All aging humans will develop some degree of decline in cognitive capacity, usually including the following symptoms:
- decreased ability to maintain focus
- decreased problem solving capacity
Dealing with these issues is scary stuff as it reminds us that we are getting older, and even more scary is thinking we could be experiencing the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Fortunately, lifestyle changes, cognitive training, and nutritional have been shown to decrease the rate of intellectual decay and potentially reverse age-related cognitive decline.
Causes of Age-Related Cognitive Decline
Many factors contribute to age-related cognitive decline:
- Oxidative stress and free radical damage
- Chronic low-level inflammation
- Declining hormone levels like testosterone, DHEA and pregnenolone
- Inner arterial lining (endothelium) dysfunction
- Insulin resistance
- Excess body weight
- Suboptimal nutrition
- Loneliness, lack of social network, and high stress
Dietary and Lifestyle Changes
Several dietary and lifestyle changes can help reduce age-related cognitive decline:
- Switch from a western diet high in simple sugars and saturated fats to a Mediterranean diet high in mono- and polyunsaturated omega-3 fats, fiber, and polyphenols
- Caloric restriction may improve learning and memory
- Cognitive stimulation and training, including playing chess and speaking more than one language, can enhance cognitive reserve and convey protection against loss of brain function
- Exercise is known to increase levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which can lead to enhanced cognitive function
- Moderate alcohol consumption (up to 2 drinks/day) and caffeinated coffee consumption (less than 3 cups/day) may convey protection against cognitive decline
- Fish Oil: Daily omega-3 supplementation was independently associated with a dramatic reduction in cognitive decline over a 1.5-year period in an aging study population.
- Phosphatidylserine: Human clinical trials have found that supplementing with phosphatidylserine improves cognitive function in aging subjects with cognitive impairment.
- Glyceryl Phosphoryl Choline (GPC): Patients taking GPC showed neurological improvement and relief of clinical symptoms of chronic cerebral deterioration that was superior or equivalent to that obtained with prescription drugs.
- Acetyl-L-carnitine: A meta-analysis of data from over 21 studies shows that supplementation with acetyl-L-carnitine improves cognitive deficits observed during aging and pathological brain deterioration.
As medical science progresses, there will be lots of new discoveries, in the mean time, let’s take advantage of what is available today!