Knowing what the best supplements for brain health are can be a great way to start planning ahead as you implement an all-round health regime through nutrition, hydration, and exercise.
So, if you want to give yourself the greatest chance having good mental function in your later years, there is no time like the present to get started. The fact that our brains control every function throughout the body, it stands to reason that a healthy brain equals a healthy body.
Just as important is addressing the unhealthy habits picked up over the years like drinking and smoking brought on by busy stressful lives. A mind-set is an important part of a healthy life; after all we are all too aware of how we can abuse our health for the sake of finishing a project on time.
What Happens To The Brain As We Age?
Ageing is a fact of life and slowing or stopping ageing whether that is physical or mental it has been the thing of fantasy for eternity.
Interestingly, the ageing process isn’t as uniform as you might think, meaning it affects everyone, or everyone’s brain differently. So if that’s true and different brains age differently, surely there must some way of making it uniform, and at the same time slowing the process?
Well, the brain is a complicated thing weighing in at around 3lbs with around 100 billion neurons interconnected via trillions of synapses, so manipulating it seems like a big ask.
The complexity of the brain can be illustrated simply by expressing just how amazing it is.
From third week of gestation when brain development begins to old age, the brain constantly creating complex structures, making and breaking networks and pathways, storing and retrieving knowledge and memories.
Throughout a human life it’s the brain that changes more than any other part of the body.
As a child develops the brain will create more than a million new neural connections every second and by the time the child is 6 the brain is around 90 percent of adult volume.
Even as an adult the area of the brain in control of planning, working memory, and impulse control is not fully developed until around 35 years of age.
What Is Normal Brain Ageing?
Have you ever thought about those times when you just can’t recall a name of something or someone and start worrying about getting old? You may be surprise to learn younger people do the same thing but don’t think anything of it. It’s only when we’re mature adults we associate memory lapses with mental decline and the horrors of Alzheimer’s or Dementia, but these lapses are not part of normal ageing.
There are some commonly understood memory changes associated with ageing.
There is an expression “you can’t teach an old dog a new trick”. Well, to some extent this correct as part of the ageing process committing information to memory becomes more difficult mean learning and multitasking can suffer. Interestingly, recalling names and numbers using Strategic memory can begin to decline aged 20.
As an illustration of how much the brain can differ from person to person studies have suggested 1/3 of older people struggle with memories of facts and events stored in their declarative memory. Yet other studies suggest 1/5 of 70 years olds’ perform cognitive tests like a 20-year-old.
Do these discrepancies mean something is happening to keep some old folk sharper than others, and if that’s the case what is it? While studies continue in an attempt to understand how this works, there are a number processes we know are general changes brought on by ageing.
For example, brain mass starts to shrink around the 60 or 70 years’ mark. As the frontal lobe and hippocampus responsible cognitive function and encoding shrink, new memories are reduced.
The cortical density changes meaning thinning of the outer-ridged surface of the brain brings on declining synaptic connections, so fewer connections equals slower cognitive processing.
The myelin in the white matter carrying signals between brains cells is believed to shrink resulting in slow processing and reduce cognitive function.
Then there’s the Neurotransmitter systems charged with the production of dopamine, acetylcholine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. When these chemicals decrease with ageing, it can play a part in declining cognition and memory and increased depression.
What’s New In Brain Ageing?
There are always studies being carried out on brain activity, ageing, you name it, it’s being studied. But sometimes something remarkable happens to change the landscape, and one of those discoveries was the Stem Cells, the building block of life.
Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York carried out mouse studies and concluded stem cells in the brain’s hypothalamus are likely controlling how fast aging occurs in the body. In other related research it was concluded “the number of hypothalamic neural stem cells declines over the life of an animal leading accelerates aging,” says Dr. Dongsheng Cai, Ph.D., professor of molecular pharmacology at Einstein.
Amazingly, injecting hypothalamic stem cells into the brains of normal old mice replenished the stem cells and effectively reversed the ageing process, offering the potential to treat age-related diseases down the road.
Are Super Agers Lab Mice?
There is a group of individuals in their 80’s in possession of memories fit for those decade younger than them. Amazingly, through study and comparison of super Agers and their peers researches concluded that the Super Ager brains shrank at a slower rate than their peers resulting in more resistance to the typical memory loss observed with age.
This important detail illustrates age-related cognitive decline is not inevitable.
Therapies And Behaviors To Help Slow Brain Ageing
There are factors that affect brain health and just as in your physical health there is nothing unusual or surprising about the list. The brain affects the body and the body affects the brain, so there’s no surprise that healthy living can help the brain. Obesity can accelerate brain aging by 10 years, and both sugar and diet varieties of soda are fast-track brain ageing leading to smaller overall brain volume, poorer episodic memory, and a shrunken hippocampus.
The characteristics shared by those with the least cognition decline had a number of simple things in common. They had remained physically active with exercise and social interaction, eat a balanced diet, didn’t’ drink much, never smoked, reduced stress and managed to get good quality sleep.
Prevention – Behavioral Change
In terms of exercise it is recommended a combination of aerobic and resistance exercise of moderate intensity for at least 45 minutes each session and on as many days of the week as possible.
