean diet can also help reduce cognitive decline in the elderly. The study followed nearly 4,000 Chicago residents over the age of 65, tracking their adherence to the diet, as well their mental acuity at three-year intervals. The results showed that participants who most closely followed the Mediterranean diet saw the slowest rates of cognitive decline (even after controlling for smoking, education, obesity and other factors).

    In a similar study published this February in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers focused on the connection between the antioxidants that are abundant in the Mediterranean diet with cognitive performance among older adults at high cardiovascular risk. The Spanish study followed 447 people, between 55-80 years old, to assess the effects of food intake on brain function. The team discovered that some foods were specifically linked to certain areas of cognitive function: olive oil may improve verbal memory; walnuts may improve working memory; and wine may improve scores on a test used to assess mental health and clarity.

    Want to get more of the Mediterranean in your diet? Here’s what the Mayo Clinic says:

    “The Mediterranean diet emphasizes plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. It replaces butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil and canola oil, and uses herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods. Red meat is limited to no more than a few times a month, while fish should be on the menu twice a week.” (Click here for some great recipe suggestions from the Mayo Clinic.)

    Read more from a Pharmaca expert about other ways to maintain good brain health throughout your years, including sleep, exercise and supplements.

  • Vitamin D Deficient? You May be Prone to Muscle Injury and Alzheimer's

    Add stronger muscles to the ever-growing list of reasons to take vitamin D. Scientists recently discovered that a lack of vitamin D could result in muscle injuries in athletes; another group of scientists found that vitamin D can help to remove plaques in the brain that have long been associated with Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive form of dementia that afflicts millions of people. Because it’s hard to get enough vitamin D in your diet, our practitioners strongly recommend that you get you ensure you’re getting your recommended daily allowance through a vitamin D supplement.

    For decades, researchers have been telling us about the health benefits of vitamin D:

    • Maintains bone health
    • Enhances immunity
    • Helps quell the proliferation of cancer cells
    • Reduces inflammation
    • Aids in the digestive process
    • Lowers risk of bacterial infections
    • Supports mood stability
    • Helps prevent type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and bladder, breast, colon, ovarian, prostate and rectal cancers.

    Athletes who are vitamin D deficient and muscle Injury

    A study was recently presented at the annual meeting of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine linking vitamin D deficiency to a risk of muscle injuries in athletes. The study indicated that NFL players were especially prone to vitamin-D deficiency-related muscle injuries.

    The research team, led by Dr. Michael Shindle of Summit Medical Group, studied 89 players from one NFL team. The players’ vitamin D levels were measured in the spring of 2010. Data about which players missed games due to muscle injuries was collected, and vitamin D levels were tracked. The results indicated that many of the physically fit NFL players suffered a substantial lack of vitamin D. Specifically, 27 players were “dramatically deficient,” while 45 had “levels consistent with insufficiency.” Only 17 of the 89 players in the test group had vitamin D levels within normal limits. The results? The 16 players who suffered the most muscle injuries also had the lowest vitamin D levels.

    Vitamin D deficiency and Alzheimer's disease

    Research recently published in the journal Fluids and Barriers of the CNSindicates that vitamin D may also assist in the removal of plaques in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers gave vitamin D injections to mice with amyloid beta plaques—considered the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease--in their brains and found that vitamin D therapy helped remove the plaques. Considering the aggressive, destructive nature of this form of dementia, this research is very exciting news for the medical community and the general public.

    Want to learn more about the benefits of vitamin D and how much you should really be taking? Speak with a Pharmaca practitioner today.

  • Brain Health Questions: How does stress affect brain health?

    Our webinar with Dr. Bruce Price on July 27 sparked some interesting questions on brain health from our participants. Since Dr. Price wasn't able to answer all of them during the webinar, we thought we'd tackle some common ones here. These answers come from Dr. Haythum Tayeb, a behavioral neurology and neuropsychiatry fellow in Dr. Price's department of neurology at McLean Hospital.

    Q. How does stress affect brain health?

    A. Stress, anxiety and depression can all negatively influence cognitive performance because of their effects on attention and concentration. Stress activates the cortisol system, which has specific effects on the brain.

