Uncaging the Brain
Two studies recently published in the Archives of Neurology fit nicely with the focus of our website. One article discusses telomere length, and the other the role of growth hormone-releasing hormone and cognitive function.
The best thing you can do to improve your health and increase your longevity is to take steps to maintain telomere length. We’ve discussed telomeres and their importance in several previous posts.
This study from the Archives of Neurology measured telomere length in 1,983 patients and followed them for 9.3 years and found an association between short telomeres and the development of dementia.
Men were found to have shorter telomeres than women. The association of short telomeres and dementia was significant in women only. However, those who died during the course of the study were found more likely to have short telomeres as well.
Dementia obviously increases with aging as do all chronic diseases, and telomeres serve as markers of biological aging. The good news is you can take steps to maintain and even lengthen your telomeres.
I highly recommend to my patients that they pick up a copy of The Immortality Edge. This is the best book I’ve seen that explains what you can do to preserve telomeres – everything from nutrition, to exercise, to supplements, to controlling/managing stress, and more. Preserving telomere length is the very essence of preventive medicine.
If you follow the recommendations in The Immortality Edge I have no doubt you will find yourself healthier and living a life of more vigor.
The second study in the Archives of Neurology showed that growth hormone-releasing hormone has positive effects in both healthy aging patients and in patients suffering from mild cognitive impairment after 20 weeks of treatment.
Growth hormone-releasing (GHRH) hormone is produced in the hypothalamus of the brain. GHRH then stimulates the anterior pituitary to release growth hormone. Growth hormone then stimulates the production of IGF-1, a hormone that mediates many of the effects attributed to growth hormone.
The aspect of the study I found most interesting is the fact that healthy aging patients (those without any apparent cognitive decline) were included in the study and found to respond to GHRH with improvement in tests of brain function. This supports the notion that just having hormone levels in the “normal” range may not be good enough – that the focus should be on achieving optimal hormone levels.
The overall findings of the study themself are not too surprising given the fact that we know growth hormone is a regenerative/reparative hormone and augments the effects of other hormones. The brain is normally high in hormone receptors (growth hormone, testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, DHEA, thyroid, etc.), and if those receptors are not stimulated by their respective hormones the brain simply isn’t going to function as well as possible.
Most hormones are naturally regulated by a complex system of positive and negative feedback loops. Exogenous administration, in this case GHRH, can disrupt the balance between these circuits that keep hormones in an optimal and safe range. A disruption in these feedback loops can predispose to certain side effects associated with growth hormone-releasing hormone.