Melatonin – Its not just for Sleep

couple sleeping

Melatonin is a hormone produced in the pineal gland in your brain in response to the sun going down and getting dark, then melatonin production increases. In the morning when the light of day hits your eyes, melatonin production stops and you wake up. Because it is such a great natural sleep aid many people take a melatonin supplement when they go to bed to help them sleep. It is non addictive and doesn’t have any of the dangerous side effects of sleep drugs.

As we age our natural melatonin production decreases, but below are a list of other very beneficial ways melatonin can improve your health and why you may want to start taking a melatonin supplement before you go to bed.

  • Melatonin fights brain changes in Alzheimer’s Disease. Studies have also shown that melatonin helps protect the brain neurons from the two proteins which damage the nerve cells that leads to Alzheimer’s. Melatonin supplementation must be begun early on as once the damage is done it can’t reverse it.
  • Melatonin fights Parkinson’s at the earliest stages. Some studies have shown that melatonin supplementation can prevent and even reverse some of the changes in behavior found in Parkinson’s patients.
  • Melatonin cuts the risk of stroke – As we age melatonin levels decrease and with that decrease there is a proportional increase in the risk of stroke.
  • Melatonin has been shown to reduce cholesterol accumulation by 42% and helps reduce blood pressure into the normal levels.
  • If you do have a stroke melatonin can reduce the amount of damage in the area of the stroke by inhibiting the production of “protein melting” enzymes which can damage the blood brain barrier in the area of the stroke.
  • It shields your brain from traumatic injury. In traumatic brain injury, like from an auto accident, it is the oxidative damage to the brain cells which causes much of the damage. Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant and can protect the brain cells in the area of the injury.
  • You may have heard of the benefits of calorie restriction diets which can add years of healthy life. Melatonin seems to increase the expression of the same “Longevity protein” SIRT1 which triggers the expression of a number of self-healing genes just like the calorie restriction diet does. Much easier to comply with too!

With all of the benefits you need to begin melatonin supplementation early as it won’t do much good after signs of neurological diseases begin or traumatic injury happens.

There are dangers though. Most of the readily available melatonin comes from the pineal gland of animals, typically from cattle slaughter houses.  If the cow has a viral infection, like mad cow disease, then there is a good chance that intact virus will be in the melatonin and can’t be filtered or purified out.  There are a few producers of synthetic melatonin, which is made from non-animal ingredients, which are free from these risks (and also vegan friendly). Unfortunately most of the melatonin products I’ve seen on the store shelves don’t say if they are from animal sources or the much safer synthetic sources. I do know the one I use is synthetic and safe.


Brain getting a little foggy? Ginko & PS can help.

Does this sound familiar to anyone? You get up, get yourself ready, drive yourself to your local shopping center, and then once you get to your destination, you stop… stand there… and think: “What did I need to get here?” Then you don’t remember until you get back home.

It happens to me all the time. Recently, while wandering a favorite store in some less-than-sensible shoes, I swear all the blood left my brain and went to the pain in my feet, because when I got home, I realized I made a dumb purchase and forgot the whole point of why I was in that store in the first place.

I worry for my future.

But not too much, because, fortunately, it is possible to keep our brains sharp as we age.

The Brain is Amazing

A couple years ago I came across a book that taught me how incredible our brains can be. The Brain that Changes Itself by Dr. Norman Doidge is a fascinating read of what could be a super boring scientific subject. The book covers some mind-blowing (ha ha) examples of how people have overcome serious challenges thanks to the plasticity of our brains. It also provides insight into things we can do to make a real and lasting difference in our cognitive function well into old age.