    Maintaining an active social and mental life is associated with better cognitive outcomes, however, and stress avoidance should not lead to an attitude of intellectual retirement. Seeking to remain intellectually active, and engaging in a motivating endeavor that does not induce pathological stress can increase cognitive reserve, which buffers cognitive dysfunction later in life.

    The information provided here is intended for educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  • Brain health questions: Is there a connection between ADHD & Alzheimer's?

    Our webinar with Dr. Bruce Price on July 27 sparked some interesting questions on brain health from our participants. Since Dr. Price wasn't able to answer all of them during the webinar, we thought we'd tackle some common ones here. These answers come from Dr. Haythum Tayeb, a behavioral neurology and neuropsychiatry fellow in Dr. Price's department of neurology at McLean Hospital.

    Q. Is there a connection between ADHD & Alzheimer’s?

    A. There is no known direct connection between Alzheimer’s and childhood ADHD. There have been recent early reports of an association between adult ADHD and risk of Alzheimer’s, though this association needs to be confirmed. It may be that the symptoms of early dementia, often subtle, can be mistakenly attributed to adulthood ADHD in people with a previous history of the disorder. A potential explanation for the association, should it be proven, is that ADHD may lead to a lower cognitive reserve to buffer insults later in life, or that there could be an unidentified overlap between the genetic and environmental factors causing both disorders.

    The information provided here is intended for educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  • Brain Health Questions: How can I reverse memory loss?

    Our webinar with Dr. Bruce Price on July 27 sparked some interesting questions on brain health from our participants. Since Dr. Price wasn't able to answer all of them during the webinar, we thought we'd tackle some common ones here. These answers come from Dr. Haythum Tayeb, a behavioral neurology and neuropsychiatry fellow in Dr. Price's department of neurology at McLean Hospital.

    Q. Once someone is already experiencing memory loss, is there anything that can stop or reverse the process?

    A. It depends on the cause and pattern of memory dysfunction. There are different memory systems in the brain and these systems can be affected by a number of pathological processes. While some of these processes are completely reversible and others are definitely amenable to modification and improvement, and some are irreversible.

    For example, attention and concentration problems are often felt to cause memory dysfunction, with or without genuine problems in the parts of the brain that store the memories. There are many reversible causes for attention difficulties, including anxiety, depression, medications, inadequate sleep, medical illness and others. Interventions to reverse negative effects of these factors on attention and memory can improve overall memory performance significantly.

    Even in cases where there is a problem in the memory-storage system itself, the cause is not always irreversible. A medical and neurological evaluation is required to search for the treatable causes of amnesia, which include vascular, nutritional, infectious and endocrine, medical and inflammatory problems.

    Furthermore, early cases of memory problems (amnestic mild cognitive impairment), do not always progress to Alzheimer's disease, and sometimes actually reverse spontaneously. Alzheimer's disease, while a common cause for memory problems, is certainly not the only one. In cases of probable Alzheimer's disease, a multi-lateral effort to improve memory and functioning is often very helpful. Factors that can potentially help for variable periods of time include physical exercise, maintaining a reasonable degree of mental and social activities, having an adequate diet, treating depression, and making sure medical and sleep problems are treated appropriately. While there are medications that can temporarily improve symptoms,  none are yet available for clinical use to delay, stop or reverse the process. A large area of research is however progressing promisingly in pursuit of this goal.

    The information provided here is intended for educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  • Upcoming webinar with Dr. Bruce Price

    Interested in what you can be doing preventively to keep your brain and memory going strong as you age? Pharmaca is proud to be hosting a free webinar with Dr. Bruce Price of our Integrative Health Advisory Board.

    Boost Your Brain:
    How to maintain good memory and cognitive function as you age

    Wednesday, July 20, 11am PDT/12pm MDT

    Join Dr. Bruce Price, associate professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, as he offers expert advice on supplements and lifestyle changes to keep your brain working smarter at any age.

    Register now and submit your questions! Everyone who attends will receive $10 good toward future shopping purchases in stores and online.

