An increasingly common problem of aging is one or other form of impairment of brainpower. Whether it is Alzheimer’s, senile dementia, or simple forgetfulness, this can be very disturbing to sufferers and their families. The question is, of course, what factors trigger these conditions, and what can be done about it? Let’s have a look at some of the causes and what can be done.
Firstly, there are a number of possible causes, often working together. So correction usually involves a holistic approach, with many different measures necessary. If the condition is caught in the early stages, fewer remedial measures are likely to be necessary. Nowadays, these conditions are starting at younger ages, so it is a good idea to take simple precautions very early on.
“If you don’t use it, you lose it” is a principle which applies very strongly to brain function. Frequent use enhances and multiplies brain pathways. Conversely, lack of use can literally cause the brain to shrink in size. Passive activities such as watching TV do not engage the brain much and do not encourage the development of many neural pathways. Puzzles and particular brain exercises help to stimulate the brain, as does challenging mental activity at work.
Probably the biggest factor in aging generally, and aging of the brain in particular, is cortisol. Cortisol is produced when you are under stress, and is part of the fight or flight response, It has been shown to have many beneficial effects in short-term use, but these change and can reverse under long-term stress. One of the effects of cortisol is to deplete glucose in the brain, which impairs memory and recall.
Fortunately, Siberian Ginseng has been found to block the production of cortisol, so is very useful when entering a stressful situation where excellent memory will be required, such as writing exams. It is also safe for long term use at reasonable dosages. This is one of the many useful recommendations made by Dr Dharma Singh Khalsa in his book “The Mind Miracle”. Dr Khalsa has specialized in reversing the effects of Alzheimer’s and his books are well worth reading for the wealth of information on the subject. He also discusses a range of exercises which can help.
Another useful supplement is niacin or nicotinamide, which causes the capillaries to dilate, thus increasing the flow of oxygen to the brain. However, massive doses of 2,000 or 3,000 mg or more, and should preferably be taken under a doctor’s supervision, There is a phenomenon called the “niacin flush’ caused by the dilation of the capillary vessels, but this can be avoided with certain forms of the vitamin and reduces over time, as well.
Websites such as mercola.com or tahomaclinic.com also are very useful to keep up to date with current research and treatments. Dr Mercola, for example, has a number of articles about boosting brain function including one on how resveratrol (from chocolate boosts brain blood flow and also the benefits of vitamin D, together with many others.
The best approach is probably to do some research and try various treatments to see which are the most effective in a particular case. Causes of the problem vary widely depending on the individual, so, with a few exceptions, there is nothing that works equally well for everybody. Trial-and-error and noticing what is working is the way to go. Knowing yourself is key.