One of the most difficult conditions that families face is dementia. While the body stays healthy, the mind fades away, until virtually every memory – including how to get dressed – is erased.
But according to the results of a new study, seniors might be able to safeguard their memories by getting healthier.
Researchers from Finland found that seniors who ate a healthy diet and exercised performed better on memory and problem-solving tests than those who did not, suggesting that dementia is a condition that we may have the potential to prevent.
The study included 1,260 people aged from 60 to 77 at risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Half the group received nutritional guidance along with an exercise program, brain training activities, socialization and management of heart health risk factors. The control group was only given standard health advice.
After two years, the group that underwent lifestyle changes performed better on problem-solving exercises, memory tests and quizzes.
The study findings, which suggest that exercising the brain is as important as exercising the body, were presented over the summer at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.
“This is the first study to definitively show that changing your lifestyle will reduce your risk for cognitive decline,” Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer’s Association told HealthDay. “I don’t think you can say the risk goes away altogether. As people age, they will have some decline in their cognitive abilities. That’s just a part of aging,” Fargo said. “But try to maintain healthy activities, a healthy lifestyle, in middle age and later, and that’s going to help reduce your risk for cognitive decline.” (Ref. 1)
Tips to keep your mind sharp
The experts at the Mayo Clinic agree that healthy living – although not a guarantee – is a good place to start when it comes to preventing the onset of dementia.
Keep your mind active. Mentally stimulating activities, such as puzzles and word games, and memory training may delay the onset of dementia and help decrease its effects.
Be physically and socially active. Physical activity and social interaction may delay the onset of dementia and reduce its symptoms.
Take some classes. Studies have shown that those who pursue formal education have less mental decline than those who don’t, suggesting that learning helps the brain develop a strong network of nerve cells that protect against the cognitive decline.
Eat right. Consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish (or our high-quality fish oil supplements has been shown in studies to support brain health and function, which may lower the risk of cognitive decline. Omega-3s are especially important for brain health, experts say. (Ref. 2)
Maintain healthy blood pressure. High blood pressure damages blood vessels and arteries, blocking blood flow including to the brain, which links it to dementia. (Ref. 3)
Can supplements help?
Our Neuro-Natural Recall – designed to support memory as we age – features the intriguing ingredient vinpocetine, which is derived from the leaves of the lesser periwinkle.
And while it sounds like a sweet addition to an English garden, this powerhouse has been shown in studies to help support brain function and provide benefits for those with conditions that impact memory.
Vinpocetine works by inhibiting the enzyme phosphodiesterase type 1 (PDE1), which along with calcium levels may cause blood vessels in the brain to contract and narrow. When the enzyme’s actions are discouraged, the blood vessels relax, and blood flow to the brain improves – along with oxygen carried by the blood cells – is increased. (Ref. 4)
Vinpocetine may also help improve blood flow to the brain by reducing the stickiness of red blood cells, so they flow more easily through blood vessels, and are less likely to cling to vessels walls, where they can have the potential to cause blockages.
“All of the studies focus on improvement of cognitive function,” said Dr. Bernd Wollschlaeger, a family physician who specializes in herbal remedies and nutritional supplements and serves as associate editor of the Journal of the American Nutraceutical Association. “Several peer-reviewed, double-blind studies looked at cognitive performance of normal subjects, seeing how vinpocetine would improve their cognitive performance. The researchers found a significant improvement with vinpocetine. Until vinpocetine, we physicians have had nothing to prevent cognitive decline. We only have drugs to treat it after the fact.”