    REGISTER NOW!

  • Turmeric and brain health? Keep eating that curry

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    Creative

    In doing some research for an upcoming article on men's health, we found a study that shows a strong connection between curcumin, or turmeric, and a reduced risk for Alzheimer's. We've known that turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties, but we didn't know that it could also reduce inflammation in the brain, thought to be a precursor to the brain plaques that lead to dementia and Alzheimer's.

    The 2008 review, published in the Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology, covered studies that have researched turmeric's effects on various diseases. According to the study, "Curcumin holds a high place in Ayurvedic medicine as a 'cleanser of the body,' and today, science is finding a growing list of diseased conditions that can be healed by the active ingredients of turmeric."

    The review showed a strong correlation between populations whose diets include significant amounts of turmeric (e.g. curry, of which turmeric is an important component, in India) and a lower instance of Alzheimer's. While there is still research to be done about how turmeric affects the brain, it's clear that it has strong potential for treatment of dementia, even after the disease has developed.

    The long and short: Supplementation and dietary sources of turmeric can be a great way to improve your brain's long-term health. So keep eating that curry!

  • Ask a Practitioner: What can I do to increase focus and concentration?

    We get questions nearly every day via Ask a Practitioner from people with a variety of health concerns. Our practitioners take turns answering these questions, offering advice based on their experience and expertise. Each week we'll be posting some of these questions with the hopes that our practitioners' advice can help answer some of your health questions.

    Q. What are your recommendations for increasing focus and concentration? My adult son has ADD and doesn’t want to go the prescription medication route.

    A. Thank you for your question. The following are suggestions to assist your son with focus and concentration:

    1. DHA—is an essential fatty acid found in great concentrations in fish and flax oils. The human brain is approximately 70 percent DHA, so when we supplement with it, we are directly supporting the function of the brain and nervous system. I would recommend taking 2+ grams of a good quality fish oil (Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega is my favorite). Other great brands include: Pharmax, Renew Life, Pharmaca, Metagenics, and New Chapter.

    2. Think Clearly by Supernutrition—I used this product often when I was studying in my doctorate program and had great results. It’s a natural vitamin/herbal supplement, made from whole foods, and has many elements that support brain activity.

    3. A good multivitamin—My favorite is New Chapter’s Men’s Daily, which is also food-based. Supernutrition and Megafood also make fantastic multivitamins.

    4. Bach Flower Essence Clematis—This is literally a formula extracted from the Clematis flower that “helps you live more actively in the present.”

    5. Phosphatidylserine—Helps the brain cells to function properly.

    6. Digestive health—Examine your son’s digestion and diet. Is he getting proper nutrition? Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can lead to poor concentration. Taking a good probiotic can play a crucial role in aiding with digestive and immune issues, which can also have an impact on concentration.

    -Kate Brainard, Naturopathic Doctor, La Jolla

    The information provided here is intended for educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

  • The (healthy) glory of chocolate

    We just stumbled on this little nugget by John Robbins over at the Huffington Post—we've never seen someone lay out the true health benefits of chocolate quite so well. It turns out it's not just full of antioxidants, it's also great for your heart, your mood, etc. As Robbins says, "There is in fact a growing body of credible scientific evidence that chocolate contains a host of heart-healthy and mood-enhancing phytochemicals, with benefits to both body and mind."

    He goes on to talk about how it's packed with polyphenols that inhibit atherosclerosis, how it helps lower blood pressure, elevate moods by releasing pleasurable endorphins and boosts serotonin levels in the brain. Sounds like a superfood to us! (And it's good to know that the bad rap that chocolate has gotten over the years is mostly due to the additives we put in it--butterfat and sugar, namely--that can boost fat and high cholesterol.)

    Robbins concludes by talking about how much chocolate we really need to reap all those benefits: "According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, adding only half an ounce of dark chocolate to an average American diet is enough to increase total antioxidant capacity 4 percent, and lessen oxidation of LDL cholesterol."

    The perfect afternoon snack. Grab one of Pharmaca's fair-trade or organic dark chocolates and munch happy (and healthy)!

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