By Dr. Rick Tague
Brain Shrinkage and “Cognitive Decline”
Mental function, unfortunately, does deteriorate with age and is associated with the unpleasant reality of “brain shrinkage”. Known in research studies as “cognitive decline”, this process is now known to begin at least by age 45. In fact, research shows that reasoning ability declines 3.5% over the 10 years from our mid 40’s to mid 50’s. And, it gets worse. The decline increases to as much as 9.6% per 10 years in our 60’s.
Brain scans confirm that the brain normally shrinks 0.5% per year. In Alzheimer’s, it shrinks 2.5% per year. In those with the common form of mild cognitive decline, it appears to shrink about 1% per year.
We now believe that the decline in mental function is a very long-term process, occurring over at least 20-30 years. So, if prevention and management is to have an optimal effect, interventions must be made earlier rather than later. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, proper nutrition, and exercising regularly, while avoiding obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are believed to be very important.
Key nutrients are also believed to have a significant impact on risk of mental decline with age. Homocysteine, for example, is a metabolism by-product in our blood that has been associated with mental decline and risk of dementia. It is a known risk factor. We know, however, that taking vitamin B-12, B-6, and Folate will lower the blood level of homocysteine significantly. We also now know that the rate of brain atrophy can be reduced up to 53% for those with high homocysteine simply by taking these vitamins.
Recent research has confirmed that supplementing with B-12 and Folate promotes improvement in mental function within 24 months, in both immediate and delayed memory performance. In fact, individuals with the highest blood levels of B-12 are 6 times less likely to experience brain shrinkage compared to those with low blood levels.
Also of interest, obese individuals have smaller brains than their normal weight peers. And individuals with metabolic syndrome are 20% more likely to have mental decline on memory tests. An elevated C-reactive protein is also associated with cognitive decline. Again, weight control, a healthy lifestyle, and proper nutrition are keys to keeping your brain healthy.
Nutrition and Health Facts For Brain Preservation:
1. Omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish oil and flax oil, in the blood, are associated with improved mental function, particularly immediate recall.
2. Excessive calorie intake seems to double the risk of mild mental impairment, particularly in those over age 70.
3. Take true Folate, B-12, and B-6 in their natural forms, in proper doses to lower homocysteine.
4. Low levels of Vitamin D are found in those with Alzheimer’s. Higher vitamin D levels are associated with improved memory test scores.
5. L-carnitine treatment increases mental function in older adults.
6. Green tea consumption is associated with improved mental function.
7. Ginkgo biloba complexed with phosphatidylserine in supplement form resulted in improved memory performance and increased speed of memory task performance. Combining the two supplements seems to potentiate cognitive effects.
8. Gingko biloba has consistent evidence that chronic supplementation improves selective attention, some executive processes and long-term memory.
1. Lifestyle factors: Control your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol (preferably without statin medications which can impair memory), fitness level.
2. Nutrition factors: Eat health promoting foods such as recommended in our CARING maintenance diet.
3. Supplement Core Nutrients: A quality multivitamin, such as Metabolism Essentials, along with Ultra Omega 3 make sense for almost all adults. (Folate, B-12, and B-6 in research based amounts are included.)
4. Supplement Strategically: Discuss with your nutritionist if Green Tea, Acetyl L-Carnitine, Memory Support (Ginkgo biloba + Phosphatidylserine) are appropriate for you.