(Naturalhealth365) For many baby boomers, it’s an unpleasant irony – the generation that famously said “Never trust anyone over thirty!” is now, itself, experiencing the undeniable signs of cognitive decline due to aging. For example, the statistics on Alzheimer’s suggest we have a serious health crisis on our hands – especially as we move closer to 2050.
But, the main point – of this article – is that poor brain function is avoidable.
Memory loss, forgetfulness, decreased ability to maintain focus, reductions in problem-solving abilities – these symptoms (sometimes known as “senior moments”) can all signal mild age-related cognitive decline. And cognitive decline, if untreated, can potentially progress to Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.
If you are experiencing mild cognitive decline, however, take heart: the ‘top ten’ natural nutrients – listed below – can help to optimize brain function, preventing and even reversing the early signs of dementia.
What causes cognitive decline?
A variety of physical changes in the aging brain can trigger cognitive impairment and memory loss. Age-related thinning of the cerebral cortex, a decrease in the production of neurotransmitters (the brain’s “chemical messengers”) and the accumulation of neurofibrillary tangles and plaques in the brain can all compromise cognitive ability.
Factors contributing to these physical changes can include chronic inflammation, declining hormones, oxidative stress and arterial dysfunction. Lifestyle issues – such as obesity, overweight, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, and physical and chronic emotional stress – can also set the stage for age-related cognitive impairment.
Fortunately, dietary, nutritional supplement and lifestyle modifications can significantly slow cognitive decline and may even help to restore function and memory – without the need for toxic medications. Of course, as always, we like to suggest that you seek the advice of a trusted, integrative physician to see what’s best for you. Having said that: let’s take a closer look at some good ideas.
Count on cucumbers
Mildly-flavored and refreshing, the humble cucumber turns out to have potent powers to promote brain health. Studies have shown that cucumbers are rich in a flavonoid called fisetin, which prevents memory loss and age-related cognitive decline.
One study showed that cognitive improvements due to fisetin took place despite the continued formation of amyloid plaques (which are strongly associated with Alzheimer’s disease). In other words, cucumbers benefited cognitive function despite physical manifestations of neurodegenerative disease being present in the brain.
Sharpen up the brain by eating strawberries
Like cucumbers, these tasty berries are packed with fisetin – as well as with a complement of healthful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory polyphenols. Eating strawberries has been shown to cause reduction in memory decline.
In fact, a study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital showed that older women who ate at least a cup of strawberries per week delayed cognitive aging by up to two and a half years – an impressive finding. Naturally, it’s a good idea to buy organic foods – as often as possible – to lower your burden of toxins.
Grab some grapes to lower brain stress
Grapes – especially the purple and red varieties – are high in anthocyanins, antioxidant natural plant pigments that can help fight oxidative stress in the brain. But their most important weapon against cognitive decline may be their content of resveratrol – a phenolic antioxidant molecule also found in red wine.
With known anti-aging effects, resveratrol has been shown in studies to optimizes overall brain metabolism and function. In one double-blind study, dosages of resveratrol ranging from 250 to 500 mg a day were shown to enhance working and spatial memory in older adults.
Bank on blueberries
When it comes to protecting against cognitive decline, blueberries really do reign supremeamong superfoods. Extensive and well-documented studies show that blueberries reduce oxidative stress, stimulate the growth of new neurons in the brain, and Improve learning, memory and overall cognitive performance.
If it’s not possible to obtain fresh berries – no worries. Experts say that extracts, and powdered and frozen versions, are just as potent as their fresh counterparts – if not more.
Get an assist from acetyl-L-carnitine
This natural compound – found in animal products such as meat, poultry, fish and milk – is impressing researchers with its ability to combat mental changes associated with aging.
In a recent review of 21 different studies, the researchers credited carnitine supplementation with ameliorating age-related cognitive deficits and brain deterioration. Daily doses of 1.5 grams to 3 grams have been found to provide significant benefits in preserving cognition.
Seek out spinach
Spinach, which is packed with anti-inflammatory vitamin K, racked up impressive results in research designed to evaluate its ability to protect against dementia. In a five-year study involving 950 older adult participants, researchers found that those who ate a daily serving of spinach experienced a slower rate of mental deterioration.
Other leafy green vegetables with dementia-fighting powers include kale, Swiss chard and romaine lettuce.
Check out choline
Choline, a water-soluble vitamin-like nutrient, helps the body make acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that is indispensable to cognitive function. Research has shown that a form of choline called alpha-glycerylphosphoryl choline, or alpha- GPC, can promote neurological improvement and provide relief of cognitive symptoms – in some studies, even outperforming pharmaceutical prescription medications!
Alpha-GPC has been found so effective that doctors currently advise it for stroke patients seeking to recover full cognitive function, Most studies have used dosages of 400 mg of alpha-GPC three times a day.
Focus on fish oil
Fish oil is rich in EPA and DHA, a pair of omega-3 fatty acids vital to neurotransmitter function. In one study, researchers found that fish oil was associated with drastic improvements in cognitive decline over an 18-month period.
In another study, a little less than 2 grams of fish oil daily for 24 weeks significantly improved cognitive function in subjects with mild impairment. (Note: to reduce chances of contamination with heavy metals and pollutants, opt for high-quality fish oil from a reputable vendor).
Gravitate towards green tea
Green tea is rich in an antioxidant called epigallocatechin-3-gallate – or EGCG – and aggressively combats oxidation in the brain. In addition, an amino acid present in green tea, theanine, has proven abilities to improve memory and attention in people with mild cognitive impairment.
So, it’s not surprising that this beneficial beverage has been linked in numerous population studies with superior cognitive function in aged populations. Another “plus” for green tea is that it ameliorates the harmful effect of amyloid-beta proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Choose coenzyme Q10
This vitamin-like nutrient helps to optimize the performance of mitochondria (the “power generators” in cells) and has been shown to improve outcome in neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
It is particularly important to make sure you have sufficient levels of CoQ10 if you are taking statin drugs. You can ramp up your dietary intake of CoQ10 by eating beef, sardines, spinach, broccoli and cauliflower. CoQ10 is also available as a supplement.
Bonus tip: Go Mediterranean
When it comes to warding off cognitive decline, the Mediterranean diet just might be your most valuable ally. High in beneficial fats, fiber and polyphenols, this healthful diet is associated with lower rates of heart disease, cancer and obesity – and can help preserve mental function.
In addition, some studies support the ability of coffee (caffeinated) to protect against age-related cognitive design and keep mental faculties sharp. And – while heavy use of alcohol can accelerate cognitive decline – light to moderate consumption of red wine (no more than two drinks a day) may help preserve memory and cognition. (although, quite honestly, we don’t recommend it)
As we age, a certain amount of minor cognitive decline is normal – and inevitable. But the above ten nutrients can help slow and minimize its development, potentially preserving sharp mental function well into your ‘senior’ years.