Book Review – The Edge Effect by Eric R. Braverman, MD
Written by Carol Petersen, RPh, CNP – Women’s International Pharmacy
In The Edge Effect: Achieve Total Health and Longevity with the Balanced Brain Advantage, Dr. Eric Braverman introduces the notion of a series of “pauses” that occur as we age, such as menopause. Some women experience their first menopause symptoms as young as in their 30s, characterized by dramatic drops in testosterone and progesterone. Estradiol losses may also start in their early 30s. Diminished bone density, less abundant hair, and cognitive dysfunctions accompany the loss of these sex hormones. Andropause (the male equivalent of menopause) typically starts around the mid-40s and continues over the next 30 years with similar effects.
Dr. Braverman points out that our bodies go through many other “pauses” as we age:
Up until about the age of 30, bone mass increases or is near optimal. After that, osteopause begins. The availability of proper nutrients in the diet typically starts to be a concern, plus the ability to absorb and make use of those nutrients has also started to decline.
During the 30s and 40s, dermopause begins to show with diminished skin thickness, flexibility, or elasticity, all of which are related to the ability to make collagen. The skin also becomes increasingly dehydrated.
Cardiopause and Vasculopause
The maximum heart rate achieved during exercise typically peaks in the 40s, marking the beginning of cardiopause. Along with cardiopause is vasculopause, which is characterized by high blood pressure and diminished blood flow.
Thyropause and Thymopause
Thyropause starts generally in the 50s, when the production of thyroid hormone and calcitonin is reduced. Thymopause starts even earlier. The thymus gland aids our immune system by directing the function of T lymphocytes (or T cells). Although this continues life long, the thymus starts to shrink and accumulate fatty tissue at puberty.
From the 50s to the 70s there is a marked decline in lung function or pulmonopause. In fact, the effectiveness of breathing is a prime indicator of longevity. Stress, anxiety, and exposure to pollutants negatively affect pulmonary function.
Adrenopause, which is characterized by diminished DHEA, can begin as early as the 30s and up through the 60s. By the 70s, without adequate DHEA, cortisol levels also soar. This unhealthy state has earned cortisol the title of “death hormone” because there are so many issues associated with diminished adrenal function. Primary health concerns include changes in focus, memory and attention, depression, lack of energy, loss of libido (especially with women), anxiety, panic attacks, and increased appetite, all symptoms that we readily associate with advanced aging.
The loss of muscle mass is another hallmark of aging. By the 90s, 20-40% of muscle mass is lost. This is known as somatopause, and includes reduced muscle strength as well as reduced mental ability.
“Pauses” in Brain Function
All of the above are physical “pauses” that typically occur; however, Dr. Braverman and most people believe that the “pauses” related to brain function are even more critical to measuring how well we age:
Refers to the loss of sensory functions. Hearing starts to decline in the 20s to 40s. The sense of smell starts diminishing in the 40s and more rapidly declines after age 65. Nearsighted increases in the 40s but the ability to see fine details starts to decline in the 70s.
Refers to the decline in function of the pituitary and hypothalamus, which are the glands that are masters to the sex hormones, adrenal hormones, thyroid hormones, and more.
Refers to the loss of voltage, speed, rhythm and synchrony. For instance, just a 10% drop in voltage can signal signs of depression. With a 90% drop, dementia is a reality.
Relates to the brain-mediated control of the cascade of all the other pauses.
Other neuropsychiatric disorders can occur at any age but they are especially prevalent in those over 85 years of age, affecting as many as 50% of that population. These types of disorders include cognitive dysfunction and dementia, substance abuse, and personality disorders.
The neurotransmitter hormones Dr. Braverman believes are at the center of delaying the “pauses” are GABA, dopamine, acetylcholine, and serotonin. He correlates the dominance of one or the other of these neurotransmitters to personality types, such as those used in the Myers-Briggs test.
Dr. Braverman’s book is brimming with questionnaires to help identify your personality type and neurotransmitter dominance. In addition, he provides guidance as to “bending one’s chemistry the right way” with diet and exercise, as well as supplementing nutrients and bioidentical hormones, and making changes to your lifestyle and/or environment. Further, he invites you to explore how technology can positively affect your brain chemistry.
This litany of “pauses” presents a grim picture of aging. However, Dr. Braverman suggests that there is no reason we can’t slow down their progression. He believes that the brain, and our ability to make and make use of the neurotransmitter hormones in a balanced fashion, is the key to doing so.