Brain Health & Cognitive Aging

According to a recent AARP Survey, “brain health is the second most important component in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, after heart health (37% find brain health most important while 51% find heart health most important).” Small lapses of memory that were of no concern during our twenties by age 50+ naturally escalate causing concern for aging boomers. When the first baby boomers turned 65 in 2011, there were just under 77 million people in this population. With such a large aging population, there are many options for anti-aging that focus on diet, exercise and cosmetic products/procedures for the skin. But how do we keep the brain youthful?

Cognitive aging is a process that begins after birth and continues throughout our lifetime. While there are several studies on disease-based dementia, little research exists on early, non-dementia related cognitive changes.

Cognitive Aging Progress in Understanding and Opportunities for Action

Institute of Medicine

Steps for Individuals to Reduce Risks for Cognitive Decline

Brain Health & Cognitive AgingDespite wide variation in cognitive function among individuals, the committee identifies three actions, supported by scientific evidence, that everyone can take to maintain their cognitive health and potentially reduce the effects of cognitive aging. Specifically, the committee recommends that individuals should:

1. Be physically active.
2. Reduce and manage cardiovascular disease risk factors (including hypertension, diabetes, and smoking).
3. Regularly discuss and review health conditions and medications that might influence cognitive health with a health care professional.

The committee also identifies additional actions for which there is some scientific evidence to suggest positive effects on cognitive health:

* Be socially and intellectually engaged, and continually seek opportunities to learn.
* Get adequate sleep and receive treatment for sleep disorders as needed.
* Take steps to avoid the risks of cognitive changes due to delirium if hospitalized.

Source: Institute of Medicine

Brain Health: Eight nutrients to protect the aging brain

1. Cocoa Flavanols: Cocoa flavanols have been linked to improved circulation and heart health, and preliminary research shows a possible connection to memory improvement as well. A study showed cocoa flavanols may improve the function of a specific part of the brain called the dentate gyrus, which is associated with age-related memory (Brickman, 2014).

2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids have long been shown to contribute to good heart health are now playing a role in cognitive health as well. A study on mice found that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation appeared to result in better object recognition memory, spatial and localizatory memory (memories that can be consciously recalled such as facts and knowledge), and adverse response retention (Cutuli, 2014). Foods rich in omega-3s include salmon, flaxseed oil, and chia seeds.

3. Phosphatidylserine and Phosphatidic Acid: Two pilot studies showed that a combination of phosphatidylserine and phosphatidic acid can help benefit memory, mood, and cognitive function in the elderly (Lonza, 2014).

4. Walnuts: A diet supplemented with walnuts may have a beneficial effect in reducing the risk, delaying the onset, or slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in mice (Muthaiyah, 2014).

5. Citicoline: Citicoline is a natural substance found in the body’s cells and helps in the development of brain tissue, which helps regulate memory and cognitive function, enhances communication between neurons, and protects neural structures from free radical damage. Clinical trials have shown citicoline supplements may help maintain normal cognitive function with aging and protect the brain from free radical damage. (Kyowa Hakko USA).

6. Choline: Choline, which is associated with liver health and women’s health, also helps with the communication systems for cells within the brain and the rest of the body. Choline may also support the brain during aging and help prevent changes in brain chemistry that result in cognitive decline and failure. A major source of choline in the diet are eggs.

7. Magnesium: Magnesium supplements are often recommended for those who experienced serious concussions. Magnesium-rich foods include avocado, soy beans, bananas and dark chocolate.

8. Blueberries: Blueberries are known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity because they boast a high concentration of anthocyanins, a flavonoid that enhances the health-promoting quality of foods. Moderate blueberry consumption could offer neurocognitive benefits such as increased neural signaling in the brain centers.

Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). “Eight nutrients to protect the aging brain.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 April 2015.


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