Everyone forgets things once in a while. Yet, as we all get older, the reality of memory can be tough. Some adults can lose their mental sharpness by their mid-40’s.
Memory Loss Starting Early In Life
The brain begins to lose its strength with memory, powers of reasoning and understanding, according to a 2012 study at the University College London. During a 10-year timeframe, researchers gave participants tests for memory, vocabulary, auditory and visual learning – better known as the Whitehall II study. The data included more than 7,000 participants between ages 45 to 70. Of those participants, more than 5,000 were men and 2,000 were women.
“The (mental) declines among people in their 40s and 50s were modest, but they were real,” study author Dr. Archana Singh-Manoux, a researcher at the Center for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health in France, told WebMD.
These declines, the researchers say, are some of the earliest evidence of cognitive decline that may lead to dementia, according to a January 2012 CBS News report.
“That suggests dementia or Alzheimer’s could take decades to develop,” it states. “Previously most doctors had believed aged-related memory loss started at 60, according to WebMD. Since the youngest participants were 45, it’s possible the decline could start even earlier.”
Drugs And Brain Function
Research now shows that use of vitamins and supplements can improve your memory and cognitive functions. Most of the medicines are available over the counter and have the potential to enhance focus, attention span, alertness, concentration, memory improvement, age related memory loss, short-term memory, problem solving, speed and logic, according to WebMD.
It is possible to slow memory loss and the onset of Alzheimer’s, which is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, with more than 5.2 million people living with the disease, as indicated by the Alzheimer’s Association. One in three seniors die with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids/Fish Oil
Emmy-award winning doctor, author and TV personality Dr. Oz supports the use of supplements to improve brain function, but among the top of his list are Omega-3 fatty acids. On his website, Oz claims that Omega-3 fatty acids are the “superstar fats that boost your brain, protect your heart and arteries, fight wrinkles, lubricate your joints and more.” There are 3 types of omega-3 fatty acids:
- Alpha-linelenic acid (ALA) found walnuts, flaxseeds, and olive oil
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) found primarily in fish oil
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) also found in fish oil
Oz says that not all fish oils and supplements are alike. When you are shopping for a supplement of this kind, he recommends you look for one that contains 600mg of DHA. Some dosages may be small, so you may need to take more than one pill to get the accurate dose. You should take this supplement at breakfast, and to keep fish oil from spoiling, store it in the fridge.
“DHA is the fatty acid that comprises a large portion of brain tissue,” his website states. “Not only does DHA support brain functions, but it also improves how the brain stores and uses energy. It has also been shown to be a good depression fighter.”
B vitamins are great vitamins to help improve memory, as they do this by essentially crating a protective shield for the neurons in the brain. Mayo Clinic neuropsychologist Dr. Glenn Smith says that vitamin B-12 can help fight Alzheimer’s.
“Vitamin B-12 helps maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells,” he explains. “A vitamin B-12 deficiency – most common in older adults and vegetarians – can cause various signs and symptoms, including memory loss. In such cases, vitamin B-12 supplements can help improve memory.”
A study at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago has recently looked into cognitive function and B-12 deficiency.
“We showed that four out of five markers of B12 deficiency were strongly associated with poor cognitive performance overall, and more specifically, poor episodic memory and perceptual speed,” state Dr. Christine Tangney in a September 2011 Fox News report.
Tangney is the study’s lead author and associate professor of clinical nutrition at Rush. Her research claims that people with significantly lower B-12 levels had a significantly lower brain volume.
“We may be missing a potential reason why someone might suffer cognitive decline over time because we’re not making sure they have adequate B-12,” Tangney said.
Using a vitamin supplement like B-12 can be useful to many patients, but some people may want to try to consume foods that are naturally high in the vitamin.
According to WebMD, some good food sources of vitamin B-12 are:
- Fish and shellfish
- Poultry and eggs
- Dairy products
- Fortified cereals
“Generally, it’s best to get vitamins from whole foods,” the website states. “But doctors often suggest fortified foods – and supplements – to people over 50. As we age, it’s harder for our bodies to absorb vitamin B-12 from food.”