Like a puzzle, many habits fit together to keep our brains fit. Here are a few tips:

  • Meditate, relax, and make sure you get enough sleep. A calm brain learns better and stress can actually kill cells in the brain.
  • Learn something. Doing something that requires real concentration — think learning how to dance or speak a new language — keeps the brain fit (including the part that makes dopamine, which is triggered when you experience something new).
  • Socialize with friends and family. Consider playing a rousing game of Scrabble or Words with Friends while you’re at it!
  • Consume lots of antioxidants and moderate amounts of caffeine. I recently read that caffeine boosts circulation in all parts of the body except the brain — where it actually constricts blood flow.
  • Stay active. Exercise helps the brain build new neurons and increases both oxygen and blood supply to the brain.

You can supplement the benefits of an antioxidant rich diet and exercise by adding Ginkgo-PS™ to your supplement regimen every day, because it will help deliver similar benefits.

Why Ginkgo-PS is Groovy

The two main ingredients in Ginkgo-PS are Ginkgo biloba and phosphatidylserine.

The herb Ginkgo biloba has been around for zillions of years. It is well accepted as a natural way to support cognition and circulation. In fact, it primarily helps cognition because it promotes healthy circulation—better blood flow helps deliver blood and oxygen to the brain. Ginkgo biloba also acts as an antioxidant, defending cells against damaging oxidative stress.

Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a fatty acid that plays a role in cell signaling and has been shown to support memory function and cognition. Some of the benefits of PS come from its favorable impact on brain glucose metabolism, acetylcholine levels, and maintaining normal capacity for norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine dependent neurotransmitter systems.

It turns out that while both ingredients are pretty cool on their own, they are more effective if combined, as they are in Ginkgo-PS. A study published in Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical & Experimental in 2007 showed that “administration of GBE [Ginkgo biloba extract] complexed with phosphatidylserine resulted both in improved secondary memory performance and significantly increased speed of memory task performance.” Results that were not seen when only Ginkgo biloba was used.

USANA’s Ginkgo-PS delivers the right amount of these key ingredients to provide real support for memory and cognition.

How to Prevent or Slow Alzheimer’s Disease

Most people’s biggest fear as we grow older is Alzheimer’s. We forget where we put the car keys and think ‘Oh My God! am I getting Alzheimer’s?” If you simply can’t find your keys, that may just be forgetful, but if you find your key in the refrigerator one day and the medicine chest the next, then that could be Alzheimers.

Unfortunately by the time someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease 80% of their brain cells are already damaged.  Researchers are spending billions looking for a “Cure” but once the brain cells and the neural connections are broken, it may be nearly impossible to regain you memory. So like anything else it is better to prevent Alzheimer’s in the first place so you don’t need to worry about the cure down the road.

Although there are no magic solutions, tantalizing new evidence suggests it may be possible to prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease through a combination of healthful habits.
Scientists now suggest you can stimulate your mind, improve your mood, sharpen your memory, and reduce your Alzheimer’s risks. Learn their discoveries and join the race towards brain vitality now.

In This Article:

  • Which Alzheimer’s risks can you control or reduce?
  • Take charge to prevent and delay Alzheimer’s disease
  • Get plenty of exercise
  • Eat a brain-healthy diet
  • Build brain reserves
  • Sleep to restore memory
  • Learn to relax & manage stress
  • Protect your brain
  • Related links & references

Which Alzheimer’s risks can you control or reduce?

Although scientists are still working to find causes and cures for Alzheimer’s disease, conditions and behaviors that leave you more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease have been identified.
Did you know:

  • Smoking after age 65 increases your chances of developing Alzheimer’s by 79%?
  • Obesity in midlife makes you 3 ½ times more likely to experience Alzheimer’s?
  • Diabetes makes you twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s?
  • Genetics account for only 25% of Alzheimer’s cases?
  • Chronic stress may quadruple your risk?

Although you can not change your inherited genes, ethnicity, gender, or age, you can address the following risk factors:

Alzheimer’s and Dementia Risks You Can Control or Inhibit:
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Chronic Stress
  • Poor quality or insufficient sleep
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Liver and kidney disease
  • Smoking, alcohol, drug use
  • Head injury
  • Toxic insults to your brain

Powerful fears about Alzheimer’s may discourage you from action. Identifying and controlling your personal risk factors will improve your over-all health and go a long way towards preserving your cognitive abilities.

