As we age it’s common to forget things now and again and we might fear this is the first sign of dementia, but that’s not necessarily the case! Dementia is not a natural part of ageing. Dementia is an umbrella term, used to describe a group of symptoms that commonly include memory, thinking, problem solving, language and perception.
There are many different types of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is the most common one. According to Alzheimer’s Society the other types of dementia are:
- vascular dementia (caused by problems with blood supply to the brain)
- mixed dementia (usually Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia)
- dementia with Lewy bodies
- frontotemporal dementia (including Pick’s disease)
Alzheimer’s disease tends to start slowly and gradually progress over time.
Why do people develop dementia?
There are a various reasons why this happens. Age is the biggest risk factor and some people have a genetic predisposition to developing it. According to the National Institute on Aging some of the risk factors for dementia include the following:
- Consuming large amounts of alcohol
- Atherosclerosis (a thickening of the artery walls, which can hinder blood getting to the brain which can then increase the risk of a stroke or other brain injury)
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Some other possible underlying factors, according to research, include high homocysteine levels, oxidative stress (anti-oxidants support this), poor circulation in the brain and an increase in beta-amyloid proteins. According to Alzheimer’s Society, during the course of Alzheimer’s disease these ‘proteins can build up in the brain to form structures called ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles’. This leads to the loss of connections between nerve cells, and eventually to the death of nerve cells and loss of brain tissue’.
What can we do to reduce our risk?
Thankfully there is a lot we can do to reduce our risk before we get ‘old’ and adopting a healthy lifestyle is a good start. Around the age of 40 onwards is a good time to think about making healthy choices to support your cognitive health.
10 Top Tips
- Keep physically active! – aim for 30 mins, 5 days a week. It doesn’t have to be an exercise class but just keep moving!
- Don’t smoke
- Eat a healthy balanced diet – see below for details
- Keep alcohol intake low – have days without it
- Get tested! – go to the GP for regular health checks
- Keep to a healthy weight – the NHS website has guidelines on what these are
- Give your brain a daily workout! – do crosswords, puzzles or learn a new language. Keep your mind active!
- Consider taking a nutritional food supplement – specifically to support brain health (like the ones listed below)
- Use sage and rosemary in your diet – studies have shown these herbs may support cognitive function, including memory.
- Include blueberries in your diet – research show that regular blueberry consumption may improve memory and concentration levels.
A healthy balanced diet
- Avoid sugars and refined carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, biscuits, cereals etc)
- Avoid all processed foods, burnt foods and artificial ingredients
- Eat healthy fats (nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, coconut oil and oily fish (eg salmon, mackerel, and sardines)
- Eat plenty of vegetables and some fruit- eat a rainbow of colours and 8-10 a day
- Keep sources of carbohydrates to starchy vegetables (eg carrots, butternut squash, beetroot etc) and wholegrains, such as brown rice, oats and buckwheat (naturally gluten free).
- Have good quality protein (organic/free range chicken, eggs and meat and wild caught fish –not farmed, as well as organic sources of plant proteins)
- Have less saturated animal fats (red meat and dairy products)
- Drink 2 litres of water a day (filtered or natural mineral water).
What can we take?
There are a number of nutritional food supplements and herbal supplements that support brain health and cognitive function (which includes memory, concentration, mental clarity and focus). Some of the ingredients listed naturally contain anti-oxidants and anti-oxidants are important to help counteract any oxidative stress. Many of these products can be taken long before old age sets in, especially if you have a family history of dementia. Or they may be taken if you’re already suffering with some form of cognitive decline.
Turmeric — a powerful anti-oxidant with anti-inflammatory properties, it is being used in dementia research as it has an affinity to the brain.
Brahmi — supports circulation to the brain and has anti-inflammatory compounds.
Gotu Kola — also supports circulation to the brain
Holy Basil — High in anti-oxidants and also supports circulation in the brain.
Rosemary — a powerful anti-oxidant and supports memory. It has been shown to inhibit an enzyme which breaks down acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter) and studies show that people with poor memory have been low in acetylcholine.
Sage — Studies show this also supports memory, by inhibiting the enzyme which breaks down acetylcholine in the brain.
Gingko Biloba — has been shown to increases blood flow to the brain
Phosphatidylserine — this is a phospholipid fluid that is found in high concentration in cells, especially nerve tissue cells, and supports cognitive function.
Omega 3 fatty acids — these are important for general brain health including cognitive function.
B vitamins — B vitamins (B6, folate and B12) support healthy homocysteine levels in the body and studies have shown that high homocysteine can be an underlying risk factor of Alzheimer’s disease. Choose a methylated B complex for improved absorption. B Vitamins also support the nervous system.
Blueberry Concentrate — 100% pure blueberry concentrate, to mix with water and make a delicious drink or add to smoothies or yoghurt. Blueberries contain high levels of antioxidants and as mentioned above, research shows that regular blueberry consumption may improve memory and concentration levels. A study by the University of Exeter, showed improvements in cognitive function and blood flow to the brain, in older people who drank concentrated blueberry juice, every day for 12 weeks.
If you read this article and forget it all, don’t worry! Just remember one thing: at Inside Out Health we’re here to help! So come and talk to us and see how we can support you with your cognitive health. We have fully qualified Nutritional Therapists on hand and a great range of products.
Please note that if you are on any medication, always check with your GP or healthcare practitioner before taking any supplements.
I’m Alison and I’m a Nutritional Therapist. I love encouraging people to try healthy foods and to show them how simple, quick and easy it is to eat healthily. I’m a busy mum with 2 children, one of whom has a disability and special needs, so meals have to be easy! I love getting my veggie box each week, baking healthy treats and being out in the countryside.