The part of your brain called the hypothalamus plays a central role in your daily life. It keeps tabs on your daily rhythms – regulating appetite, metabolism, sexual behavior, the release of hormones, and your internal temperature.
When this part of the brain starts to slip, your memory can weaken. But there are ways you can help the hypothalamus function more effectively as you age. Let me show you how…
A key function of the hypothalamus is to keep many parts of the body in homeostasis – maintaining internal balance. To do that it constantly balances the hormones released by glands – ramping up the production of some of them and turning down the release of others.
It does this by acting like a busy switchboard bringing in and directing nerve impulses from around the body while sending out continual signals that keep the body’s organs functioning properly. As it performs that job, it also continually shifts the body temperature, pulse rate and other dynamic processes in the body.
Crucial Role In Memory And Learning
At the same time, the hypothalamus plays a central role in memory and learning by releasing unique neurotransmitters that alter the connections between neural networks in the brain.1
Additionally, this part of the brain is home to neuronal stem cells that are crucial for repairing the brain after injury and helping to create new neuronal networks when needed. Along with those functions, these stem cells release exosomes that deliver inter-cellular messages that can limit harmful inflammation while also slowing the aging process through a complex series of interactions with the body’s hormones.2
Neurons in the hypothalamus also control when we feel sleepy and how long it takes to fall asleep. These neurons also help us wake up in the morning. But as we get older the neurons in the hypothalamus that cause us to feel awake can get “hyperexcitable” – and that disrupts sleep.
When Alzheimer’s Disease Happens
Further proof of the importance of the hypothalamus is the fact that when you develop Alzheimer’s disease, the hypothalamus is one of the first sections to experience serious damage and shrinkage. Although researchers are divided as to whether changes to the hypothalamus bring about the harmful changes of Alzheimer’s or are a result of the disease, it’s crucial for your well-being to keep your hypothalamus functioning properly.3
The good news is that your daily lifestyle habits can keep your hypothalamus working better.
Exercise For Hypothalamus Health
When it comes to protecting the health of your hypothalamus, getting some exercise is crucial.
According to a study at East Carolina University, exercise plays a key role in keeping the hypothalamus functioning properly and avoiding destructive inflammation that can kill off its neurons.4 In the East Carolina laboratory tests, aerobic exercise was found to restore better function of the neurons in the hypothalamus and potentially stop the progression of dementia.
Laboratory tests in Brazil have supported what the researchers at East Carolina have found – showing that exercises like walking can keep immune cells from inflaming the hypothalamus and help its neurons avoid being damaged.5
Other important ways to protect your hypothalamus include:
- Consuming the nutrient resveratrol: An investigation into the effects of resveratrol demonstrate that its antioxidant properties help defend neurons in the hypothalamus against oxidative stress while also protecting astrocytes – these are cells that help neurons communicate with each other across their synaptic junctions. Resveratrol is available as a supplement and is also in foods like grapes, blueberries, peanuts, and cranberries.6
- Keeping your weight down: Studies show that when you gain a lot of weight it increases harmful inflammation in the hypothalamus.7 That inflammation not only threatens your hypothalamus, but those changes in the hypothalamus can also lead to insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes which are both bad for your body and your brain.8
- Taking good care of your teeth: Laboratory tests in Japan indicate that when you lose teeth you can also lose function in your hypothalamus. Tooth loss, they report, can also be connected to memory loss. The researchers believe these effects may be linked to the decrease of nerve impulses from your mouth to the hypothalamus when you chew with fewer teeth.9
- Getting the right vitamins and nutrients: Getting vitamin B12, vitamin D, vitamin B and phosphatidylserine is critical to the health of the hypothalamus. Each of these nutrients has been shown to reduce inflammation and support healthy brain neurons. That’s why our sister company, Green Valley Natural Solutions, formulated Maximum Memory Support with each of these key nutrients and much more.
Avoid High Fat Diets And Junk Food
As you might expect, eating a healthy diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables can support a better-functioning hypothalamus. You should also avoid junk food. Tests at Yale show that a fast food diet can alter the mitochondria in the hypothalamus and negatively impact the production of energy necessary for healthy memory function, among other negative effects.10
Led by Sabrina Diano, the Richard Sackler Family Professor of Cellular & Molecular Physiology and professor of neuroscience and comparative medicine, the study evaluated how diets that include high amounts of fats and carbohydrates stimulate hypothalamic inflammation, a physiological response to obesity and malnutrition.
The researchers reaffirmed that inflammation occurs in the hypothalamus as early as three days after consumption of a high-fat diet, even before the body begins to display signs of obesity.
“We were intrigued by the fact that these are very fast changes that occur even before the body weight changes, and we wanted to understand the underlying cellular mechanism,” said Professor Diano who is also a member of the Yale Program in Integrative Cell Signaling and Neurobiology of Metabolism.
What’s more, Professor Diano’s team observed hypothalamic inflammation in animals on a high fat diet and discovered that changes in physical structure were occurring among the microglial cells of animals. These cells act as the first line of defense in the central nervous system that regulate inflammation. Professor Diano’s lab found that the activation of the microglia was due to changes in their mitochondria, the little powerhouses that help our bodies derive energy from the food we consume.
The research is exciting because scientists are starting to parse out specifically how a healthy diet and exercise—or the absence of these—effects the function of the key memory and learning centers of the brain. It’s further motivation for us to continue to make smart choices in our daily lifestyle.