Take charge to prevent, reduce, or delay Alzheimer’s disease

Particularly in western cultures where the pace of life is frantic, food is often fast and refined, and stress is rampant, brain degeneration starts imperceptibly early. Although most adults begin to notice age-related memory glitches in their 40’s and 50’s, scientists believe the neurological changes of Alzheimer’s ironically begin when the brain is at its peak… closer to age 20!

Medications and Alzheimer’s disease

Scientists are currently testing over 90 drugs to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease. If you are already experiencing memory problems, work with your doctor to diagnose and treat symptoms as soon as possible. Current medications can not reverse serious brain deterioration, but the earlier these drugs are started, the greater their potential effectiveness in slowing memory loss and preserving independence.

Create your personal anti-Alzheimer’s program now

Contrary to early beliefs about the brain’s restorative capacities, we now know brain regeneration continues through adulthood. Building brain reserves through systematic lifestyle choices is currently your best defense against Alzheimer’s disease.
The Anti Alzheimer’s Prescription, The Healthy Brain Kit, The Alzheimer’s Action Plan, and a variety of scientific resources (see references below) suggest that a multi-step approach to preventing, reducing, or delaying Alzheimer’s holds significant promise. There are no brain boosting miracles, magic potions, or secret formulas, but the anti-Alzheimer’s fundamentals are health practices that build physical and cognitive fitness:

Strategies to Prevent and Delay Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Get plenty of exercise
  • Eat a brain-healthy diet
  • Keep your mind active
  • Sleep regularly and restfully
  • Learn to relax
  • Protect your brain

Prevention and delay strategy #1: Get moving!

According to a recent Mayo Clinic review, no single lifestyle choice has as much impact on aging and Alzheimer’s disease as exercise. In a 2009 review of literature from the International Journal of Clinical Practice, scientists documented that over time, physical activity effectively reduces the probability of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Additional research shows those with existing cognitive problems and dementia receive a protective benefit from regular exercise.
These tips will maximize your exercise plan:

  • Exercise at a moderate pace-for at least 30 minutes five times per week. Just five workouts every seven days can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s by as much as 35%. When serious brain damage has already occurred, brisk walking and other cardiovascular exercise can slow further injury.
  • Build muscle to pump up your brain-moderate levels of weight and resistance training not only increase muscle mass, they maintain cognitive health. Combining aerobics and strength work is better than either activity alone. Add 2-3 strength sessions to your weekly routine, and your risk of Alzheimer’s is cut in half if you are over 65.
  • Stretch for success-agility not only makes you light on your feet, it improves balance and reduces head injuries. Remember the Tin Man… and reach, twist, and flex often to keep your frame limber and your brain supported.
  • Think movement-those who are physically active throughout life have improved cognitive forecasts. Gardening, cleaning house, and taking the stairs build brain-healthy movement throughout the day. Look for opportunities to walk, bend, stretch, and lift your way to vitality.

Stuck on the couch?

It takes 28 days for a new routine to become habit. Write realistic goals on a workout calendar and post it on the fridge. Build in frequent rewards, and within no time, the feel-good endorphins from regular exercise will help you forget the remote…and head out the door.

Prevention and delay strategy #2: Eat a brain-healthy diet

In Alzheimer’s disease, inflammation and insulin resistance injure neurons and inhibit communication between brain cells. In Freedom from Disease, Alzheimer’s is described as “diabetes of the brain,” and a growing body of information suggests a strong link between metabolic disorders and the signal processing systems. In addition, the American Academy of Neurology
recently warned elevated cholesterol in your 40’s increases your risk of Alzheimer’s.
Eating habits that reduce inflammation and promote normal energy production are brain-healthy. These food tips will keep you protected:

