By the age of 85, one half of Americans will have dementia. There are many types of dementia but Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type. Currently 5.2 million Americans have some form of dementia. By the year 2050, the number is estimated to be around 14 million which is triple what it is now. It is a sixth leading cause of death in people over the age of 65. The brain is by far the most important organ in our body and the most complex! Our brains are constantly changing and making new connections and generating new neurons as we age. This process is called neuroplasticity and is a good thing because it means there are many things you can do to keep your memory and focus sharp as you age.
Dementia is cognitive decline that interferes with daily functioning. It can include significant memory loss, impaired judgement and reasoning, lack of focus, difficult planning and organizing thoughts, personality changes and problems communicating. Age itself doesn’t cause dementia. It isn’t part of the normal aging process.
Dementia can be caused by:
• Genetic as well as environmental causes
• Lifestyle habits and toxic exposures
• Heart Disease
• Nutritional deficiencies
• Hormonal imbalance
• Immune deficiencies
• Reactions to medications
• Thyroid disease
• Oxygen deprivation
• Brain Tumor
Some causes of dementia are nonreversible and can come on quickly. Other causes of dementia are manageable and even slowed by medication or lifestyle changes. It is important to recognize some of the preventable and treatable causes such as heart disease, infection, nutritional deficiencies, dehydration, hormonal imbalances, immune deficiencies, reactions to medications, exposures to heavy metals, thyroid disorders, oxygen deprivation, and brain tumors. Heart disease can cause dementia. The same mechanism what causes blockage of your coronary arteries can cause blockages of the arteries in your brain leading to decreased blood flow. Controlling your blood pressure, weight, cholesterol, homocysteine, and exercising on a regular basis can be preventable for dementia.
Hormone replacement therapy can improve cognition, increased blood flow in your brain, and prevent memory loss. Estrogen stimulates the production of neurotransmitters involved in cognition and memory. Testosterone is important to men and women. In men, low levels of testosterone is linked to Alzheimer’s disease. The hormones pregnenolone, progesterone, and DHEA are important as well. Cortisol is a hormone that actually increases as we age and can cause damage to our brain cells if too high. Proper insulin and blood sugar levels are important to brain metabolism and function. Patients with diabetes have been shown to be 150% more likely to develop Alzheimer disease. Optimal levels of melatonin, vitamin D, thyroid, and parathyroid are also crucial to maintaining your memory as well.
Any chronic inflammation in your system from chronic allergies, leaky gut, infections, heavy metal toxins and autoimmune diseases can cause inflammation in your brain damaging your neurons. Following a Mediterranean diet and controlling the underlying cause of your inflammation is important for prevention. Measuring your antioxidant levels and omega 3 fatty acid levels can help with inflammation. Supplementation with the omega 3 fatty acids, green tea, curcumin, and resveratrol all help with inflammation.
There are research studies showing if you haven’t slept well your ability to learn decreases by 40%. Sleep helps form long-term memory and allows you to recall it at a later date. Sleep also helps you maintain growth hormone levels which keeps you young by restoring and regenerating your body cells. Long term use of prescription sleeping pills has been linked to memory loss. Safer alternatives for sleep include melatonin, 5- HTP, L- theanine, velarian root, passionflower, and magnesium.
Now that we’ve reviewed some common causes of memory loss, let’s review what we can do to prevent it! Exercise is one of the most powerful ways to enhance our mental capacity and prevent memory loss. Middle-age people who exercise are one third as likely to get Alzheimer’s disease compared to those in their 70’s who did not exercise. Those who began exercising in their 60’s saw dramatic improvement in cognitive function and a decrease risk of Alzheimer’s by 50%. Click here to get a list of mental exercises that will keep you young! Dietary changes to promote a healthy brain include following a Mediterranean diet, avoiding sugar, trans-fat, and gluten. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include walnuts, pumpkin seeds, cold water fish and dark leafy green vegetables. It is also recommended that you take a pharmaceutical grade omega 3 supplement at doses of 1000-2000mg daily.
The top 12 memory enhancing supplements are listed below:
• Alpha-lipoic acid
• Ashwagandha root
• Coenzyme Q10
• Huperzine A
• Vitamin B complex
• Vitamin E
Spectracell and Genova are two lab companies which can perform blood testing to check for nutrient deficiencies. Together we can customize a plan that can help address your memory loss and keep your brain healthy!