Our desired assets in old age are lucid brain function, memory, alertness of mind, healthy use of muscles and joints and a healthy heart and lungs.

Is it not worth looking after them from a young age?

Dementia, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease are all similar afflictions of the brain where memory loss and gradual loss of brain function and co-ordination devastate the life and dignity of the individual and their carer.

Generally speaking, these illnesses are a result of reduced circulation in various parts of the brain. When brain cells are deprived of oxygen, nutrients and adequate rest, various chemical reactions taking place in the cells get disturbed, causing damage to DNA and preventing repair. Other causes relate to the production of neuropeptides and neurotransmitters - protein chemicals which relay messages in the brain.

While there is a genetic predisposition to these illnesses, they only express themselves given the favourable disturbance in the internal environment of your body. For example, blocked arteries can reduce circulation in the brain and in other parts of the body. Smoking, an unhealthy lifestyle, poor nutrition, injury to the skull and excessive stress can all contribute to an early decline in brain function.

Recent research reported in the British Medical Journal suggests functional decline in early Parkinson's disease may be slowed by dietary supplementation with coenzyme Q10 (ubiquinone), a naturally-occurring compound found in the mitochondria.

Patients with Parkinson's have impaired mitochondrial function and tissue levels of coenzyme Q10 fall with age. Dr Clifford Shults, lead author of the study, reported that patients taking coenzyme Q10 (dose 600-1,200mg) with vitamin E for 16 months, slowed down deterioration by 44 per cent.

In a clinical trial in India, Dr Vaidya, a neuro-physician, and a team from Bombay found that the seeds of a natural Ayurvedic herb, mucuna pruriens (atmagupta), reduced tremors and rigidity and improved coordination, concentration and memory.

It was found to be a natural source of dopamine - an important neurotransmitter.

Researchers also found that centella asiatica (brahmi) improves memory. Ginkgo biloba is another herb which has been shown to improve circulation and brain function. Taking foods rich in antioxidants Vitamin A, E and C, zinc, magnesium, selenium and bioflavanoids or antioxidant herbs like ginger, curcumin and Indian gooseberry should also help prevent degeneration of brain cells.

I recommend daily self-massage of limbs with mahanarayan oil or eucalyptus oil before a shower or bath to improve muscle tone and relieve rigidity. The practice of proper meditation and yoga has been shown in various studies around the world to reduce the rate of ageing and to improve brain function and muscle co-ordination.

Ayurveda also advocates tranquillity of the mind and a control over our emotions and outbursts, as these can drain the brain.

Dr Milind Jani works as a conventional and
holistic GP and Dr Asmita Jani as Ayurvedic Consultant from 3 Eaton Gardens, Hove.

Call them on: 01273 777448 or e-mail: milind.jani@ntlworld.com