Founder of the NeurExpand Brain Center in suburban Washington, DC, Fotuhi performs brain fitness evaluations and teaches his patients—who are experiencing some degree of memory loss—how to "grow" their brains. Well, not the brain, in general, but the hippocampi, in particular.
Located on the underside of each hemisphere of the brain (about the size of a thumb and shaped like a sea horse), the hippocampi are associated with short-term memory and consolidating it for longer-term storage. The hippocampi shrink with age—about 0.5% annually beginning sometime after 50—and the smaller the hippocampi, the more vulnerable one is to dementia. Once the hippocampi—memory—is destroyed, next on deck is the cortex, with Alzheimer's gradually destroying everything else, including self-awareness.
Evaluating the size of the hippocampi, Fotuhi can determine the strength of an individual's memory today and project the risk of dementia/Alzheimer's in the future. Fotuhi is optimistic as almost anyone with memory loss or cognitive decline--including most older people with initial signs of Alzheimer's disease—has hope. Doing the right things today can keep plaques and tangles from developing—the cortisol that's slowly poisoning the hippocampi--from developing in the brain. If successful, it's possible to ward off the symptoms of Alzheimer's. Fotuhi said:
So often my patients have been told by other neurologists, "I'm so sorry,
it looks like you have Alzheimer's. Here's some Aricept," That's depressing
- Exercise 3 hours/week. Get the body moving and keep the heart rate up for at least 20 minutes at a time, for example, increase 3 weekly walks from 10 minutes to 40 minutes. In one year, it's possible for the hippocampi to expand by 2%. How? Exercise increases levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a protein that's essentially fertilizer for the brain.
- Meditate 10 minutes/day. Meditation fights cortisol. Use Fotuhi's 5-5-5 routine: Sit up straight, close the eyes, and inhale slowly for a count of 5, then exhale for a count of 5. Do this for 5 minutes. Stay with the count and the movement of the breath, even if the mind wanders. Practice this twice daily. If stressed, try 3 or 4 times daily.
- Get 1,500 mg of omega-3s/day. Higher levels of DHA and EPA (found in fatty fish) are associated with larger hippocampi.
- Memorize something new daily. Not the stuff of Lumosity but the habit of exercising memory. Try learning a new language or skill as well as interacting with a wide variety of people..all of which "tone" the hippocampi like a muscle.
Amazingly, the majority of patients Fotuhi's patients who have participated in NeurExpand's prescribed 3-month program demonstrated measurable gains in the size of their hippocampi as well as in the cognitive functioning.
Let the discussion begin...
To read the article in Prevention, click on the following link: