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Aging Brain
By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH

Table of Contents

Reading Tips

For fast reading, scan through the topic headings in BOLD BLACK, important conclusions in BOLD BLUE, and "Must Know" in BOLD RED. To jump to specific sections in this article, click on the respective LINKS in the Table of Contents.

Information presented here is for general educational purposes only. Each one of us is biochemically and metabolically different. If you have a specific health concern and wish my personalized nutritional recommendation, write to me by clicking here.

5. Depression

Research shows that stress and depression may cause some forms of memory loss. Prolonged depression or stress leads to elevated levels of plasma cortisol, a "stress" hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Cortisol appears to shrink the hippocampus, the central unit in the brain that is associated with AD. Elevated levels of cortisol during prolonged depression appear to wear down the hippocampus. When depression is treated, cognitive function, including memory, improves. The earlier symptoms are recognized, the more likely the deterioration can be slowed. Much more research is needed, as it is still unclear if all patients with AD have elevated plasma cortisol levels. Phosphatidylserine enhances cortisol-receptor sensitivity and restores hypothalamic sensitivity to cortisol through its membrane stabilization properties, resulting in reduced damage and restoration of healthy, normal cortisol levels.


  1. Phosphatidylserine: 30 - 100 mg a day
  2. Kava Kava and Chamomile Tea (calming herbal remedies)

6. Over-Medication and Drug Interaction

The average person aged 65 is likely to be taking between 8 and 10 different prescription and / or over-the-counter drugs. Drug interactions, coupled with a nutrient poor diet, often results mental symptomatology in addition to physical problems. Chronic alcohol abuse can lead to symptoms closely resembling AD.

Solutions: Cut down the number of medications as much as possible.

7. Metal Toxicity

Research has revealed that it is common for people with AD to have high aluminum and mercury levels in their brain. There are many common sources of aluminum. Aluminum is commonly found in cookware (doubling the amount of aluminum we consume), in antacids (like Gaviscon®, Maalox®, Mylanta®), and in anti-diarrhea medications (like Kaopectate® and Pepto-Bismol®). In deodorants, the aluminum chlorhydrate in anti-perspirants is readily absorbed into the brain from the nasal passage. Aluminum is also found in food additives (baking powder contains from 5 - 70 mg of sodium aluminum sulfate per teaspoon). Lead toxicity have also been linked to higher incidence of AD.

Research done at University of Kentucky found that people with AD also have higher levels of mercury than a control group. Metal mercury from dental amalgam surfaces in the mouth has also been linked to people with AD. The AD group also has higher ratios of mercury to selenium and zinc (metals which help protect the body against the toxic effects of mercury).


  1. Start with a hair analysis or blood test to screen for metal toxicity.
  2. Avoid taking in metals or chemicals that bind to metal. If you have been diagnosed with metal toxicity, consult a specialist. Metal toxicity is not easy to normalize.
  3. Chelation therapy (IV or oral) is an alternative treatment modality that has been used successfully.

8. Low Hormone Level

Women with AD have lower estrogen levels than their healthy counterparts. According to Richard Mayeux who monitored about 1,100 New York city women for up to 5 years for the appearance of AD, postmenopausal women who had taken estrogen for longer than a year showed a risk of developing AD reduced by almost 50%. Recent studies have suggested that estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) may have a protective effect on cognitive function and may reduce the risk of AD. In the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, 116 women who reported that they were receiving ERT during a cognitive assessment were compared to 172 women who had never received ERT. Those receiving ERT had fewer errors on test of short-term visual memory, visual perception, and constructional skills.

Certain hormones, including DHEA and human growth hormone have been shown to improve memory.

Solution: Taking estrogen as a preventive measure for AD is not widely recommended due to the complications of hormone replacement therapy.

9. Under-Utilization of Mental Capacity

People with complex jobs have a lower risk of AD, according to Richard Mayeux, director to the Taub Institute on AD and the Aging Brain at Columbia University.

Solution: Participate in mental exercises like reading, doing puzzles, debates etc. on a daily basis.

10. Lack of Physical Activity

People who are aerobically fit tend to suffer less cognitive decline with normal aging and have less chances of developing AD. When Fred Gage of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, allowed mice to run at will - about five kilometers a day, they generated many more neurons in their hippocampus area compared to their sedentary counterparts.

A well-balanced exercise program is the key to optimum mental health. While most people think of exercise as a way to reduce body weight, exercise does much more, including reducing insulin resistance and impotence.

A well-balanced exercise must include three components:

  1. Flexibility training
  2. Cardiovascular training
  3. Strength training

Ideally, about 2000 calories should be burned per week. Working out with 30 minutes of aerobics exercise at moderate intensity 5 times a week plus 15-20 minutes of strength training 3 times a week will accomplish this goal.

11. Genetic Factors

2% of Americans have 2 copies of a gene that produces apolipoproetien E4 that transports cholesterol through the bloodstream and changes the form of amyloid in the brain. These people have a 50% chance of getting AD before age 70. The development of a vaccine to spur the body's own immune system to clear the amyloid is in experimental stages. Studies involving twins and family members are underway to look at the correlation of incidence of AD along familial lines. One study showed that relatives have a higher risk, approaching 49% by age 87. The risks were similar among parents and siblings. It is interesting to note that female relatives appear to develop the disease earlier than male.

With the human genome mapping completed, it is just a matter of time before genetically engineered drugs will surface.

Solutions: Keep yourself in good shape while you wait for genetic therapy to arrive, most likely in five to ten years.

Message from Dr. Lam

I hope you have enjoyed reading this article. If you have areas you don't understand,
or if you have a specific health concern, feel free to write to me by clicking here.

About The Author

Michael Lam, M.D., M.P.H., A.B.A.A.M., is a western trained physician specializing in nutritional and anti-aging medicine. Dr. Lam received his Bachelor of Science degree from Oregon State University, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from the Loma Linda University School of Medicine in California. He also holds a Master’s degree in Public Health. He is board certified by the American Board of Anti-Aging Medicine where he has also served as a board examiner. Dr. Lam is a pioneer in using nontoxic, natural compounds to promote the healing of many age-related degenerative conditions. He utilizes optimum blends of nutritional supplementation that manipulate food, vitamins, natural hormones, herbs, enzymes, and minerals into specific protocols to rejuvenate cellular function.

Dr. Lam was first to coin the term, ovarian-adrenal-thyroid (OAT) hormone axis, and to describe its imbalances. He was first to scientifically tie in Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) as part of the overall neuroendocrine stress response continuum of the body. He systematized the clinical significance and coined the various phases of Adrenal Exhaustion. He has written five books: Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome - Reclaim Your Energy and Vitality with Clinically Proven Natural Programs, The Five Proven Secrets to Longevity, Beating Cancer with Natural Medicine (Free PDF version), How to Stay Young and Live Longer, and Estrogen Dominance. In 2001, Dr. Lam established as a free, educational website on evidence-based alternative medicine for the public and for health professionals. It featured the world’s most comprehensive library on AFS. Provided free as a public service, he has answered countless questions through the website on alternative health and AFS. His personal, telephone-based nutritional coaching services have enabled many around the world to regain control of their health using natural therapies.

For More Information

For the latest Anti-Aging and Adrenal Fatigue related health issues, visit Dr. Lam at
Feel free to email Dr. Lam by clicking here if you have any questions.

© 2001  Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

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