How to Prevent Cognitive Decline: Top Research-Backed Supplements

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Cognitive decline, characterized by the gradual loss of brain function, is an issue of growing concern in our aging society. It can manifest as memory loss, difficulties in problem-solving, or trouble with language, and significantly affects an individual’s quality of life. Therefore, maintaining cognitive health is not just about preserving memory; it’s about safeguarding the essence of who we are.

In this article, we will delve into strategies for reversing and preventing cognitive decline, explore the impact of age on our mental faculties, and discuss the role of certain research-backed supplements in supporting cognitive health. With a blend of lifestyle habits and targeted nutritional support, we can build a robust defense against cognitive decline and continue to live vibrant, mentally active lives.

What is Cognitive Decline?

Cognitive decline refers to the progressive deterioration of cognitive functions, including memory, attention, and problem-solving skills. It comes in various forms and stages, ranging from mild cognitive impairment (MCI), where individuals experience noticeable yet not debilitating changes, to severe forms like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Common symptoms include forgetfulness, confusion, difficulty concentrating, and changes in mood or behavior. Diagnosis typically involves a comprehensive evaluation of medical history, physical examination, neurological tests, and sometimes brain imaging. Early detection is crucial for managing the condition and potentially slowing its progression.

At What Age Does Cognitive Decline Start?

Cognitive decline doesn’t have a specific starting age as it varies greatly among individuals. Generally, some cognitive changes such as slower processing speed and difficulties in multitasking may begin as early as mid-age. However, significant cognitive decline is usually observed in the elderly. It’s important to distinguish between age-related cognitive decline, which is a normal part of aging, and disease-related decline, such as Alzheimer’s, which is not.

Certain risk factors like unhealthy lifestyle habits, lack of physical activity, chronic stress, high blood pressure, and poor diet can accelerate cognitive aging. Early detection and prevention are key in managing cognitive decline. Regular cognitive assessments, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and engaging in mentally stimulating activities can help slow down the process and maintain optimal brain function.

Can You Reverse Cognitive Decline?

The possibility of reversing cognitive decline is a subject of much research. While some cognitive impairment, particularly if it’s due to reversible factors like sleep deprivation, may be improved, it’s usually not permanent. Lifestyle modifications such as regular physical activity, a healthy diet, and mindfulness practices are often recommended as strategies to potentially slow down or even reverse cognitive decline.

However, the effectiveness of these interventions varies greatly among individuals. It’s also crucial to debunk a common misconception that severe cognitive decline and dementia can be entirely reversed. As per current scientific understanding, dementia cannot be reversed, though its progression can be managed. Always consult with healthcare professionals for personalized advice related to cognitive health.

What Habits Prevent Cognitive Decline?

Preventing cognitive decline involves a combination of healthy habits that promote overall well-being. Nutrition plays a crucial role; a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats, often referred to as the Mediterranean diet, is recommended for cognitive health. Regular physical exercise, including both aerobic activities and strength training, contributes to maintaining cognitive function.

Engaging in mentally stimulating activities such as reading, puzzles, and learning new skills also helps stimulate the brain and decreases the risk of cognitive decline. Adequate sleep is essential as it allows the brain to rest and repair itself. Stress management techniques, like meditation or yoga, can mitigate the harmful effects of chronic stress on cognition.

Social engagement, through activities like volunteering or joining clubs, can also help maintain cognitive health by providing mental stimulation and reducing feelings of isolation. Regular check-ups with healthcare professionals for early detection of cognitive decline are another best practice. These habits work together to create a lifestyle that supports cognitive health.

Supplements to Prevent Cognitive Decline

Dietary supplements for cognitive health can provide additional nutrients to support brain function. However, they should not replace a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle. It’s important to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and consult with a healthcare professional, as age, specific cognitive needs, and health status should be considered before starting any supplement regimen.

Bacopa Monnieri

Bacopa monnieri, an Ayurvedic herb, boosts cognitive abilities, reduces stress, and increases vitality. It enhances various memory types, particularly working memory, in both healthy individuals and those with cognitive decline. [1] Bacopa also aids in reducing short-term forgetfulness, potentially improving long-term memory and comprehension. [2]

Blueberry

Blueberries, rich in antioxidant anthocyanins, support brain health, prevent cardiovascular disease, and promote liver health. They are especially helpful for those with cognitive decline. [3][4]

Caffeine

Caffeine promotes alertness by counteracting adenosine receptors and may lower the risks of Alzheimer’s, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. Regular consumption can also boost reaction time, mood, and well-being. [5][6]

Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo biloba, a herb beneficial for brain health, may enhance cognitive abilities in dementia patients and potentially improve cognitive performance in healthy middle-aged and older adults, as per clinical trials. [7] [8] [9]

