Aileen Burford-Mason, author of The Healthy Brain: Optimize Brain Power at Any Age, says it's never too late to improve your brain health.

Middle age is a fine time to start maximizing the health of your brain says Aileen Burford-Mason, a 74-year old Toronto-based scientist who still works 24/7 as an author, practicing orthomolecular nutritionist and medical education teacher.

However, she says, in utero is an even better time to begin.

"But at no stage should we throw up our hands and say we can't beneficially interfere with how the brain works."

Just in time for Alzheimer's month, Burford-Mason's new book, The Healthy Brain: Optimize Brain Power at Any Age has been published by HarperCollins.

In her book and in conversation, Burford-Mason details what we can do to optimize brain power as we move into middle age and beyond:

  • "The older we get, the more likely we are to suffer from deficiencies, especially of those vitamins and minerals critical for brain function, like Vitamin C, magnesium and B vitamins. And many of the medications we're prescribed as we get older deplete nutrients."
  • "Think of diet first. There's so much starch and sugar concentrated in our diet. Those excess calories have to be processed by the body and that processing uses up so many vitamins and minerals that it's easy to go into a net deficiency.
  • There is so much bad research and misinformation about supplements. The basic bottom line is that all nutrients interact together — all the vitamins, all the minerals, all the amino acids — and they need to be in balance. A good multivitamin with plenty of B vitamins is critical for everyone."
  • "The strongest associations between supplement use and dementia prevention have been found for omega-3 fats, the B vitamins and antioxidants. The relationship between folic acid and B12 has been severely distorted by the modern practice of adding folic acid to our food. In order to use folic acid, the body needs B12. Too much folic acid and insufficient B12 has been linked to memory problems in the elderly. If left untreated, B12 deficiency can cause irreversible damage to the brain and nervous system."
  • "The best diet is a plant-rich diet, rather than plant-based. I understand the ethical concerns , the way we treat our animals, I do have all those concerns, but it is very difficult to get enough protein from a vegan diet without overloading calories"
  • "I take 4000 (IU) of Vitamin D. It's the upper limit anyone from the age of 9 can take. Some people need a lot more than others. We know know from genetic studies there is no one size fits all as far as nutrients are concerned. Vitamins D deficiency is the norm in Canada. That's why I recommend having blood tests to check D levels."
  • "Tyrosine is not one of the essential amino acids but it becomes essential under stress. And aging causes stress. Almost all the individuals in my practice over the age of 70 are on tyrosine. Because there is a lot of stress in getting older. You can't do all the things you used to do — even though I don't think of myself as old. The to-do list for tyrosine is huge. We need it to make thyroxine, coenzyme Q10 and dopamine, which is the true antidepressant in the brain. We need dopamine for word recall and speaking fluently. Dopamine allows the brain to function with good speed and accuracy. But it's cannibalized by the stress hormones. If you're constantly stressed, you're draining your dopamine to make the flight or fight hormones, adrenaline and noradrenaline. If you have tyrosine circulating in your blood, you can replace dopamine circulating in your brain. What people notice when they're supplementing with tyrosine is that they're in a better mood, with better focus and concentration and better physical energy. Also, It's fun to tell a golfer to take tyrosine every morning on an empty stomach and then wait 30 minutes before eating and then take more just before playing a match and watch the accuracy of the putting go up."

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