Everyone learns at an early age the importance of calcium for strong teeth and bones. But, what you are not taught is why calcium is essential for healthy brain function. Calcium is an important part of the electrical signals within the nervous system, and it may actually help us to better understand why we age.
The Secondary Messenger
When a chemical signal arrives at a brain cell, it's the job of calcium ions to deliver that signal from the outside of the cell to the inside, through the joining of important proteins. These proteins are activated by calcium and cause various changes in the cell, including the cell turning on new sets of genes.
Healthy Brain Cells
There are more calcium ions outside of the cell than inside the cell, and even if a small change occurs in this delicate balance of calcium levels, major drama will occur within the cell's activity. Healthy brain cells are able to detect if amounts of calcium are too high inside the cell thanks to an elaborate pump system made of various proteins. This pump system will move calcium from inside to outside the cell. If this pump system fails, then the calcium builds up and eventually, the cell will die.
The Aging Process
Calcium is the moderator of the aging process. The genetics of aging are based on the fact that the proteins, which are part of the pump system that remove excess calcium from cells, are not found in older brain cells. Additionally, these older brain cells have pumps that are not as active, which means that calcium levels within the cells are higher for a longer time. Combine this with the missing proteins, and the cell is unprotected from the high calcium levels and becomes stressed. This stress leads to damage and eventually death. The key to older cell health are the proteins that keep these calcium pumps running effectively. So restore those proteins, and you will have good brain health, and arguably, a longer life.
Good Brain Health
So what can you do to preserve these proteins and keep calcium levels balanced at a cellular level? There isn't an exact answer to this question, but there are a few things you can do which will help.
- Lower Calorie Intake: Eating fewer calories maintains a balance of calcium in the brain and helps to reduce cell death in an aging brain.
- Ginseng: It is thought that ginseng helps to moderate the activity of the pumps in the cells, and therefore helps to relieve stress on the aging brain. This is actually where ginseng gets its reputation as a remedy for old age.
- Antioxidants: Berry extracts, grape seed and green teas help to provide a boost in energy for the pumps within brain cells.
So while it may be common knowledge that calcium provides us with stronger bones and therefore, helps to prevent osteoporosis. But we should not discredit its crucial role in maintaining our health at a cellular level and being a key player in the aging process.