Deciphering My Brain Fog
cognition | sports & fitness | mood & emotion
One year ago Mark found himself in a mental fog, battling the "tip of my tongue" problem. Using his experience with single subject research design and self-tracking he tackled this tough issue head on. One of the benefits of long-term self-tracking is that one builds up a toolbox of investigatory methods that can be drawn upon when medical adversity hits.
23andMe | brain MRI | coronary calcium scan | Fitbit | Insidetracker | neuropsychology testing | self-report cognitive functioning
So as we began working over some of our research topics and writing a resubmission for an NIH grant became difficult for me to recall my details, and for my main research topics. It was difficult to type up summaries in my discussion, actually I had to hide I was doing so poorly and a feeling of being in the fog and I couldn’t quite recall items at all.
Just before this research retreat I decided to have a general medical and physical and cardiology reevaluation. I visited my primary care MD and visited my cardiologist and they told me that, Mark all your values are normal and you’re very fit and you’re healthy. You’re a triathlete. So they knew I was a competitive triathlete, and really kind of in some ways you know it bothers me that masks that and I have some underlying disease.
So what I decided to do then is it was pretty clear I didn’t have any obvious disease, but I decided on my own then start tracking some blood biomarkers. So I investigated it actually from a QS meeting earlier and then from the website I found out about a company that was called Segterra which has Inside Tracker. And Inside Tracker then has 20 to 30 blood biomarkers that you have taken at a baseline, and then the idea is you can optimize those biomarkers and then track and have your blood taken again.
So I had the performance package, 20 biomarkers. I found out my LDL was too high. It was actually quite a bit too high, my vitamin D was too low. So then I set off to optimizing those biomarkers.
One of the really cool things with InsideTracker is they have this huge database of all different kinds of foods that you would eat more or less of depending upon your serum biomarkers. The other thing I decided to do then and I had though for four or five years but I had been discouraged from doing it was to order on my own a optional coronary calcium scan. And what I found was I actually had marked calcification and narrowing in the main coronary artery.
I emailed my cardiologist a couple of hours later and he said you’ve got to do something right away and I didn’t suspect this.
I ordered also some additional genetic tests from 23andMe which I had done four or five years earlier but all the newest ones had some other new biomarkers and gene markers. So I found out I was a carrier for the APOE-4 gene and only 12% of Americans have it. It increases Alzheimer’s by quite a bit. If you have two copies it goes up 30 to 40 times. Increases really really big defects in your ability to produce saturated fat and increases your risk for heart disease.
So with that the next day I adopted a low saturated fat diet, much more fruits and vegetables and nuts. Stopped eating all cheese, butter, high saturated fat. Made some other substitutions and actually made 20 other changes in my life then and took a lot of effort at first.
So then with that effort I was able to have my LDL go from about 130 down to about 85 after eight weeks. So I was feeling good about that, however, I still had some brain fog so I emailed my MD neurologist friend and he said why we have memory problems I mean I’m only 55. He said, well either people have depression and that wasn’t present, they have medication side effects, or overly concerned about common or usual memory problems. But I knew there were real problems.
So then a few months later I told my primary care MD about these memory problems and that they weren’t going away, so I was referred to a neuropsychologist. I had four hours of necrophyte tests done on December 26, 2013. I had two days of great rest and I thought this is as good as it’s ever going to be.
One of the tests I took was ‘name as many words that you can starting with the word “F”’. And that’s when I had big problems. I could only name nine words in 60 seconds, and I probably know 500 words or more that start with ‘F’ but I could only pull up nine in that time. So this is some of the results I got from the neuropsychologist, and you can see there is one borderline in this part of the test and luckily have some which were superior which hopefully I have some. But then you can see some reds here and it was in fluency and Stroop testing and some other things where I actually had mild impairment.
So I’ll never forget the email in getting those results. I was actually in Hawaii with my family, and so I had a couple of days there thinking well maybe my life’s over, and she said well you have early subcortical white matter symptom dysfunction, you don’t have Alzheimer’s, and encoding defects. But the bottom line is I had Atherosclerosis of the small vessels in my brain, so it slows transmission and recalled stored information in your brain.
So this is from a neuro and general medical article, and you can see I’m the red star here so I’m above average but you can see there is this decline for everybody over 50 in the room; it’s happening to all of us. But my long-term memory was actually pretty good, but my language fluency, here the red star here is you can see I’m right in the middle and this is actually an average for people from about 40 to 75 years old. So actually my memories fine, but my word retrieval was mildly impaired.
So then the next step was to do an MRI on my brain. So on the left is a normal brain and on the right is Alzheimer’s disease. So you’re waiting to go and get your results and it’s a long you know couple of days there and I’m lucky because I get the results almost immediately because I’m a medical assistant. But this is an example of hyper intensities in white matter dysfunction on both left and right, one milder and one more serious. But the good news was that my MRI was completely normal, and it was a huge relief and to know that even if I have some white matter dysfunction it’s not sever.
So I searched for all available scientific data on this subject and there’s really surprisingly little about white matter dysfunction which leads to vascular dementia, different from Alzheimer’s. So this is a self-reported global cognitive function versus LDL and statin, and you can see I tried Resveratrol and also Statin, and that’s where in the blue line here there’s this real notable difference in January and early February.
And I also was able to just track some of my really high level science activity, and you can see that within a week or so after really feeling better I actually got a lot more work done to.
I tracked a lot more other variables like mood and depression, body weight, physical activity, physical fitness, daily blood pressure, and they didn’t really seem like they played as much of a role.
So then to summaries, the main effects of what I found then was that Resveratrol seemed to slightly help and the statin medication I was told it could cause memory problems but actually 15 days later approximately things were much more easier. And I just got my Neurocog test for three months later and they also show improvement and my LDL got better.
So now I use an app called Fit Brain, but that’s my talk. Thank you very much.