How to Stop (and Possibly Reverse) Cognitive Decline
Your brain is extremely powerful.
The mind can comprehend complex languages and interpret difficult problems, while retaining endless amounts of knowledge and information.
We tend to learn and grasp ideas even we are not trying to, or remember minute places and times without realizing it.
That is the power of our brains. And the most intriguing part about our minds is that we only know a fraction of what is possible.
Do you train your brain?
When we think of exercise, we tend to picture a person running or lifting weights. People usually associate working out with building muscles or losing weight.
We know that for a muscle to become stronger, we need to exercise it regularly. But we tend to overlook the fact that our brain is a very powerful instrument – or muscle – that is in constant need of train, too.
As we age, we can lose the ability to learn new concepts and many people tend to have trouble with memory loss.
After all, how many times have we heard of a relative developing dementia and losing the ability to recognize the faces of loved ones?
So, what do we do to prevent that from happening?
Preventing memory loss & cognitive decline
There are definitely genetic components to memory loss and decreased brain function with age.
But, the increased research in a field called epigenetics is showing over and over that we control much more than we’d originally thought.
This area of research focuses on how genes express themselves. This means that, based on the environment, certain genes will act differently.
For example: someone may be genetically predisposed to develop type 2 diabetes, but if they make sure to keep their sugar intake low and maintain a healthy body weight… that gene will likely never express itself as the disease.
And with advances in science leading us to longer life spans, the hope that we can be just as smart and coherent as when we were younger is not far-fetched. Some may say it could even be achieved through natural methods.
The 2-step process to cognitive decline
To overcome cognitive decline, we must know what we are up against.
When it comes to the degenerative process in our bodies, our biggest enemies are stress and inflammation. You can think of them as the one-two punch your body tries its best to avoid.
The first hit is stress.
As I’ve already discussed in my article about stress, there are 3 major forms of it in our lives:
These forces might be constant in your life. Just think about every type of stressor you will encounter in a single day. Now think about that every week, month, year, and over the course of a lifetime!
When we have stress in our bodies, we produce natural responses called free radicals that can damage every form of tissue in our bodies.
Free radicals can not only damage a living tissue, but they can also alter our DNA. This makes us susceptible to genetic and neurological alterations.
The second hit is stress.
The way many of these issues present themselves is in the form of inflammation.
It’s the “K-O” in this boxing metaphor we’re going with. By the time you’re chronically inflamed, you’re likely to be knocked out by many a health issue.
To use a different visual, you can think of stress as the spark and inflammation as the flame. By the time inflammation is showing, you’ve likely been stressed for quite a while.
So, to deal with the flames… we need to put them out.
When it comes to inflammation from free radicals, our water for the flame is antioxidants.
Our bodies are constantly needing antioxidants to combat the circulating free radicals that can be detrimental to our health.
These antioxidants could be the answer to withstanding a lifetime of stress.
And, of course, we should try to get as many of them from our food as possible FIRST.
Foods with antioxidant benefits include:
- Lean meats
- Pumpkin/ Sesame seeds
- Green Tea
Examples of antioxidant & other anti-inflammatory supplements
Many people know that there are benefits to supplementing with Omega 3 DHA, CoQ10 and Curcumin. And if you don’t – we’ve got other blog posts coming for those. :)
These three supplements should be taken daily to help with numerous health conditions. Studies have shown that these three supplements can combat cognitive decline.
The benefits CoQ10 and Omega 3 DHA come from the fact that are high amounts of each found in our brains. By making sure to supplement them, we’re keeping those stores at healthy levels so we don’t “run out of fuel.”
The benefits of Curcumin come into play because it is a powerful antioxidant that can kill many different types of free radicals.
By combining these molecules that both improve brain function and “clean house” of free radicals, we’re setting our brains up for major success long-term.
One additional supplement to highly consider in your brain-feeding routine is Vitamin D3.
It tends to be low in persons with cognitive decline, and seems to reverse some of the negative effects of mental aging. So, it would be wise to start taking this as well.
I recommend these to all my patients for preventive measures because I take them myself.
But when treating cognitive decline, we need to target powerful brain molecules that become reduced throughout the years.
The role of neurotransmitters in cognitive decline
In Parkinson's patients, increasing low levels of dopamine is the most common form of treatment.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in mood, alertness, and memory.
Dopamine is also a precursor to norepinephrine, which also helps with concentration and memory, and is decreased in Alzheimer patients.
Acetylcholine is also important, as it helps with neurological and motor control – two other functions that are lost when our brains start to fail.
Some beneficial supplements for Alzheimer’s & Parkinson’s patients would be:
- S-Methyl-L-Cysteine (SLMC)
- R-Alpha-Lipoic Acid & Acetyl-L-Carnitine
- Huperzine A
- Dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE)
This amino acid can be converted to dopamine, which can lead to norepinephrine.
Tyrosine also helps suppress cytokines being released in Alzheimer patients (meaning it helps prevent the progression of the disease). It also promotes the breakdown of plaque buildup in the brain.
This is found in almost every tissue in the body and helps with the production of neurotransmitters.
3. S-methyl-L-cysteine (SMLC)
For Parkinson's patients, this helps reduce methionine sulfoxide, which is produced in Parkinson's and can lead to a decline in motor skills.
4. R-Alpha-Lipoic Acid and Acetyl-L-Carnitine
These can be beneficial to both Parkinson's and Alzheimer’s patients because they help produce Glutathione, which contains Sulfur and helps recycle antioxidants. The more antioxidants in the body, the less damage to our tissues and DNA.
5. Huperzine A
This is another powerful supplement that has been shown to decrease symptoms in Alzheimer’s patients by improving cognition, behavior, daily lifestyle, and mood.
6. Dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE)
This has also been shown to beneficial to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients by helping with the production of acetylcholine. This is a neurotransmitter which helps excite and activate skeletal muscles, a problem that is prevalent in cognitive decline.
Exercise your brain with simple switch-ups!
Simple brain exercises such as brushing your hair or teeth with your opposite hand and learning to play a musical instrument can utilize so many different parts of your brain.
Physical exercise can also help prevent cognitive decline because every time you exercise, you produce new neurons and new brain cells. So, you can look at it as exercising to make yourself smarter!
Little games, such as crosswords or puzzles, also challenge the brain to stay at peak performance.
Let’s fight those cognitive decline genes
Due to genetics and environmental forces, we must be able to minimize the degrading factors that surround us every day.
While we can’t control our genes, we can be more mindful of our environment and tweak it to work in our favor… so we stay aware of what our environment is later in life.
And that must start by taking the initiative to improve your situation now, so that later in life you can be as smart and sharp as you were before.