Gary Null, author of more than seventy books on aging, health, and the brain, writes in the introduction of his book, Gary Null’s Mind Power: Rejuvenate Your Brain and Memory Naturally:
I look at the people I went to high school with and am shocked to see how sick they look. They look old and beaten up because they are living like their parents. They believe they are just doing what good citizens do. And indeed they are all good, decent, kindhearted citizens, but they aren’t being good to themselves. And now their illnesses and their prematurely aged bodies are a testament to what happens when you never question old beliefs.
And so, I challenge you to examine your definitions of aging, to challenge a belief system that tells you that you must accept a quiet decline, a gradual fading of the mind, body, and spirit. I challenge you to remember that it is the quality of your own beliefs that ultimately determines the quality of your life and growth for your brain and your body, no matter what your age.
Null goes on to say that we have a “use or lose it” brain at any age, what weakens brain function is not merely the act of aging. The brain does not inevitably wear out as we grow old. He posits that the body and brain begin to experience the cumulative effects of damaging lifestyle habits and outside influences and what has been labeled “age-related” decline are really the result of neglect of our bodies and brains. He writes:
Staying vital both mentally and physically as we age requires paying close attention to the mind/body connection and the effects of outside factors – such as environment, nutrition and diet, stress and emotion – bring to bare on our welfare.
…If we understand the negative factors and how they impact our mental vitality, we can make the necessary changes to ensure vigorous mental health throughout our lifetimes.
He proposes that “our genes can only be as healthful as the medium in which we allow them to exist.” According to Null, there are roughly one thousand known substances that may cause brain toxicity and accelerate decline. You may think that these are substances with which you would rarely come into contact; however, many you are probably exposed to many on a regular basis in your daily life. Null lists key environmental factors that can negatively impact mental health as you age as follows: (See previous blog for lifestyle factors Are Your Beliefs Aging Your Brain Part 1)
Arsenic – is found naturally in soil, water, and air and is released into the environment by some manufacturing processes. The central nervous system, blood, kidneys, digestive system, and skin are the main targets of arsenic toxicity.
Lead – is found in the dust and chips of old paint manufactured prior to 1940. Lead also may be found in toys, ceramics and china, imported candies, cosmetics, food cans and more. Adverse effects of lead exposure are seen in the brain, bones, blood, kidneys, and thyroid.
Mercury – is used in thermometers, thermostats, many medicines, and until 1990 was added to paint as a fungicide. The paper industries and the mining industry are significant producers of mercury. Mercury is extremely toxic and exposure can result in serious physical and neurological problems and even death. Short -term memory loss is linked to having mercury in the body.
Cadmium – is a by product some mining operations and is used in some fertilizers which may leach into water supplies. Cigarettes contain cadmium. Inhalation or ingestion of cadmium can damage the brain, liver, kidneys, bones and lungs.
Aluminum – is used in abundance in our modern world. It can be found in food additives, antiperspirants, drinking water, automobile exhaust, tobacco smoke, foil, cookware, cans, and ceramics. Researchers have found significant amounts of aluminum in the brain tissues of patients with Alzheimer’s disease but there is no conclusive evidence of the relationship.
Manganese – is used commonly used as an anti-knock additive in gasoline. If inhaled, manganese is transported directly to the brain and causes neurological problems.
Solvents and Feuls – Paints, glues, and thinners have substances which have been shown to cause neurological problems. Toulene, in particular, has been shown to cause dementia, balance and coordination problems as well as brain atrophy. It can be found in household aerosols, nail polish, paint, and some cleaning products.
Pesticides – Numerous pesticides have been shown to have neurotoxic effects when inhaled or absorbed through the skin. When exposed to pesticides, a person may develop headaches, fuzzy vision, or speech difficulties.
Carbon Monoxide – wreaks havoc on the brain and can kill. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless by-product of combustion and is present whenever fuel is burned. It is produced by common home appliances, such as gas or oil furnaces, gas refrigerators, gas clothes dryers, gas ranges, gas water heaters or space heaters, fireplaces, charcoal grills, and wood burning stoves. When Carbon monoxide does not kill, it damages the brain causing memory loss and other cognitive impairments.