As we age a number of factors predispose us to a decline in memory capacity and the development of more severe forms of cognitive decline, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. One of these factors is the lifetime accumulation of free radical damage to brain cells induced by the brain’s high use of oxygen. The same way that oxygen in the air causes apples to rot or metal to rust, oxygen in the body damages our tissues in a similar fashion. The brain uses about 20% of the body’s oxygen supply at any given moment to help brain cells metabolize blood sugar into energy. But the side effect is a build up of free radicals, which damage brain cells and impair their function over time. Free radical events are a known factor in Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions.
Studies show that antioxidant supplementation can help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and work synergistically with medications to improve outcomes, including survival in these patients. Thus, it seems prudent to take a high potency multiple vitamin and mineral supplement each day that is antioxidant enriched and also contain a B-50 complex; as a number of B-vitamins are required to synthesize important brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) essential for alertness, concentration and cognition. Certain B-vitamins also lower homocysteine (a chemical that damages brain arteries), which is linked to dementia in later life.
Studies also show that omega-3 fats can protect the brain against Alzheimer’s disease as we age. For this reason, you should also take an essential fatty acid supplement (my preference is one with fish, flaxseed and borage seed oils), and eat fish twice per week. It’s also important not to clog up the arteries in your brain with cholesterol, so a low animal fat diet (with exception of fish) is also a good idea.
Boosting The Memory Chemical (Acetylcholine) After Age 55
Another way in which we are predisposed to memory loss as we age is the decline in synthesis of the memory chemical (neurotransmitter) acetylcholine. This decline really kicks in after age 54. As we age the brain is less able to make this important memory chemical, setting us up for memory loss and many of the manifestations of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
The good news is that there are several natural agents that have been shown, in clinical studies, to help the aging brain boost its production of acetylcholine, and thus, prevent and reverse age-related decline in memory
The most important natural agents include:
CDP-Choline is a normal component of the nerve cell membrane, which is important for transmission of nerve impulses from one nerve to the next. It is also vital to the formation of the memory chemical acetylcholine. Unfortunately, the aging brain is less able to synthesize the CDP-Choline it requires. However, studies have shown that supplementation with CDP-Choline can re-constitute brain levels of CDP-Choline, boosting levels of several important brain neurotransmitters and improving nerve conduction ability. These results translate into enhanced mental acuity and improvement in a number of disorders involving memory loss and cognitive decline.
Note that supplementing with many other forms of choline have not been shown to be effective. As such, CDP-choline is the gold standard.
Phosphatidylserine – like CDP-Choline, Phosphatidylserine is a natural component of the nerve cell membrane, and it too, is a victim of age-related decline in synthesis. Studies show that supplementation with phosphatidylserine can also elevate brain levels of acetylcholine, and has been shown to improve memory and cognition in clinical trials with afflicted individuals.
Bacopa Monnieri - the leaf of Bacopa, or water hyssop, has been used in the Indian medical system of Ayurveda since the 6th century A.D. to help improve mental performance. Its active ingredients (bacosides A and B) have been shown to enhance nerve transmission and are potent antioxidants, which have been shown to protect brain cells from free radicals and other toxic substances. Human studies indicate that Bacopa Monnieri can preserve memory function and has been used in the treatment of various conditions involving memory loss.
Huperzine A - this natural substance was initially discovered within a club moss that grows inAsia, which has been used traditionally to aid memory loss problems. Since being isolated, Huperzine A is now synthesized for use in natural health products and has shown a remarkable ability to support brain levels of acetylcholine (the memory chemical). It does so by partially inhibiting the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine (acetylcholinesterase), which results in higher acetylcholine brain levels. Its positive effects on memory and brain function have been shown in a number of human clinical trials.
If You Are 55 Or Over You Need A Memory Support Supplement
Alzheimer’s disease affects 6-8% of the population over 64 years of age and 47% of people who live to be 85 or older. Part of maintaining one’s quality of life requires putting nutrition and lifestyle practices in place that maintain a highly functional body and “mind”. Many wellness-striving individuals focus on preserving their bodies, and don’t realize that their brain is also responsive to wellness interventions. Due to the fact that the aging process is associated with decreased synthesis of the memory chemical acetylcholine, as well as important phospholipids (CDP-Choline, Phosphatidylserine), which are required for optimal nerve impulse transmission, I suggest that individuals begin taking a supplement by age 55 that contains a blend of CDP-Choline, Phosphatidylserine, Bacopa Monnieri and Huperzine A. This is an essential anti-aging/disease prevention step that no one should neglect.
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