Your Plan of Action – The Natural Approach
- Make changes to your diet as what you are eating can have an enormous impact on your memory as you age and also help to reduce risk.
- Keep your blood sugar in balance as blood sugar and insulin have been closely linked with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s
- Take specific nutrients that have been shown to keep your brain and memory working well.
Best Test Option: Brain Protection Profile
Your brain function does change as you get older and can affect your ability to store and retrieve information, so you may find that words and putting names to faces sometimes eludes you.
Unfortunately, the risk of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia also increases with age. Dementia is now the biggest killer for women, causing three times more deaths than breast cancer. It is the third biggest killer for men.
Research suggests that there is a 20 to 30 year interval between the first development of amyloid plaque in the brain (characteristic of Alzheimer’s) and the onset of dementia. So, no matter what your age, it’s never too late to start taking preventative measures.
Dementia is an umbrella term that includes up to 100 different types of diseases. The most common type is Alzheimer’s disease which occurs in 50 to 75% of cases and is caused by plaque and tangles developing in the brain. The next most common is vascular dementia which accounts for 20 to 30% of cases and is a problem with supply of blood to the brain
You may fear that dementia is in your genes, even if you are at high risk because of your family history, it is not inevitable that you will succumb to the disease. The way you live your life – and in particular the way in which you eat – can make a huge difference to your future, slowing down cognitive decline or even reversing it. Indeed, research shows that diet and lifestyle have more to offer the ageing brain than the drugs that are promoted for it.
You might have just started to notice some memory loss and want to do something about it straightaway, maybe you keep going into a room and can’t remember what you went in there for or reading a page in a book or magazine and realise that you have to read it again because you have loss your concentration. Or you may have a strong family history of dementia or Alzheimer’s and you want to prevent your own cognitive decline.
Can Nutrition Help?
What you eat can have an enormous impact on your memory as you age and also help to reduce your risk. We know that the Mediterranean diet has been found to reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment by 28% and to reduce the risk by nearly 50% of this progressing to Alzheimer’s. The advice is to increase the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables, olive oil and eat more oily fish.
Making sure you keep your blood sugar in balance is also important as blood sugar and insulin have been so closely linked with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s that it has been suggested that Alzheimer’s should be called type 3 diabetes.
Nutrients for Memory and Alzheimer’s
Certain nutrients can be particularly helpful in keeping your brain and memory good.
Research has shown that people taking the B vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid at particular levels (vitamin B6 20mg, vitamin B12 500mcg, folic acid 800mcg) were almost entirely protected from brain shrinkage compared to those using the placebo. Those taking these levels of B vitamins had 90% less brain shrinkage.
There is an amino acid called acetyl-L-carnitine which can be helpful as it increases the brain receptors that would normally deteriorate with age so helpful for memory loss, Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.
People with Alzheimer’s have been found to have a shortage of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the brain and drugs which mimic acetylcholine are often used as a treatment for Alzheimer’s. Acetylcholine is critical for your memory and brain function.
Your body uses phosphatidyl choline to make the brain chemical called acetylcholine, so it is important to take this nutrient in a supplement.
Phosphatidylserine is an important part of all your cells and particularly the cell membrane. Research has shown that phosphatidyl serine can help improve memory in general even in those without dementia.
L-arginine is an essential amino acid and gets converted to nitric oxide which is a neurotransmitter in your brain. Nitric oxide is important for cognitive function thought to be one of the chemical messengers involved in learning and memory.
Omega 3 Fish Oil
Supplements of omega 3 fish oils can also be helpful as DHA, one of the major omega 3 fatty acid in the brain, seems to have the most protective effect against Alzheimer’s. The DHA in omega 3 fatty acids helps to prevent the plaque forming in the brain which is present in Alzheimer’s and they help improve cerebral blood flow and reduce inflammation, making them important in the fight against not only Alzheimer’s but also vascular dementia.
Your brain and gut are very much connected and good bacteria have direct effects on your memory, mood and cognition. Scientists talk about the brain–gut axis; and they even call the gut the ‘second brain’, because it is filled with the same neurotransmitters as your brain. Both probiotics and prebiotics (they promote the growth of the probiotics) have anti-inflammatory effects, which we know is important in the treatment of both vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s. Overall, ‘probiotic bacteria represent the most promising intervention for primary prevention’.
Tests for Memory And Alzheimer’s
The best choice of test for looking at memory and prevention of Alzheimer’s is the Brain Protection Profile.
This is an exclusive test that is used in our clinics and it includes the most important tests for brain and memory health.
A blood test checks for deficiencies and imbalances in calcium, chromium, copper, zinc, iron, magnesium, selenium, manganese, vitamins A, E, D, omega 3 and omega 6. We also check for the heavy metals aluminium and mercury.
The blood test also measures your level of homocysteine which occurs naturally in your body but has a toxic effect when the level is too high. Although your body should detoxify homocysteine, if that does not happen then this can lead to high circulating levels, which research suggests ‘is a strong, independent risk factor for the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s’. In the research study, if the level of homocysteine was found to be greater than 14mmol/l from a blood test, it doubled the risk of the person developing Alzheimer’s.
Your level of HbA1c is also measured which checks for your average blood glucose levels over the last three months. This is important as it has been suggested that Alzheimer’s should be called type 3 diabetes because of the impact of glucose on the brain.
Where To Start?
Make sure you are eating well to support your brain function. If you would like personalised advice on what to do next then request a consultation with one of our qualified nutritionists.