Everyone experiences some cognitive decline with age leading to some memory loss or poor recall. It is a natural process and will occur at different rates for everybody. However, there are many things you can do to help support your brain function and help improve mild cognitive decline including vitamins to support your memory. Let’s have a look at the best memory support supplements and lifestyle recommendations for a healthy ageing brain.
Vitamin B6, Folate and Vitamin B12
If you are looking for vitamins that help support memory, there is some evidence* to show that vitamin B6, folate (vitamin B9) and vitamin B12 may help mild cognitive decline from getting worse. There are several ways these B group vitamins may help with memory and concentration. First, they may assist in decreasing raised homocysteine levels in the body, which has been implicated in cognitive impairment. Second, a deficiency in these nutrients has been seen in those with cognitive decline and third, they are involved in the production of neurotransmitters which can impact mood, sleep and concentration. Lastly, they also aid in energy production in the body which can in turn aid focus and concentration. (5,6,7,8,9,10,11)
One of the oldest living tree species in the world, Ginkgo has a long tradition in Chinese medicine. This is probably one of the best known memory supplements. It has been shown to assist with memory, cognitive function, concentration and mental alertness by increasing blood flow to the brain. Ginkgo is best taken for a minimum of 12 weeks to see the benefits. (1)
Better known as brahmi, this is another old, traditional herb that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine since around 800 BC. It has clinical studies* that support its ability to enhance memory, with the belief the effects are due to an increase in certain enzymes in the brain leading to the production of new proteins. (2,3,4)
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Better cognitive performance has been exhibited with the use of omega-3 fatty acids; a diet lacking in omega-3 may cause the brain to age faster leading to cognitive decline. There is also some research* to suggest omega-3 will enhance the cognitive effects of B-vitamins. Omega-3 fatty acids are commonly found in fish and are made up of two components – DHA and EPA. DHA is predominantly found in the brain and thus recommended for brain health; however both EPA and DHA play a role in maintaining cognitive health. In general, western diets are lacking in this essential fat, so make sure you are eating your recommended 2-3 serves of fish a week. (12,13,14,15,16)
Used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for centuries to enhance stamina and attenuate fatigue and stress. Ginseng has also been researched* for its memory enhancing properties with some positive results. Much of the literature has found ginsengs effect on the central nervous system (memory, learning and behaviour) is due to the ginsenoside content of the root of the plant. (17,18,19,20,21,22)
A well-known adaptogen in Russia and Scandinavia, the root of the Rhodiola plant has been used to enhance work performance, eliminate fatigue, and increase mental alertness. Whilst more research is needed, this plant is showing promise in its use for enhancing cognitive function and reducing mental fatigue and stress. (1,23,24)
PS is a component of cell membranes (the outer wall of the cell) where it helps maintain the structure and fluidity of the membranes and also enhances neurotransmitter function. There has been some research* to suggest PS can be protective of the brain and some trials* have demonstrated it to be beneficial for age-related cognitive decline. (25,26,27,28,29)
There is no doubt that certain lifestyle measures can help reduce cognitive decline with age. Whilst we’ve all heard about puzzles to keep your mind active, keeping physically active will also provide benefit. Some recommended activities include:
- Any exercise that improves cardiovascular function
- Socialising with friends and family
- Puzzles and board games
- Playing a musical instrument
Reducing stress and maintaining a healthy diet such as the Mediterranean Diet, have also been shown to improve memory and cognition. (30,31,32)
Mild cognitive decline is a normal part of life as our brains age; however any significant memory loss and associated behavioural concerns should be investigated further by your doctor. What has become clear is early intervention is key and can go a long way in minimising normal age related memory decline, so don’t wait! Start incorporating these preventative measures now.
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