One of the most common complaints I hear from patients as they get older is that they can’t remember things like they used to. Some comment that they feel their mind is in a brain fog and they just don’t have that mental spark and acuity as they would like.

If you are experiencing these same symptoms, we have some solutions for you. You want to live well into your 90s and beyond, but you also want to do so with mental alertness and without the dreaded “dementia” or Alzheimer’s disease from occurring.

According to the National Institute on Aging, by the time you reach your 80s, you have a 50% chance of suffering from significant cognitive decline.[1]The Mayo clinic has stated that 50% of people will have Alzheimer’s disease after age 85. In other words, the odds that you’ll literally lose your mind by the time you’re in your 80s are no better than the toss of a coin!

This is a sad truth, plus there’s no cure for age-related cognitive decline, and experts say that the problem is becoming increasingly widespread. [2] But that doesn’t mean you can’t do something to prevent these conditions. You don’t have to just be a “sitting duck”, waiting to become another victim.

If you want to keep your mind and memory intact as you age, you can’t risk just ignoring it and think that it won’t happen to you. Having a “foggy brain” and loss of memory is not necessarily a requisite of old age. You can and should take actions to preserve your brain and cognitive functions.

The causes of age-related cognitive decline are many and are not fully understood. Causes include lack of essential nutrients, lack of hormones, lack of mental stimulation, lack of exercise, inadequate antioxidants and increases in inflammation that occurs as your get older. Thus, to prevent this cognitive decline, fight these known causes to keep your brain sharp and healthy.

The Sad Truth: If You Wait for Treatment…It’s Too Late

Here are some guidelines to help you improve odds in your favor for an active brain and healthy memory throughout your life. Don’t wait to start them. If you wait until you get the problems, it’s too late. There is no known good cure for age related cognitive decline. According to NIH’s National Institute on Aging, the sad truth is that current drugs are only marginally effective at treating brain decay and have many side effects. [3] The best you can do is focus on prevention, plus you’ll improve your quality of life at the same time.

Actions for Life-Long Brain Health

1. Maintain a proper weight

Obesity and being overweight is an epidemic in the U.S. and the world. Unfortunately, the more excess fat weight you carry, the higher the chances of you developing dementia and Alzheimer’s. [4]

One study found that people who had been overweight in middle age had a 1.8 times (80%) higher risk of being diagnosed with dementia in later life. But for obese people, classified as those having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above, the risk soared. People with midlife obesity had an almost four times (300%) higher risk of dementia. [5]

Being overweight can increase your risk of developing diabetes too. If you develop diabetes, the chances of you getting Alzheimer’s increases 50%.These are significant numbers. In addition, being overweight and diabetes increases your risk of heart disease which is the number one cause of death of men and women.

Solution: lose the extra weight to a normal weight and keep it there. If you are having problems doing this, we can help.

2. Maintain proper hormone levels and balance

Studies have shown that maintaining adequate estrogen levels in old age can give you a 50% decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. [6] In addition, maintaining adequate hormones as you grow older can improve your quality of life. Thus, you can improve your mental acuity while increasing your energy level, your libido, and your general health just by continuing to use hormone therapy.

Many people have been afraid of using hormone therapy due to the news media giving it a bad rap for breast and prostate cancer. However, when monitored and prescribed correctly, studies have shown that there is no increased risk of these problems. In fact, most show an increase in survival if hormone therapy is maintained.

Solution: Keep your hormone levels balanced to youthful levels. If you don’t know if your hormones are adequate and would like to learn more, we can help.

3. Increase your brain power nutrient levels

Research is proving that specific nutrients, along with a healthy diet and lifestyle, may be the secret remedy for preventing cognitive decline, but many times overlooked by traditional medicine. This research has shown the value of proper nutrients to have an undeniable positive impact on brain health.

CoQ10

One important nutrient that your brain depends on is the powerful antioxidant CoQ10 to keep it healthy. CoQ10 plays an important role in your body’s energy production processes at the cellular level, and your brain has incredibly high demands for cellular energy.

Research shows that low levels of CoQ10 severely compromises brain function, leading to sluggish thinking and memory impairment. [7] Yet, far too many people are deficient in CoQ10. This is especially true of seniors because as you get older, your body produces less and less CoQ10.

A UCSD study has proven that proper levels of CoQ10 can slow brain deterioration by 44%.[7] Other studies have shown that people with high levels of CoQ10 have sharper mental acuity, better motor abilities and more mental energy. Moreover, CoQ10 also benefits your heart and overall energy levels. [8]

Omega 3s

Another brain booster is omega-3 free fatty acids, particularly DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). These are absolutely critical to optimal brain function. They are antioxidants and they boost your immunity to help decrease inflammation that can occur in your brain and body during the aging process.

Unfortunately, as you age, your brain’s ability to absorb omegas declines resulting in a lowered level of these nutrients for your brain. This literally starves your mind, compromising both brain function and memory retention. [9]

In addition, omegas protect your brain from degenerative processes. One scientific study showed compelling brain protecting effects of DHA, showing a 60% decrease in cognitive decline in those who had a regular intake of the omega, DHA. [10,11] Another study showed that those suffering from cognitive decline have dramatically lower levels of DHA in their brains.[12]

DHA can speed up brain wave activity, help to create more synapses in the brain and preserve healthy memory function. Thus, it is critical that levels of DHA are maintained, which is especially difficult for people over the age of 65 unless they take extra supplements.

DHA and EPA can be found in fish oil, but an easier way to supplement your diet is with Omega 3 supplements containing these free fatty acids. We recommend around 2,000 to 4,000 units to be taken daily.

