A lot of us have moments when we don’t feel as sharp as we used to. Forgetting things we would’ve previously remembered; places we’ve been to; people’s names or words on the tip of our tongue.
This is normal, but when it becomes a regular occurrence and starts to affect our lives (or people close to us), it not only becomes frustrating, it can become a problem and needs to be addressed.
Research suggests it’s more common for people in their 40’s to 60’s who find themselves struggling to keep up with their younger work colleagues. Not grasping new concepts as quickly or having trouble remembering newly learned information where a younger person only needs to be shown things once and they remember it.
Whilst this can be justified as a normal part of ageing, could it also be the beginning of something more serious?
An interview with Alzheimers’ NZ CEO Catherine Hall on Breakfast News talks about the global report on factors affecting the likelihood of developing dementia:
“Change your unhealthy lifestyle habits now or face a much greater risk of developing Alzheimers…healthy heart = healthy brain”
Here’s a few alarming statistics about our current brain health:
- 50,000 Kiwis living with Alzheimers now
- By 2050 nearly 150,000 NZ’s will have dementia – more than triple current numbers
- 2 in every 3 NZers are affected in some way (friends & family affected)
Why are our memories getting worse?
Stress & poor sleep can be a factor. Genetics also plays a part, but diet and lifestyle are the most important factors that could be the missing link. Modern diets and lifestyle just aren’t giving us the brain nutrients we need.
Recommendations to help reduce the likelihood of developing Dementia:
- Don’t smoke
- Look after your heart – deal with high blood pressure/cholesterol
- Be physically active
- Follow a healthy diet
- Keep brain active throughout life
- Keep social engagement
When we are 20 we can often get away with not eating healthy foods or having a healthy lifestyle, but once you get into your 40’s, 50’s and 60’s it can catch up with you; important brain nutrients start to decline and need to be replenished by eating better quality food and taking specific brain nutrients.
So what are these important brain nutrients?
Phosphatidylserine (PS) is one of these nutrients. High concentrations of phospholipids are found in the brain – the most abundant of which is PS. It increases the communication between cells in your brain by increasing the number of membrane receptor sites for receiving messages.
Studies have shown that PS restores the brain’s supply and output of acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter crucial to memory.
Studies have shown that taking Phosphatidylserine can improve certain memory functions by up to 13.9 years.
The body gets most of the PS it needs from foods. However, modern diets don’t supply enough and vegetarian diets have even less. The suggested daily consumption of PS is 250mg, however it is estimated that vegetarian diets only have 50mg and reduced-fat diets 100mg while a diet rich in fish and meat may supply 175mg. The impact of this short supply becomes greater over the years. It is often seen as worsening memory and sometimes difficulty with focus and concentration.
DHA from Fish oil
The brain is made up of 60% fat and DHA is the most abundant fatty acid in the brain. DHA is vital for brain and eye development and maintenance right throughout life. Babies born with low levels of DHA test lower in IQ tests than babies with higher levels.
Iodine – deficiency is associated with lower intelligence and learning disorders.
Vitamin B12 – deficiency is associated with neurological problems including memory loss & dementia. B12 absorption decreases as we age.
Folic acid – needed in the manufacture of brain neurotransmitters (the brain’s chemical messengers) responsible for memory, mental clarity, alertness and mood stability.
By Lynley Baker
Good Health Naturopath