How to Reverse Cognitive Decline: 15 Supplements You Should Know About

Cognitive decline, a natural aging process, involves the gradual deterioration of cognitive abilities like memory, attention, and decision-making. Its effects can vary from mild forgetfulness to conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s, which share similar progressive cognitive decline.

Understanding and reversing cognitive decline is crucial for mental health, independence, and quality of life. This article examines factors contributing to cognitive decline and presents effective strategies to slow or reverse it, ensuring mental agility throughout one’s life.

Defining Cognitive Function and Cognitive Decline

Cognitive function encompasses mental processes that enable task execution, decision-making, and environmental interaction, including memory, attention, language, problem-solving, and executive functioning. Cognitive decline, however, refers to the gradual deterioration of these abilities over time.

Aging naturally causes cognitive decline, manifesting as forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, or slower information processing. Addressing mild cognitive impairment early is vital for preserving mental health and maintaining a high quality of life, as severe cases can lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s.

What Do Our Brains Need for Top-Notch Cognition?

Optimal cognition requires a well-rounded approach, including proper nutrient intake for brain health benefits, mental stimulation to keep the mind sharp, regular physical activity for improved memory and cognitive performance, and quality sleep for memory consolidation, brain repair, and toxin removal. This allows us to maintain our brain’s agility and sharpness throughout our lives.

What Can Cause Cognitive Decline?

Cognitive decline can result from dietary, lifestyle, medical, and mental health factors. Poor nutrition, unhealthy habits like smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and lack of physical activity impede blood flow and oxygen delivery to the brain.

Medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, along with mental health concerns like depression, anxiety, and chronic stress, disrupt brain function and health. Addressing these factors is vital for preventing or slowing cognitive decline and ensuring mental well-being.

How Can You Reduce Your Risk of Cognitive Decline?

Reducing cognitive decline risk involves a holistic approach, including a healthy diet for optimal brain function, regular physical activity for improved blood flow and oxygen delivery, cognitive training exercises to keep the mind sharp, maintaining social connections for mental stimulation & emotional support, and regular medical check-ups for early detection and management of contributing conditions. Incorporating these strategies promotes long-lasting mental health and significantly reduces cognitive decline risk.

The Best Supplements to Fight Cognitive Decline

Bacopa monnieri

Bacopa monnieri, an Ayurvedic herb, enhances cognitive abilities, eases stress, and boosts vitality. It benefits healthy individuals and those with cognitive decline by improving various memory types, especially working memory [1]. Bacopa also reduces short-term forgetfulness, potentially aiding long-term memory retention and concept comprehension. [2]

Blueberry

Blueberries, rich in anthocyanins (antioxidant compounds), promote cognitive function, can help prevent cardiovascular disease and promote liver health. Their high antioxidant and anthocyanin content supports brain health, especially for those experiencing cognitive decline. [3][4]

Caffeine

Caffeine counteracts adenosine receptors, promoting alertness and wakefulness instead of calmness and drowsiness. Regular caffeine consumption has been linked to a lower likelihood of Alzheimer disease, cirrhosis, and liver cancer, while potentially enhancing reaction time and improving mood and subjective well-being. [5][6]

Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo biloba is the most widely consumed herb promoting brain and nervous system health. Clinical trials suggest that it can improve cognitive abilities in individuals with dementia. [7] Preliminary evidence also indicates potential cognitive performance advantages for healthy middle-aged and older adults. [8] [9]

Ginseng

Ginseng can positively impact mood, immunity, and cognitive function. Acutely, it enhances cognition through its anti-fatigue effects. [10] All research conducted has demonstrated improved symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease. [11]

Huperzine A

Huperzine-A boosts cognition by inhibiting an enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter crucial for learning. As a cholinergic compound, it could help combat age-related cognitive decline. In early testing, Huperzine-A shows promise as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease. [12]

Oxiracetam

Studies have found that Oxiracetam can effectively slow down cognitive decline and alleviate related symptoms in cases of dementia and organic brain deterioration. When taken in doses above 1,200 mg, it significantly improves verbal skills. [13]

L-Theanine

L-Theanine is known to promote relaxation and reduce stress & anxiety levels. Combined with caffeine, it can improve cognitive performance. This amino acid can reduce the adverse effects of caffeine without diminishing its positive impact. Using caffeine and L-theanine together results in increased concentration and longer periods of focus. [14]

Resveratrol

Resveratrol has been shown to decrease amyloid-beta levels in cerebrospinal fluid, improving cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients. It may prevent cognitive decline and enhance scores on cognitive tests like the Activities of Daily Living Scale, Neuropsychiatric Inventory, and Mini-Mental State Examination compared to placebos. [15]

Creatine

While creatine monohydrate strengthens muscles, it also enhances brain function. Taking it orally may boost short-term memory and intelligence and can be especially helpful for aging or stressed individuals. [16]

Omega 3 fatty acids

Omega-3s are essential for brain development and heart health. They are also anti-inflammatory. A high dose of DHA (900mg) can boost cognitive function. For healthy older individuals, increased Omega-3 intake could slow cognitive decline and improve overall brain health. [17]

Magnesium

Supplementing with Magnesium-L-Threonate improves working memory, learning abilities, short-term memory, and long-term memory. Research has demonstrated its effectiveness in enhancing memory in both young and old rats, with particularly notable results in older rats. [18]

B-vitamins

Essential B vitamins, like folate, B6, and B12, can enhance cognitive function and slow cognitive decline in those without dementia. Promising results have been observed in trials up to 12 months, 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 has potential to mitigate Alzheimer’s and cancer, with lower levels found in Alzheimer’s patients. [20] High doses of vitamin E (α-tocopherol, 2,000 IU) are as effective as selegiline in reducing cognitive decline in moderate to severe Alzheimer’s cases. [21]

Frequently Asked Questions about Cognitive Decline

Below are some commonly asked questions regarding cognitive decline:

Q: What are the early signs of cognitive decline?

A: Memory loss & laspes, difficulty concentrating, and challenges with problem-solving are common early signs of cognitive decline.

Q: Can cognitive decline be reversed?

A: Though not always possible to completely reverse, early detection and intervention can significantly slow the progression of cognitive decline.

Q: What is the best diet for cognitive health?

A: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, such as the Mediterranean diet, is highly recommended for promoting cognitive health.

Q: How much exercise is recommended for brain health?

A: Engaging in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week has been shown to support brain health and overall well-being.

Conclusion

Embracing a healthy lifestyle and integrating particular strategies and supplements can contribute to slowing or reversing cognitive decline. Individuals can actively maintain their cognitive health by prioritizing a nutrient-dense diet, consistent physical activity, and considering the supplements discussed in this article.

Take the initiative and incorporate these changes into your daily routines for optimal mental health. Moreover, seeking guidance from healthcare professionals for personalized advice on supplements guarantees a customized approach that caters to your needs.

References:

[1] Calabrese C, Gregory WL, Leo M, Kraemer D, Bone K, Oken B. Effects of a standardized Bacopa monnieri extract on cognitive performance, anxiety, and depression in the elderly: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2008 Jul;14(6):707-13. doi: 10.1089/acm.2008.0018. PMID: 18611150; PMCID: PMC3153866.

[2] Stough C, Lloyd J, Clarke J, Downey LA, Hutchison CW, Rodgers T, Nathan PJ. The chronic effects of an extract of Bacopa monniera (Brahmi) on cognitive function in healthy human subjects. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2001 Aug;156(4):481-4. doi: 10.1007/s002130100815. Erratum in: Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2015 Jul;232(13):2427. Dosage error in article text. PMID: 11498727.

[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 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.