As you age, it's almost inevitable that you will experience somewhat of a decline in cognitive performance. Short-term memory loss, lack of mental focus, problem solving difficulties, low motivation and mood disturbances can all be indicative of this age-related decline.
At best, these issues can be an annoying inconvenience, such as forgetting where you parked your car at the mall or trying to remember the name of a business associate you met last week. At worst, they may be a prelude to more serious dementia related diseases.
People often dismiss these kinds of incidents with humor, calling them “senior moments”, but the thought of losing your independence and self-awareness is a terrifying prospect. A visit to any nursing home can be a stark reminder of why you need to start protecting your brain against age-related deterioration as soon as possible.
The upside to all of this dementia related doom and gloom, is that we are fortunate enough to be living in a time where we have the ability to mitigate much of this cognitive decline by taking specific nutritional supplements.
In order for any supplement to be deemed effective at maintaining the integrity and function of the brain, they must address these key factors:
• Increase healthy circulation to the brain.
• Protect the brain from free radical damage.
• Improve energy production in the brain.
• Enhance neurotransmitter production.
The following five nutrients have been shown in numerous studies to be highly effective at addressing the key factors for protecting against age-related decline in cognitive function.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR) is an acetylated form of L-Carnitine that enables it to cross the blood brain barrier and neural cell membranes where it exerts its effects. ALCAR acts as a powerful antioxidant in the brain, preventing neurotoxicity and lipid peroxidation of cell membranes caused by oxidative stress.
It also serves as a metabolite for energy production in the mitochondria, often described as the “power plants” of the body's cells. In addition, ALCAR supplementation increases an enzyme called acetylcoenzyme A in the brain, which facilitates production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
ALCAR has been shown in several studies to help prevent age-related dementia and may even be protective against the on set of Alzheimer's disease. It can also improve mental focus, depression, short-term memory loss and mental fatigue. Early research has further demonstrated a possible neuro-protective effect against brain trauma.
Take 1000 to 2000 mg per day, first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Because of its potential stimulatory effect in some individuals, it's best to avoid taking ALCAR later in the day, as this can cause sleeplessness.
#2 DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid)
DHA is often called brain food because the highest concentrations of it are found in the brain. As we age levels of DHA in the brain begin to decline, especially in areas associated with memory recall. Some studies have shown that individuals with DHA deficiency suffer from cognitive insufficiency and are at a greater risk for Alzheimer's disease.
Having healthy levels of DHA helps to protect the brain in three distinct ways:
1. It acts as an anti-inflammatory that protects brain cells from pro-inflammatory molecules.
2. It enables better communication between brain cells and helps cell membranes to maintain their fluidity.
3. DHA aids brain tissue recovery from traumatic injury, by converting into healing compounds called protectins.
Supplemental DHA daily can be beneficial in preventing age-related memory loss, maintaining learning abilities and improving attention deficit disorders. It can also be a valuable tool for healing cognitive impairment caused by a seizure, stroke or traumatic brain injury.
In addition to eating fatty fish two times per week, take a high dose DHA supplement at 200 to 1,000 mg per day with meals.
Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a phospholipid that accounts for 70 percent of the inner structure of cell membranes. PS plays a vital role in neurotransmitter production (specifically acetylcholine, dopamine and adrenaline), reducing tissue inflammation and the activation of nutrient transport.
After the age of 25, the level of PS in the brain begins to decline over time, making cell-to-cell communication less efficient. This can lead to problems with memory recall, as well as learning difficulties. Some researchers speculate that this is the reason why some adults find it challenging to acquire new skills.
Supplementing with PS can help restore youthful levels of this important phospholipid, thereby maintaining cell membrane integrity and facilitating cell-to-cell communication in your brain. The net benefit is a slowing of age-related brain deterioration and better cognitive function in terms of memory and mood.
Take 100 to 300 mg per day with meals.
Vinpocetine is an extract from the periwinkle flower that has been traditionally used to treat age-related memory loss. Several studies have shown that vinpocentine enhances blood flow and circulation in the brain, which may be beneficial for those suffering from stroke related impairment and vascular dementia.
Because vinpocentine is so effective at enhancing cerebral blood flow, it increases the brains ability to utilize both glucose and oxygen. It also improves electrical impulses between nerve cells for better conductivity.
Vinpocetine may help individuals suffering from dementia caused by cerebral blood flow impairment. It has also been shown to improve short-term memory recall, concentration and learning.
Take 10 to 40 mg per day with meals.
Alpha-GPC is a choline compound found in high concentrations in the brain and it acts as a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Supplemental intake has been shown to enhance memory and cognitive performance in adults.
Unlike other choline supplements, Alpha-GPC has the ability to easily cross over the blood-brain barrier into the brain, where it has demonstrated a unique ability to reverse the early stages of senile dementia. Alpha-GPC has also been proven to temporarily increase growth hormone output from the pituitary gland in the brain.
Alpha-GPC can not only slow cognitive decline as you age, but it has actually been shown to reverse some forms of dementia, improve memory recall and may even help to prevent the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
Take 300 to 600 mg per day with a meal containing healthy fats.
The thought of growing old and “losing our marbles” is a frightening prospect that none of us should have to face. But in order to avoid such a grim fate, it's imperative that you take preventative measures to protect your brain against the ravages of age-related deterioration.
Along with a healthy diet, moderate exercise and restful sleep, taking brain supportive supplements such as Acetyl-L-Carnitine, DHA, Phosphatidylserine, Vinpocetine and Alpha-GPC, can be just the thing to help you outsmart Father time!
J.W. Simpkins is a nutrition and exercise coach, specializing in men's health and performance. You can read more of his articles at his blog Fit Men Over 40.