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Let’s talk about your brain.

The following article is taken from the Linus Pauling Institute [LPI] website.
The Linus Pauling Institute exists to research the role that micronutrients [e.g vitamins and minerals] play in enhancing health and preventing disease with a view to improving public health. In 1996, the LPI moved to the campus of Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, USA and now operates as one of the University’s Research Centres.
http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/cognitive-function-in-brief

The Brain
Every single thing we do, think, and say is controlled by the brain. It’s hard to imagine, but all of our actions are the result of the transmission of electrical and chemical signals between neurons [nerve cells]. The human brain contains an estimated 100 million neurons, each with thousands of connections. A network of blood vessels permeates the brain and associates with the millions of neurons to provide oxygen, nutrients, and other vital substances, and to remove waste.
The brain may seem an inert lump, but it uses more energy than any other organ in your body. Twenty five percent of the amount of energy used by our bodies at rest is used to fuel the brain. This energy is essential to maintain brain function.

Cognitive Function
Cognition basically means using your brain. It is a very broad term that includes many varied and complex brain activities (or cognitive functions), such as attention, memory, language, processing speed, and executive functions (i.e., reasoning, planning, problem solving, and multitasking).
(1) Normal cognitive ageing – As we get older, the brain shrinks, the number of connections between brain cells decreases, and the number of receptors for neurotransmitters decreases. All of these age-related changes can contribute to minor cognitive deficits, especially in memory, processing speed, cognitive flexibility, attention, and executive functions. The rate of brain ageing varies dramatically from person to person.
(2) Mild cognitive impairment – There is no precise definition on the diagnostic criteria for mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI refers to some mild but noticeable impairment in cognitive function that does not affect essential activities of daily living (for example, becoming disoriented in familiar places or forgetting recent conversations). Generally, individuals with MCI have an increased risk of developing dementia.
(3) Dementia – Dementia is a loss of cognitive and behavioural abilities to an extent that is severe enough to interfere with daily life. There are different types of dementia:

  • The most common form of dementia in older individuals (65 years and older) is caused by Alzheimer’s disease, a disease in which abnormal proteins accumulate in the brain (see Alzheimer’s disease). Alzheimer’s dementia accounts for up to 70% of dementia cases in the USA.
  • Vascular dementia is the second most common dementia in the elderly. It results from blockage or leakage of arteries in the brain due to blood vessel disease.

The good news is that the aged brain is capable of change, and there are things you can do to slow down age-related cognitive decline:

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

  • Physical activity increases brain cell number and brain cell survival and also increases the volume of the hippocampus, a region of the brain that is important for forming new memories.
  • Even the aged brain is capable of these improvements. Stay physically active to help maintain cognitive function at any age.
    B-VITAMINS 
  • Severe deficiency of certain micronutrients, the B vitamins in particular, can result in brain cell and nerve abnormalities.

      Good sources of dietary B vitamins include, but are not limited to, pork, poultry, Portobello mushrooms, oily fish, shellfish, yeast extract [marmite or vegemite], milk, cottage cheese, raw wheat germ, bean sprouts, soybeans, and oatmeal.