Ginseng

Ginseng has various beneficial effects on mood, immunity, and cognitive function. It has been found to enhance cognition and combat fatigue in the short term. [10] Additionally, all studies conducted on Ginseng have shown improved symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease. [11]

Huperzine A

Huperzine-A boosts cognitive function by preserving acetylcholine, a learning-related neurotransmitter. This compound may counteract cognitive decline due to aging and shows promise as a potential Alzheimer’s treatment in preliminary studies.[12]

Oxiracetam

Oxiracetam has been shown to be effective in slowing cognitive decline and relieving symptoms in cases of dementia and brain deterioration. Taking doses above 1,200 mg has been found to significantly improve verbal skills. [13]

Theanine

L-Theanine, a supplement that aids relaxation and reduces stress, can boost cognitive performance, especially when combined with caffeine. This amino acid mitigates caffeine’s negative effects while enhancing concentration and focus. [14]

Resveratrol

Resveratrol, found in certain foods, reduces amyloid-beta levels, linked to enhanced cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients. It may also prevent cognitive decline and improve cognitive test performance, as supported by placebo comparison studies. [15]

Creatine

Creatine monohydrate not only strengthens muscles but also improves brain function. Oral consumption of creatine may enhance short-term memory and intelligence, making it particularly beneficial for individuals who are aging or experiencing stress. [16]

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3s, vital for brain development and heart health, have anti-inflammatory properties. High-dose DHA (900mg) can boost cognitive function. For seniors, more Omega-3 intake could slow cognitive decline and boost brain health. [17]

Magnesium

Magnesium-L-Threonate boosts memory function, including working memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory. Studies have confirmed its positive impact on memory in both young and old rats, with impressive results in older rats. [18]

B Vitamins

B vitamins like folate, B6, and B12 enhance cognitive function and slow cognitive decline in individuals without dementia. Studies up to 12 months show positive results, and folate may also lower dementia risk. [19]

Antioxidants (Vitamins C and E)

Antioxidant vitamins C and E may help prevent cognitive decline. Vitamin C could ease Alzheimer’s and cancer symptoms, as these patients often have lower levels.[20] High doses of vitamin E (2,000 IU) can be as effective as selegiline in reducing cognitive decline in serious Alzheimer’s cases.[21]

Conclusion

In summary, preventing or reversing cognitive decline necessitates a comprehensive, personalized approach. This includes regular physical and mental activity, a balanced diet, adequate sleep, stress management, and social engagement. Supplements may provide additional benefits but shouldn’t replace these essential habits. As individual needs differ, professional advice is key before implementing new regimens or significant lifestyle changes.

REFERENCES:

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[3] Hein S, Whyte AR, Wood E, Rodriguez-Mateos A, Williams CM. Systematic Review of the Effects of Blueberry on Cognitive Performance as We Age. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2019 Jun 18;74(7):984-995. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glz082. PMID: 30941401.

[4] Krikorian R, Shidler MD, Nash TA, Kalt W, Vinqvist-Tymchuk MR, Shukitt-Hale B, Joseph JA. Blueberry supplementation improves memory in older adults. J Agric Food Chem. 2010 Apr 14;58(7):3996-4000. doi: 10.1021/jf9029332. PMID: 20047325; PMCID: PMC2850944.

[5] Adan A, Serra-Grabulosa JM. Effects of caffeine and glucose, alone and combined, on cognitive performance. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2010 Jun-Jul;25(4):310-7. doi: 10.1002/hup.1115. PMID: 20521321.

[6] Childs E, de Wit H. Subjective, behavioral, and physiological effects of acute caffeine in light, nondependent caffeine users. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2006 May;185(4):514-23. doi: 10.1007/s00213-006-0341-3. Epub 2006 Mar 16. PMID: 16541243.

[7] Hashiguchi M, Ohta Y, Shimizu M, Maruyama J, Mochizuki M. Meta-analysis of the efficacy and safety of Ginkgo biloba extract for the treatment of dementia. J Pharm Health Care Sci. 2015 Apr 10;1:14. doi: 10.1186/s40780-015-0014-7. PMID: 26819725; PMCID: PMC4729005.

[8] Kaschel R. Specific memory effects of Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761 in middle-aged healthy volunteers. Phytomedicine. 2011 Nov 15;18(14):1202-7. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2011.06.021. Epub 2011 Jul 30. PMID: 21802920.

[9] Mix JA, Crews WD Jr. A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial of Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761 in a sample of cognitively intact older adults: neuropsychological findings. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2002 Aug;17(6):267-77. doi: 10.1002/hup.412. PMID: 12404671.

[10] Reay JL, Kennedy DO, Scholey AB. Effects of Panax ginseng, consumed with and without glucose, on blood glucose levels and cognitive performance during sustained ‘mentally demanding’ tasks. J Psychopharmacol. 2006 Nov;20(6):771-81. doi: 10.1177/0269881106061516. Epub 2006 Jan 9. PMID: 16401645.

