Cognitive performance is vital at any age, but more so as we get older. Memory loss as a normal part of aging is a myth. The brain is affected by the same things that damage the rest of our body — stress, poor diet, toxins, lack of exercise or sleep, nutritional deficiencies, and more.
Giving our brain a bit of a tune-up can improve performance. The dietary and lifestyle factors that lead to cognitive decline can be modified with a bit of effort on our parts.
Brain performance affects how we understand and communicate, recognize patterns, learn, remember and solve problems. This is what it means to be a human being. Thinking is the process in the brain that we use to gain knowledge and understanding.
While there is no effective known treatment for dementia, we do know a lot about what affects brain function and brain aging. Even if you aren’t affected by cognitive decline, you can take steps to prevent early aging of your brain and obtain lifelong health.
There are several things you can consider if you are experiencing memory loss, but remember everyone is different and there is no one solution. Pre-diabetes and metabolic syndrome need to be considered as correctable contributors. Address high cholesterol, low thyroid function and heavy metal toxicity.
There are foundational nutrients that function to support cognitive performance, particularly omega-3s and curcumin. Deficiencies in vitamins D and B, especially B12, should be addressed along with genetic predisposition. Each of us has unique genes that play a role in nutritional or detoxification problems.
DHA, an omega-3, is a component of fish oil and a foundational nutrient. If DHA is deficient, the brain will not be able to work normally. DHA, in triglyceride form, is important in the communication between neurons. It appears to be localized in areas of the brain that deal with memory. Deficiency can cause a decrease in mass of the brain.
Effects of oxidative stress, inflammation and illness are influenced and down regulated within our cells by DHA. Shriveled neurons and fewer synapses result without it, leading to loss of brain matter. I consider it important that omega-3s have no detectable toxins as found in clinical grade fish oil.
Curcumin, extracted from the spice turmeric, helps remove toxic waste, disrupt formation of plaques, and has anti-inflammatory properties. It tweaks a major control point that regulates many other activities in brain cells by encouraging them to operate in a balanced matter.
It sticks to plaques, getting in their way and helping to disperse them. Curcumin calms the brain down and reduces the risk of formation of many of the things that cause cognitive problems. Though it is not easily absorbed, if it is wrapped with phosphatidylcholine it can more easily get directly into the lymphatic system and then into our brain.
Nutrients work in different ways to enhance the cognitive abilities of the brain — by building cell membranes, promoting balanced function in and around neurons, and reducing the potential for damage and loss of cognition through oxidative stress and inflammation.
Come on by if you have questions.
Scott Porter is a functional medicine pharmacist at Sandpoint Super Drug and a member of the Sandpoint Wellness Council.