Smith adds that patients should consult their doctor before adopting drastic changes in their diet.
“Vitamin B-12 is found naturally in foods that come from animals, including fish, meat and poultry,” he states “Many breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamin B-12 as well. If you’re concerned that you’re not getting enough vitamin B-12 or other specific nutrients, consult your doctor – especially if you’re an older adult or a vegetarian.”
Doctors have been researching for decades about the connection of antioxidants to brain function. It’s said that vitamins C, E and beta carotene are among the antioxidants that will help your memory. They do this by protecting your brain tissues by breaking down toxic forms of oxygen in the bloodstream, according to Dr. Mary Clarke, a Research Sxtension specialist in nutrition education at Kansas State University.
“This Oxygen Radical Abhorrence Capacity (ORAC) measures the ability of foods, blood plasma, and other substances to combine with oxygen free radicals and render them harmless,” Clarke stated in her recent findings.
Antioxidants protect tissues against oxygen damage from these free radicals. Oxidative damage is associated with aging, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and other diseases. Recently, neuroscientist Jim Joseph at the Jean Mayer USDA lab on Aging thinks that poorer brain function associated with aging and disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases may also be a result of these free radicals.
A similar abstract at Now University claims that antioxidant supplements can be valuable to brain performance. Participants who used an antioxidant supplement performed 39 percent better on the episodic memory tests than those who took a placebo. Episodic memory tests look at a person’s ability for long-term function, relating to specific events, places, situations and experiences in that person’s life.
On top of that, the study claims that verbal memory was also improved by 33 percent, but interestingly enough, this was only for participants who were non-smokers.
According to the United States National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, people 65 and older who consume more ascorbic acid and beta-carotene plasma will have better memories.
“Correlations showed significant stability of the plasma antioxidants over the time lag of 22 years,” which was stated in the research, conducted at the University of Berne in Switzerland. “Free recall, recognition, and vocabulary (but not priming and working-memory) correlated significantly with ascorbic acid and beta-carotene in the cross-sectional 1993 data as well as in the longitudinal 1971-1993 analysis. These two antioxidants remained significant predictors, especially of semantic memory, after controlling for possible confounding variables like age, education, and gender using multiple regression analyses and ANOVAs.”
Analysts at Harvard Medical School claim that of all the vitamin supplements, vitamin E may be the most beneficial for slowing the rate of age-related mental decline. They support this with a study published in Archives of Neurology in 2002, which looked at 2,889 people ages 65 and older who did not have dementia or other cognitive illness.
Researchers asked the study participants what they ate and which vitamin and mineral supplements they took, then tracked their mental function over about three years as printed in the Harvard Health Publications. Mental function was assessed with the Modified Mini-Mental State Examination and other standard tests. Participants who consumed the most vitamin E had 36 percent less mental decline than did people who consumed the least.
The study further states that the rate of dementia is the lowest among men who take vitamins C and E, which suggests they might benefit from long-term use of the supplements. Overall, Vitamins C and E are generally considered safe and non-toxic, making it one of the more ideal supplements to consume. Harvard researchers state that things like a lack of sleep, smoking, poor diet and exercise can worsen a person’s mental state.
Asian Ginseng (Panax)
On WebMD, it’s said that the herb that’s sometimes used with ginkgo biloba, a popular brain booster. Asian ginseng may help with fatigue and quality of life, said Adriane Fugh-Berman, MD, an associate professor in the complementary and alternative medicine Master’s program of the department of physiology and biophysics at Georgetown University School of Medicine.
Research at the University of Maryland Medical Center also claims that Asian ginseng improves one’s brain health, but also can boost health of the immune system, heart, physical endurance, well-being and stress, fertility function, cancer and menopause.
“People who take ginseng often say they feel more alert,” the research details. “Several studies report that Asian ginseng may slightly improve thinking or learning. Early research shows that Asian ginseng may improve performance on such things as mental arithmetic, concentration, memory, and other measures. Some studies have also found a positive effect with the combination of Asian ginseng and Ginkgo biloba.”