[11] Lee ST, Chu K, Sim JY, Heo JH, Kim M. Panax ginseng enhances cognitive performance in Alzheimer disease. Alzheimer Dis Assoc Disord. 2008 Jul-Sep;22(3):222-6. doi: 10.1097/WAD.0b013e31816c92e6. PMID: 18580589.

[12] Ha GT, Wong RK, Zhang Y. Huperzine a as potential treatment of Alzheimer’s disease: an assessment on chemistry, pharmacology, and clinical studies. Chem Biodivers. 2011 Jul;8(7):1189-204. doi: 10.1002/cbdv.201000269. PMID: 21766442.

[13] Dysken MW, Katz R, Stallone F, Kuskowski M. Oxiracetam in the treatment of multi-infarct dementia and primary degenerative dementia. J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci. 1989 Summer;1(3):249-52. doi: 10.1176/jnp.1.3.249. PMID: 2521069.

[14] Owen GN, Parnell H, De Bruin EA, Rycroft JA. The combined effects of L-theanine and caffeine on cognitive performance and mood. Nutr Neurosci. 2008 Aug;11(4):193-8. doi: 10.1179/147683008X301513. PMID: 18681988.

[15] Buglio DS, Marton LT, Laurindo LF, Guiguer EL, Araújo AC, Buchaim RL, Goulart RA, Rubira CJ, Barbalho SM. The Role of Resveratrol in Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s Disease: A Systematic Review. J Med Food. 2022 Aug;25(8):797-806. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2021.0084. Epub 2022 Mar 28. PMID: 35353606.

[16] Avgerinos KI, Spyrou N, Bougioukas KI, Kapogiannis D. Effects of creatine supplementation on cognitive function of healthy individuals: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Exp Gerontol. 2018 Jul 15;108:166-173. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2018.04.013. Epub 2018 Apr 25. PMID: 29704637; PMCID: PMC6093191.

[17] Yurko-Mauro K, McCarthy D, Rom D, Nelson EB, Ryan AS, Blackwell A, Salem N Jr, Stedman M; MIDAS Investigators. Beneficial effects of docosahexaenoic acid on cognition in age-related cognitive decline. Alzheimers Dement. 2010 Nov;6(6):456-64. doi: 10.1016/j.jalz.2010.01.013. PMID: 20434961.

[18] Slutsky I, Abumaria N, Wu LJ, Huang C, Zhang L, Li B, Zhao X, Govindarajan A, Zhao MG, Zhuo M, Tonegawa S, Liu G. Enhancement of learning and memory by elevating brain magnesium. Neuron. 2010 Jan 28;65(2):165-77. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2009.12.026. PMID: 20152124.

[19] Wang Z, Zhu W, Xing Y, Jia J, Tang Y. B vitamins and prevention of cognitive decline and incident dementia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutr Rev. 2022 Mar 10;80(4):931-949. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuab057. PMID: 34432056.

[20] Rivière S, Birlouez-Aragon I, Nourhashémi F, Vellas B. Low plasma vitamin C in Alzheimer patients despite an adequate diet. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 1998 Nov;13(11):749-54. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1099-1166(1998110)13:11<749::aid-gps860>3.0.co;2-t. PMID: 9850871.

[21] Dysken MW, Sano M, Asthana S, Vertrees JE, Pallaki M, Llorente M, Love S, Schellenberg GD, McCarten JR, Malphurs J, Prieto S, Chen P, Loreck DJ, Trapp G, Bakshi RS, Mintzer JE, Heidebrink JL, Vidal-Cardona A, Arroyo LM, Cruz AR, Zachariah S, Kowall NW, Chopra MP, Craft S, Thielke S, Turvey CL, Woodman C, Monnell KA, Gordon K, Tomaska J, Segal Y, Peduzzi PN, Guarino PD. Effect of vitamin E and memantine on functional decline in Alzheimer disease: the TEAM-AD VA cooperative randomized trial. JAMA. 2014 Jan 1;311(1):33-44. doi: 10.1001/jama.2013.282834. Erratum in: JAMA. 2014 Mar 19;311(11):1161. PMID: 24381967; PMCID: PMC4109898.

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Dr. Linnea Passaler

Dr. Linnea Passaler

Dr. Linnea Passaler has dedicated 20+ years to serving patients, first to a small number of individuals as a successful surgeon and then to thousands of people worldwide as the CEO of a digital health startup. After overcoming her own struggles with a dysregulated nervous system, she created Heal Your Nervous System (HYNS) to empower others in their healing journey. Her combination of neuroscience and somatic work helps those struggling with overwhelm, trauma, burnout, and anxiety to heal their dysregulated nervous systems and thrive.