  • Follow a Mediterranean diet. Control inflammation by eating foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, cold water fish, nuts, whole grains, and abundant fresh produce. Avoid transfats, full-fat dairy products, and red meat, but treat yourself to a glass of red wine and a dark chocolate square.
  • Maintain consistent levels of insulin and blood sugar. Eat several small meals throughout the day. Avoid packaged, refined, and processed foods, especially those high in sugars and white flour, which rapidly spike glucose levels and inflame your brain.
  • Eat across the rainbow. Emphasize fruits and vegetables across the color spectrum to maximize protective anti-oxidants and vitamins. Daily servings of berries and green leafy vegetables should be part of a plant-centered, brain protective regimen.
  • Drink tea daily. Green, white, and oolong teas are particularly brain-healthy. Drinking 2-4 cups daily has proven benefits. Although caffeine can inhibit stress reduction and become addictive, moderate coffee drinkers also enjoy reduced cognitive risks.
  • Consider supplementing your diet. Vitamins, herbs, and amino acids may provide additional brain protection. Folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and fish oils are believed to preserve and improve memory. Studies of vitamin E, gingko biloba, and tumeric have yielded more disappointing results. Make sure your nutritional supplements are high quality and pure. Many supplements are contaminated with heavy metals and other harmful substances. Make sure yours are pharmaceutical grade and certified as pure. Talk to your doctor about medication interactions, and review current literature to make a personal decision about the costs and benefits of dietary supplements.

Prevention and delay strategy #3: Build brain reserves

According to the 2008 Wall Street Journal review “Neurobics and Other Brain Boosters,” an active, stimulated brain reduces your odds of developing Alzheimer’s. Those who remain engaged in activities involving multiple tasks, requiring communication, interaction, and organization, who continue learning, and constantly challenge their brains earn the greatest protection.
Cross-training with these brainpower activities will keep your mind sharp:

  • Set aside time each day to learn something new – read a good book, study a foreign language, play a musical instrument. The greater the novelty and challenge, the larger the deposit in your brain reserves.
  • Practice memorization – start with something short and progress to the 50 U.S. capitals. Create rhymes and patterns to strengthen your memory connections.
  • Solve riddles and work puzzles – brain teasers and strategy games provide great mental exercise and build your capacity to form and retain cognitive associations. Look for activities that use both sides of your brain…logic and language versus artistic and creative challenges.
  • Practice the 5 W’s – observe and report like a crime detective. Keep a Who, What, Where, When, and Why list of your daily experiences. Capturing visual details keeps your neurons firing.
  • Follow the road less traveled – take a new route, eat with your other hand, rearrange your computer desktop. Vary your habits regularly to create new brain pathways.

Prevention and delay strategy # 4: Sleep to restore memory

Your brain needs regular, restful sleep to process, store, and recall information. Nightly deprivation not only leaves you cranky and tired, but according to memory experts Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. Gary Small, poor sleep can significantly damage your brain and central nervous system.
These tips will help you catch your Z’s and quiet the demons that keep you awake:

  • Establish a regular sleep schedule. Going to bed and getting up at the same time reinforces your natural circadian rhythms. Your brain’s clock responds to regularity, and long term disruption has been associated with heart disease, cancer risks, and cognitive problems.
  • Set the mood. Reserve your bed for sleep (and sex), take a hot bath, and dim the lights. Brisk evening exercise, comfortable temperatures, and white noise machines can also signal your brain that it’s time for deep restorative sleep.
  • Stop snoring, dear! Alcohol, smoking, sedating drugs, excess weight, high blood pressure, and clogged nasal passages can rock the timbers. Snoring may signal sleep apnea, a respiratory condition that threatens your heart and mind. A new study from the University of California at San Diego estimates seventy to eighty percent of Alzheimer’s patients experience sleep apnea. Cognition is frequently improved following Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) treatment, which mechanically regulates the rise and fall of blood pressure and oxygen to the brain.
  • Quiet your inner chatter. When mental dialogues keep you awake, get up. Try reading or relaxing in another room for twenty minutes then hop back in. If repeating this cycle doesn’t work, check your stress levels. Your memory may depend on it.

