If you want to stop brain rust – install a red robot

estrogen being ordered out during a hysterectomyIron and oxygen don’t mix………….

Dotted around junk yards, are hunks of metal, that corrosive forces have turned from strong shiny useful things, to piles of rusty useless junk.

But, junk yards are not the only places OLD IRON is found.

Iron also accumulates inside the human body, especially the brain. And iron and oxygen don’t mix……. too much iron causes brain’s to rust. Several studies, have found that brain iron levels are coupled with neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Iron man

Iron is a precious commodity, which is often in short supply, especially in women and young children, without it, the body cannot transport oxygen. And no oxygen = no life.

Therefore, when it comes to iron, the human body (and health gurus), tend to focus on gathering enough iron.

Men are more efficient than women, in gathering enough. In fact, men tend to be extremely efficient at accumulating this vital nutrient – so they typically have more iron in their bodies and brains, than women of a comparable age.

But this added efficiency is not always beneficial.

The propensity to accumulate more iron, is thought to be the reason that men succumb to lifestyle diseases, at younger ages, than women. The so called, estrogen effect.

Iron woman

As I said, the body’s focus is on gathering iron, it regulates iron levels by carefully controlling how much iron is absorbed. The body does not have a formal way of getting rid of “excess” iron.

But for premenopausal women, Mother Nature has a back door. She has “blessed” the premenopausal women with menstruation every month – which ensures small amounts of blood and thus iron, are lost on a routine basis.

Now this “blessing” sometimes feels more like a curse, the RED ROBOT can definitely cramp a women’s style. And managing the accompanying hormone rollercoaster ride, requires a certain degree of toughness.

Researchers from UCLA wanted to know more about this so called “estrogen effect”.

Missing the red robot

The UCLA team decided to compare iron levels in women whose monthly menstruation had been cut short, when they underwent a hysterectomy, before menopause, with those who had not and with men.

The iron levels were assessed in several different areas of 93 brains, using an MRI scan. The scan was designed to detect ferritin, the special protein which stores iron in the brain.

The brains that were scanned included 54 male brains and 39 old lady brains. All of the lady brains belonged to postmenopausal women, but 15 of the women had undergone a premenopausal hysterectomy.

The number of years with/without the red robot impacted brain iron levels.

The women who had skipped a couple of years of the red robot, due to the fact that they had undergone a hysterectomy, had iron levels in their brains comparable to the men.

Red robots stops brain rust

This study suggests that menstruation-associated blood loss, may explain gender differences in brain iron and susceptibility to disease.

The take home message from Mother Nature……….. a little bleeding, every now and again, is one way to squeeze out the extra iron, which inevitably accumulates.

And accumulating less iron, potentially means that there is less opportunity for rust to set in.

Squeezing out the extra iron

Squeezing out excess iron, is something that Mother Nature routinely does in premenopausal women…but once estrogen leaves, whether it is on her own accord or a forced removal, women start needing a little help squeezing it out.

Men, on the other hand, need help from the get go.

Taking a page from Mother Nature’s book – the solution is to bleed a little on a regular basis. A rather simple way to do this ………… is to become a regular blood donor.

PS. It costs nothing but an hour or two of your time and in addition to extricating your excess iron which is a potential health hazard, donating blood can save someone else’s life.

Premenopausal hysterectomy is associated with increased brain ferritin iron. Neurobiology of Aging (2011) 33(9):1950-1958. Todd A. Tishler, Erika P. Raven, Po H. Lu, Lori L. Altshuler, George Bartzokis.

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