It has been suggested brain power in the 50+ group is boost with this exercise where as those 50+ how did not engage in exercise experienced a decline in memory and thinking skills comparable to 10 years of aging in 5 years.
As exercise can be shown to have an anti-ageing effect, dancing is shown to turbocharge the process.
Playing an instrument
Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto, suggest playing a musical instrument can help mature adults to ward off age-related cognitive declines. Improvements in listening and hearing skills indicates that the brain can rewire itself to compensate for disease, as it requires many brain systems to work together, like hearing, motor and perception systems,”
A key component of brain health is diet. There are many schools or thought on this from vegetarian, vegan and so on. It is common for the Mediterranean diet to be thanked for longevity, but some suggest long life has been achieved in spite on the Mediterranean diet rather than because of it.
With so much confusion it’s probably best just to suggest a balanced diet and eat less.
It’s a bit of a ‘no brainer’ if you pardon the pun but keeping your mind active with puzzles can help. This really comes under the sub heading of being active and happy.
Take care of your heart.
Healthy brain, healthy body, healthy heart. The brain demands a good cardiovascular system. But if you have high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, or even atrial fibrillation, seek advice from your doctor’s before taking exercise..
Avoid a high-sugar diet.
High blood sugar increases the odds on dementia, even without diabetes. Avoid sweetened foods like sodas and candy. I mean, yuck, anyway.
Moderate or avoid alcohol.
As we age alcohol has a stronger affect as we all know after a night out. Try to limit yourself to one drink a day.
Once you have distressed and cut down on the alcohol the inadequate sleep linked to slower thinking and risk of dementia will be a thing of the past.
What About Supplements
It’s a busy word and all the stress and running around is enough to cause short term memory loss so we need to use every tool in our tool box to stay healthy
If we look at nutrition as a way forward it’s important to know the typical American diet does not include the nutrients the brain needs like carotenoids, omega-3s and vitamin E in any useful amounts. Those with high concentrations of carotenoids and omega-3s in their brain matter are shown to have higher cognitive function but even working hard to prioritize brain focused nutrition it’s very difficult to receive the necessary amounts in your diet
If the research is correct and the average brain requires 12 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin a day. The typical American citizen gets less than 10% of those required amounts.
We already know nutrition is key to both physical and mental health but studies show more than 90 percent of Americans are not receiving the recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals.
“the typical American diet does not include the nutrients the brain needs”
On the contrary, Americans across every age group according to The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion instead of eating correctly, settle for less healthy foods like refined grains, added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. This may go some way to explain why brain health supplements are becoming more and more popular.
I know I’ve used the expression myself but if we start with a balanced diet, things will start to get better. A proper balanced diet includes three or more portions of fruits and vegetables daily. Look for products with high antioxidants which you will find come in natural color coded skins. While this may be a joke it is true the color is a good sign. Green peppers, and Broccoli, red tomatoes, purple grapes, dark red or blue berries, and yellow or orange carrots all come brightly colored and all full of goodness.
Additionally, try to include fish and beans and avoid sugar and food containing saturated or trans fats, and salts as it could undo all the good work.
To augment nature at her own game brain enhancing supplements are cognitive enhancers known as ‘nootropics’ known to help with the following;
Enhance brain power
Strengthen cognitive thinking
Promote alertness or overcome sleepiness
Level out mood swings
Promote future brain health
Help minimize risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
Nootropics can either be natural, synthetic or pharmaceutical but of course he natural nootropics are more beneficial for many areas of brain health for immediate and long term cognitive function, executive function, memory, mental health without all the harmful side effects that come with synthetic and pharmaceutical.
When buying supplements, it’s good to first understand what you are trying to achieve, do you want to improve short term memory, be more alert, look and feel younger? Once you have an idea you can start researching products but remember buy from a trusted source, read the small print with particular interest in side effects. The natural nootropics would always be the preference but don’t dismiss synthetic until the research is completed.
Also known as ALCAR. It is known for being beneficial for brain injury, dementia and Alzheimer’s as well as being cardio-protective and neuro-protective
A Chinese herb used by ancient scholars to memorize teachings. It can boost regeneration of cells
Pigments synthesized by plants, the most common beinge carotene, cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin, and lycopene. Can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers.
This naturally occurs in meat, seafood and dairy products, used to increase energy levels and been shown to enhance cognitive functioning.
This is a group of Omega-3 fatty acids supports brain health and cognitive functioning
You’ve probably heard of Ginkgo Biloba, as it’s been a popular supplement for the last several decades. It’s a known antioxidant that increases blood flow to the brain. Several studies demonstrate that it can help with memory problems for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Known as the ‘eye vitamin’ because of its popularity as an eye health supplement, it’s also known to benefit cognitive function, long-term brain health, and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Found in dark berries grapes and wine, this promotes steady flow of beta-amyloid-40, the protein decreased in the blood during Alzheimer’s
The Take Away
It used be fact that someone with brain damage through injury, stroke, substance abuse would be a lost cause, but things have changed. Now we know the brain can grow new cells and rewire itself just like muscles in the body repair themselves.
This is excellent news for everyone wanting a longer healthier life as well as people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia related issues who wish to stay active, as they can focus on helpful activities to promote healthy brain development.
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Thanks for visiting. See you next time.
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