A new study published by the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (Endocrine Society) has linked low levels of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) to Alzheimer’s disease in men. HGH is produced by the pituitary gland in the brain and is responsible for the growth of tissues, bones, ligaments etc in adolescence. However, as we age HGH continues to influence health and longevity by promoting healthy cholesterol levels, improving cardiac function, preventing osteoporosis, inducing fat loss and muscle growth and preventing cognitive decline and dementia.
Both men and women see a steady if not rapid decline in HGH production after the age of 30. With declining levels comes and increase in visceral fat, decrease in bone mass and strength, a reduction in cardiac function and cognitive decline. HGH stimulates the liver to make a compound called IGF-1. In addition, HGH also stimulates the production of IGF-BP3 (IGF binding protein 3). These two compounds are responsible for the health benefits of HGH and are what we shoot for when prescribing HGH for deficient patients.
The standard test to diagnose a true HGH deficiency is called the Insulin Tolerance Test (ITT). This test is rarely done because it requires hospitalization and is contraindicated in anyone over the age of 55. There have been a few deaths associated with doing this test because insulin is given to the patient until their blood sugars rapidly drop to dangerously low levels. Glucose is then given and HGH output is measured. Most endocrinologists will not perform this test because in the age group where we expect to see an HGH deficiency the test is contraindicated. So what many clinicians do instead is measure something called the IGF-1 level. The American Academy of Family Physicians states that IGF-1 levels less than 175 are consistent with decreased HGH output.
Dr. Eric Braverman, founder of the Path Clinic in Manhattan and who is world renowned in neuroscience states that the fastest way to increase brain speed and reverse Mild Cognitive Decline is to supplement with HGH until IGF-1 levels reach at least 275. The optimal range for IGF-1 is 300-350. This most recent study by JCEM is more evidence that HGH plays a very important role in preventing cognitive decline. They found a direct correlations of IGF-1 and IGF-BP3 levels and cognitive decline. The lower the level the more cognitive decline and visa versa.
The future of medicine is here. Patients and doctors need to start looking at dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as preventable illnesses that can be treated with a comprehensive approach as early as 40 years old. So what can you do if you are reading this and want to know if you have Mild Cognitive Impairment? One of the tests we screen with is a PET scan that can look at brain speed. An MRI report will also show evidence of brain atrophy and if there are finding of lacunar infarcts (for example).
How do you prevent cognitive decline? Exercise, exercise, exercise! Exercising has shown to increase a compound called Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF) which can increase the growth of neurons. Secondly, you need to make sure your hormones are optimized. Specifically, estrogen is the main hormone responsible for maintaining brain fitness. In women, levels in the serum should be 75-100 post-menopause. In men, we increase estrogen by making sure testosterone levels are at the upper end of normal (1200 total and free T of 30-40 for lab corp and 190-210 for Quest) because testosterone gets converted to estradiol in men peripherally. In addition, most people need to supplement 4-5 grams per day of EPA and DHA (fish oils) which are omega-3 fatty acids. There are also specific nutrients that support brain fitness. Xymogen makes an incredible pharmaceutical grade supplement called “Neuro Actives Brain Sustain” . It contains N-acetyl cysteine, phosphatidylserine, alpha lipoic acid, l-carnitine and CoQ10. You can find it under “Brain Support” at my online store. (store.doctorbreen.com)
When was the last time your doctor tested you for early cognitive decline and what are you doing to prevent it? You SHOULD NOT wait until your kids start wondering if you are losing your marbles. It needs to start today!