There are 44 million people currently experiencing alzheimers or dementia worldwide. There are a number of steps you can take no matter where you are in life to prevent and even reverse memory problems.
- Regulate blood sugar. Processed foods reduce insulin sensitivity of your brain’s neurons. Dementia is now being called Diabetes Type 4 due to the surprising amount of evidence linking insulin resistance with it.
- Eat Real Food. Chocolate for their flavonols and spices for their polyphenols. Pastured eggs for choline and cholesterol. Cold water fish for DHA and omega 3 fatty acids. (Choose ocean wise for ethical harvesting practices and third party tested oils for quality.) Berries for their antioxidants and fermented foods for the gut
- Meditate daily. If you have had the pleasure to spend time with anyone who has meditated for years, you’ll already understand why meditation is so powerful. Science is mapping the changes to the brain that occurs when you meditate. I’ve witnessed profound changes on retreat in myself and in others.
- Sleep. Our bodies repair when we sleep. One night of sleep triggers an inflammatory response in the body. If you are having trouble sleeping it may be due to blood sugar dysregulation or other imbalances that can be addressed by digging in with a functional medicine practitioner.
- Specific supplementation which I’ll get into now.
Its important to understand that Alzheimer’s and related disorders (ADRD) begin long before symptoms do. By addressing steps 1-4 you are reducing your risk by as much as 50%. Women are affected more than men as we age, however there is a growing number of young men who experience memory problems earlier in life due to very high stress and insulin resistance. ADRD affects people on all levels; personally, socially and professionally. Evidence supports early prevention in reducing risks as much as 50%.
Nutraceuticals and Botanical Medicne for Cognitive Health:
- Resveratrol is a polyphenol with both anti oxidant and anti inflammatory properties. Researchers believe it has positive effects on the hippocampus. This is the area of the brain that is critical for memory, learning and mood. It also has been shown to improve cerebral blood flow. Four studies saw enhanced executive function and memory in health older adults who supplemented for a minimum of 14 weeks at a dose of 150-200 mg with both resversatrol and phytoestrogens.
- Phosphatidylserine helps to improve depressive symptoms, memory, and behaviour. It is an essential nutrient that is not found in the diet. It also regulates stress and is indicated when cortisol is high at doses between 100-500 mg.
- Choline in the form of alpha GPC or citicoline allows this ‘b vitamin’ to cross the blood brain barrier. This supports cognitive health by making more acetylcholine and other neurotransmitters.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids in the form of cold-water fatty fish is best. Grass fed meat is also higher in omega 3’s. If you are supplementing with fish oil a range aim for around 2000 mg (combined EPA + DHA).
- Vitamin B12 found in organ meats and some shellfish. Methylcobalamin can be supplemented at 500 mcg.
- N-Acetyl Cysteine reduces glutamate from the brain. This antioxidant is the precursor to glutathione.
- Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALCAR) is recommended dosage is 1000 – 2000 mg to support brain function.
- Curcumin Cook with raw turmeric root and supplement with 300 – 500 mg of curcumin.
- Ginkgo Biloba increases blood flow to the brain and reduce Alzheimer’s symptoms. It also increases short term memory recall. Check for interactions with medications before supplementing at 120 – 240 mg.
- Bacopa is a herb that improves memory and focus. Recommendation is 200 – 500 mg.
I don’t recommend starting on all of these on your own. Herbal and nutraceutical medicine is complex and like Functional Medicine its individualized. Deciding on a treatment course and plan has many factors. Its best to work with a practitioner to ensure you will be getting the most out of any supplements you purchase. Quality and duration are important factors. You also want to ensure you are absorbing them and not taking anything that isn’t going to improve your quality of life.