However, recent research suggests that memory can improve with the right lifestyle, supplements and other techniques.
Is memory loss a normal part of aging?
The severe loss of memory that occurs in Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia is certainly not normal. Neither is the loss that occurs in mild cognitive impairment, which can be a precursor to dementia. It’s a general misperception that forgetting things more often and experiencing greater difficulty learning new things are to be expected as we grow older. These occurrences may be common, but they’re not “normal”.
What causes memory loss?
In addition to Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, other diseases and conditions can cause memory loss,1 including stroke, Parkinson’s disease, HIV, syphilis, multiple sclerosis, head trauma, epilepsy, depression and chronic alcoholism. Less severe conditions, including menopausal hormone decline, mild concussions, insomnia, stress, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), dehydration, anxiety, multitasking, prescription drug side effects, vitamin B12 deficiency, exposure to toxins, and even high altitudes can impair memory, although this impairment is often reversible when the cause has been addressed.
In Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss is associated with the accumulation in the brain of proteins known as amyloid beta and tau. While amyloid beta is the better known of these proteins, attempts to treat Alzheimer’s disease by reducing the burden of amyloid beta in the brain have met with failure more often than success. Some researchers have turned to tau as a promising target in Alzheimer’s disease. Tau protein forms the neurofibrillary tangles commonly observed in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients. Yet, like amyloid beta, it is not yet known whether tau plays a causative role in Alzheimer’s disease.
Vascular dementia is caused by impaired blood flow to the brain. It can be the result of the same process (atherosclerosis) that occurs in the rest of the body of someone who has cardiovascular disease. Strokes and mini-strokes significantly increase the risk of vascular dementia.
Is cognitive decline reversible?
In a recently published interview, Dale E. Bredesen, MD, who is an expert in the mechanisms of neurodegenerative diseases and originator of The Bredesen Protocol™ for improving cognition, stated “Although the dogma has been that there is nothing that prevents, slows, or reverses the course of cognitive decline in diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, there are clearly multiple studies now—in both anecdotal and controlled trials—that show examples in which there is indeed prevention and/or reversal of decline.”2
What helps memory?
Regular sound sleep and exercise are very important for supporting memory. Other important factors are a healthy diet (which includes eating regularly to avoid episodes of low blood sugar), stress management, taking steps to reduce underlying diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, staying hydrated and addressing hormone imbalances.
Which nutritional supplements help memory and concentration?
Quite a few supplements have been shown in experimental or clinical research to benefit memory and learning ability or slow their decline. These include choline, dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE), Ginkgo biloba, ashwagandha, Bacopa monnieri, Huperzine A, vinpocetine, phosphatidylserine, omega-3 fatty acids, lithium and others.3-13
How does exercise help memory?
Exercise promotes the formation of neurons in the brain, increases brain volume, boosts cognitive function and helps the brain maintain its ability to adapt to changes.14 It also improves circulation and the delivery of oxygen and supports vascular health.
How can future technology improve memory?
While the loss of memory is a growing concern for an aging population worldwide, research in this area is also growing. Scientists are investigating such aids as brain implants and computer-brain interfaces that expand memory and improve other functions. Online brain training programs are available now that work like exercise in the brain to help improve memory and learning, while tracking progress over time.
Nootropic compounds that may enhance memory have been the subject of research during the past several decades. These so-called “smart-drugs” have the potential to benefit everyone from college students seeking to improve exam scores to elderly men and women suffering from cognitive decline. The future may see the development of more advanced compounds and the use of smart drugs by more people.
Memory is more likely to improve with the adoption of more than just one or two of the therapies discussed in this post. A multifaceted, personalized program such as that developed by Dr Bredesen will improve the odds of maintaining our memories and perhaps even reverse some aspects of memory loss.
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