Coconut oil

Omegas are oils, and another common oil that helps in brain health is coconut oil. Coconut oil is a medium chain fatty acid and it is the best fuel for your brain cells. We used to think that glucose was best for your brain, but recent research suggests that oils, particularly medium chain fatty acids such as coconut oil, are much better.

Coconut oil has been used to treat Alzheimer’s disease with very good results. Why not embrace its brain protective and fueling properties early to prevent problems. You should ingest around 1-3 teaspoonful’s of coconut oil daily. You can replace the corn oil you use for frying, or the butter on your toast with coconut oil and get this dose easily every day.

Curcumin

Curcumin is another important nutrient that helps preserve and protect the brain. This spice is used very extensively in India and may contribute tremendously to the fact that India has one of the lowest rates of cognitive decline in the world, with a death rate that is 8 times lower than that of the U.S. [13, 14]

Curcumin is the powerful antioxidant in the curry spice turmeric. Research shows that curcumin has profound protective benefits for the brain. It works at the gene level and turns on a key gene signal involved with nerve protection, which boosts antioxidant enzymes in the brain and helps to prevent neurodegeneration. [15] It not only has positive benefits on memory, but also acts as a potent anti-inflammatory. [16]

You should ingest at least a 1000 mg of curcumin daily for maximal benefit.

Alpha Lipoic Acid

Alpha Lipoic Acid is another potent antioxidant that is very effective at protecting the integrity of brain cell mitochondria and is actually capable of purifying brain cells. It helps support the regeneration of glutathione, which is one of the most important antioxidants in your body. It also helps in glucose metabolism which is important for brain function.

You should take at least 200 mg of Alpha Lipoic Acid every day.

Vinpocetine

Vinpocetine is another powerful antioxidant that has been proven to increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain, as well as to improve attention span, concentration and memory retention. It has been used for mild memory problems associated with aging by European doctors for more than 10 years.

You should take at least 10 mg of Vinpocetine per day.

Vitamin D

Adequate levels of vitamin D have been associated with a reduced risk of developing dementia. According to a new study presented at an Alzheimer’s Association meeting, older men and women with low levels of vitamin D are nearly four times more likely to have problems with their memory, attention and logic than those with higher levels. [17]

In another study, researchers from Britain, Italy and the United States studied 850 Italians aged 65 or older and found that those who were severely vitamin D deficient (<25 nm/l) were 60% more likely to experience substantial general cognitive decline, and 31% more likely to experience problems with mental flexibility. [18]

When Vitamin D is present in higher levels in the body, there is a reduction in many cancers, there is less heart disease and less macular degeneration. Altogether, taking Vitamin D in adequate amounts will help you live a healthier life with less dementia problems.

Take around 5,000 units of Vitamin D per day to achieve a blood level of >50 nm/l, 65-85 may even be better.

There are many other supplements that you can use to improve your brain power and to protect your brain. Preserving telomeres and boosting your levels of neurotransmitters and other natural concepts can be very helpful, and you can learn about these from the links noted.

4. Maintain good physical and mental exercise habits.

Exercising on a regular basis has been proven to decrease your chances of developing cognitive decline. Whether you want to do intensive exercises 40 to 60 minutes a day, or quick 10 minute vigorous workouts throughout the day, your brain will benefit.

The Mayo clinic has concluded that, “Any frequency of moderate exercise performed in midlife or late life was associated with {reduced odds} of MCI (Mild Cognitive Impairment).”[19]

Another form of exercise, mental exercise, can also boost your brain power. You should not only exercise your body, but it is equally important to exercise your brain. Continue to learn new things, be mentally engaged in life, and practice cognitive skills to help prevent cognitive decline, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. [20]

Conclusion

Thus, there are multiple actions you can do to improve your health and which preserve your brain. If you ever wondered what you can do to boost your brain power, your memory and to help prevent age related cognitive decline, wonder no more. At our office, TRUEMD, we practice Anti-aging medicine and want to help you to maintain your health and your brain function as you get older. If you would like further information on these options available to you, or to set up an appointment to get on our program, call us at 817-399-8783.

References

1. http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/topics/alzheimers-basics
2. http://www.alz.org/downloads/Facts_Figures_2011.pdf
3. http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/alzheimers-disease-medications-fact-sheet
4. Archives of Neurology. 2005;62(10):1556-1560. http://www.neurology.org/content/76/18/1568.abstract
5. Neurology. May 3, 2011 vol. 76 no. 18 1568-1574. http://www.neurology.org/content/76/18/1568.abstract
6. JAMA 2002: 288:2123-2129
7. Arch Neurol. 2002;59, 1541-50.
8. CNS Spectrums. 2007; 12(1):62-8.
9. J Nutr. 2008; 138:12, 2510-2514.
10. Arch Neurol. 2003 Jul; 60(7):940-6.
11. Ann Neurol. 1997 Nov; 42(5):776-82.
12. Lipids. 1991 Jun; 26(6):421-5.
13. http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/cause-of-death/alzheimers-dementia/by-country/
14. Int Psychogeriatric. 2001; 13, 439-50.
15 J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2008 Feb; 28(1):110-3.
16. Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2005 Feb; 37(2):289-305.
17. http://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-07-2010/vitamin_d_deficiency_linked_to_dementia.html
18. http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/07/12/us-alzheimers-vitamin-d-idUSTRE66B65W20100712
19. PLoS ONE. 2006; 20(1):e52.
20. Br J Psych. 2003; 183(3):248-54