Can Sleep Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease?

Do you wake up refreshed? Can you remember your dreams? Deep, dreamy sleep is critical for memory formation and retention. If nightly sleep deprivation is slowing your thinking and affecting your mood, you may be at greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Prevention and delay strategy #5: Learn to relax and manage stress

According to USC’s Dr. Vincent Fortanasce, lifelong stress can double or quadruple your chances of Alzheimer’s disease, yet simple daily tools can minimize its effects. The harmful stress hormone cortisol hampers nerve cell growth and connection and accelerates cognitive decline, premature aging, depression, diabetes, and other assaults on your brain.
Conquer cortisol with these proven techniques:

  • Breathe! Stress alters breathing rates and impacts brain oxygen levels. Turn off your stress response with quiet, deep, abdominal breathing. From momentary inhale, hold, and exhale sequences to guided group exercises, restorative breathing is powerful, simple, and free!
  • Schedule daily relaxation activities – From a walk in the park or petting your cat to Tai-chi, guided imagery, or yoga, make relaxation a priority. Keeping cortisol under control requires regular effort.
  • Stay connected – We are social creatures, and the most connected fare better on tests of memory and cognition. Developing a strong support system through family, friends, exercise groups, clubs, and volunteer activities improves mood and slows cognitive decline.
  • Nourish inner peace – Most scientists acknowledge a strong mind-body connection, and various studies associate personal spiritual activities with better cognitive aging. Regular meditation, prayer, reflection, and religious practice may immunize you against the damaging effects of stress.

Prevention and delay strategy #6: Protect your brain

By the time Alzheimer’s disease appears, irreversible damage has already occurred. Preventing and delaying Alzheimer’s includes three protective tips:

  • Avoid toxins – Among the most preventable risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease are smoking and heavy drinking. Not only does smoking increase the odds for those over 65 by nearly 79%, researchers at Miami’s Mt. Sinai Medical Center warn that a combination of these two behaviors reduces the age of Alzheimer’s onset by six to seven years. If you stop smoking at age, the brain benefits from improved circulation almost immediately. Brain changes from alcohol abuse can only be reversed early.
  • Wear a helmet – and limit distractions. A National Institute of Health study suggests head trauma at any point in life significantly increases your risk of Alzheimer’s. Dr. Andrew Weil cautions that repeated hits in sports activities including football, soccer, and boxing, or single traumatic injuries from bicycle, skating, or motorcycle accidents make Alzheimer’s disease more likely in later life. Preserve your brain by wearing properly fitting sports helmets, buckling your seatbelt, and trip-proofing your environment. Avoid activities that compete for your attention—like driving with cell phones and running with your MP3 player. A moment’s distraction can lead to a brain-injuring thud!
  • Create a brain-safe environment – The evidence on modern technology is mixed. Scientists continue to examine links between neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and exposure to environmental contaminants. UCLA’s Memory Center Director Gary Small warns that lead, pesticides, mold, and other substances in your environment may damage your brain. Studies on the impact of electromagnetic energy from cell phones are still debated. Although definitive links to Alzheimer’s can be elusive, making choices that limit chronic exposure to environmental harm makes good sense.
  • Get rid of your silver fillings – Silver, or mercury amalgam fillings continually release mercury vapor which is a deadly neurotoxin and is readily absorbed into the blood stream through the mouth. Brain cells in culture exposed to mercury vapor develop the same degenerative symptoms as brain cells from Alzheimer’s patients.

Act now to prevent and delay Alzheimer’s disease

It is never too early or too late to protect yourself and your family against Alzheimer’s. Start a multi-step strategy now, and begin actively preventing or slowing this disease.
The race to cure Alzheimer’s is expected to continue for some time. Investing in your diet, exercise, mental stimulation, and rest will help you feel better now and keep your brain working stronger…longer.