Brain

Day to day living and the normal mental thought processes we have are very important to us. Our brain controls these thoughts and so much more- thinking, feeling, remembering, working, and playing – even sleeping. When changes to our thoughts, whether it is memory problems, issues in judgement, poor concentration and awareness, or impaired abstract thinking, we should take notice. Most people have attributed this to ‘growing old’ but it is not always the case; as many people who live into their 90’s age well, without loss of mental capacities.

The word ‘dementia’ is a broad term that applies to these things in association with disease or age. Certain factors and medical conditions can contribute to a change in memory function. Early diagnosis of these is a patient’s best weapon and is of vital importance. If left unchecked and undiagnosed, these conditions can cause irreversible damage. The following is a list of factors to consider when assessing memory loss or poor cognition.

Stress

Everyone experiences a certain amount of stress, and how people cope with it is extremely important. Major life stress and/or prolonged stress can impair memory function and contribute to memory loss. Stress management is crucial because chronic, unbalanced stress causes elevation of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol has a toxic effect on the memory center of the brain and can cause memory loss.

Sleep disorders

At least six hours of sleep each night are essential for memory to perform at its peak. Regular sleep habits also make you less forgetful.

Alcohol

It is known that alcohol abuse results in memory loss and possibly dementia. Initially, alcoholics develop short-term memory loss followed by amnesia, which results in the loss of long-term memory. Although each individual has a different threshold for alcohol tolerance, general guidelines identify “moderate” drinking as no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.

Vitamin B12 deficiency

Vitamin B12 is essential for optimal brain function. A lack of this vitamin actually can cause permanent damage to brain cells. If you drink or smoke, you are at an even greater risk of having vitamin deficiencies (smoking and drinking leach nutrients from the body). Failure to treat this condition leads to worsening memory loss and progressive nerve damage.

Drugs

Both prescription and over-the-counter drugs can affect memory function, as can certain drug interactions. Certain classes of drugs are known to affect memory and brain function. These include sleeping pills, anti-anxiety medications, painkillers, antihistamines (allergy medications) and antidepressants.

Fortunately, memory loss caused by illness or lifestyle choices can be prevented or remedied.

What are the symptoms of age-related cognitive decline?

Age related cognitive decline or impairment is a diagnosis for abnormal mental cognition less severe then dementia for adults over 50. Mild cognitive impairment refers to problems abnormal for one’s age, whatever age that might be. May also be called Age-Associated Memory Impairment (AAMI), Age-Consistent Memory Decline (ARCD), Benign Senescent Forgetfulness (BSF), Cognitive Decline (Age-Related), Forgetfulness (Benign Senescent), or Memory Decline (Age-Consistent).

People with ARCD experience deterioration in memory and learning, attention and concentration, thinking, use of language, and other mental functions. It need not be as significant as even to be noticeable by other individuals. There is a wide range of symptoms from remembering details and the inability to finish tasks to carrying out activities of daily life and self care.

Diagnosis and Pharmaceutical Interventions

Because there is no laboratory test that can reliably establish cognition, diagnosis of a cognitive impairment is usually done by a detailed medical, social and psychological history, with a neurological and physical examination. A psychological exam or mental status exam is usually performed.

Pharmaceutical medications

Though there is no standard drug therapy for cognitive impairment, several experimental “nootropic” agents may provide improvements in cognitive function. Nootropic drugs are used specifically to facilitate learning and memory and might prevent the cognitive deficits associated with dementias. Many of these medications are not commonly available, or are available though specialist physicians.

Lifestyle and Dietary Modifications

Modifications to your life style can enhance cognitive function. Maintaining proper physical exercise allows for increased blood flow to the brain, as well as reduces stress.

Mental exercises and keeping the mind active play an important role in cognition. This can range from crossword puzzles, taking a class, reading or being active in a community book club.

Diets high in certain fish are especially good for the brain. These fish includes salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, and sardines.

Nutritional Factors Shown to be Beneficial

Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo is one of the most extensively studied nutritional supplements for neurodegenerative conditions, directly improves brain metabolism, increases brain blood flow, and provides antioxidant action. It also has an effect in enhancing neurotransmission, the process that brain cells communicate with each other.
Dose: 120 – 240 mg of standardized extract a day

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 (Methylcobalamin) is critical for maintaining myelin, the protective coat surrounding each neuron.
Dose: 200 mcg a day

Vitamin E

Vitamin E exhibits profound ability to limit free radical damage in the brain. Diets rich in Vitamin E have been shown to reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease by an incredible 61%, and to dramatically slow disease progression, especially when given in conjunction with Vitamin C. It also has slowed the progression of Alzheimer’s disease significantly. Vitamin E is a general term for a chemical class known as the tocopherols and tocotrienols. These compounds are antioxidant and can help reduce the oxidation process that occurs with atherosclerotic plaques. They seem to better in a combination of mixed tocopherols instead of alpha tocopherol, which most vitamin supplements consist of alone.
Dose: 2000 IU / day

Vinpocetine

Vinpocetine, a powerful cognitive enhancer from the Vinca plant, helps maintain healthy circulation in the brain and accelerates cerebral metabolism. Vinpocetine also aids memory, increasing the concentration of certain neurotransmitters involved in memory formation. By expanding the brain’s blood vessels and optimizing the blood flow, vinpocetine improves the brain’s access to oxygen and other essential nutrients thus, maximizing mental performance. As a potent antioxidant and neuroprotector, vinpocetine limits ongoing brain damage from free radical production.
Dose: 5-10 mg twice a day

CoQ10

Coenzyme Q-10 measurably increases the efficiency of cellular energy production. In addition, it serves as a potent brain antioxidant.
Dose: 30-60 mg day

Acetyl L-Carnitine

Acetyl-L-Carnitine, like coenzyme Q-10, enhances neuronal energy production by transporting fuel sources into the mitochondria – the energy producing machinery of the neuron. This particularly benefits damaged brain neurons, which are characterized by decreased energy producing ability. In addition, acetyl-L-carnitine acts as an effective antioxidant and been demonstrated to protect laboratory animals from developing Parkinsonism when they are exposed to chemicals known to induce the condition.
Dose: 2 grams / day

Phosphatidylserine

PhosphatidylSerine is the subject of many studies around the world, showing that it improves attention, concentration, short term memory and imparts a protective effect against stress chemicals.
Dose: 100 -300 mg day

Bacopa

Bacopa strengthens memory and general cognition by enhancing brain nerve conduction and communication.
Dose: 200-400 mg day

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

DHA is a long chain fatty acid derived from fish, and is incorporated into nerve cell membranes. These fatty acids are needed for development for in the prenatal brain. DHA in particular is important for nerve tissues.
Dose: 1-3 grams a day.

In The Media

Related Blog Posts

Throw an Extra Shrimp on the Barbie

Yet another reason to up your omega-3 intake: Omega-3 is emerging…
Turbo Boost children's brains with Fish Oil