Between work, home life, social life and just about everything that we pack into our schedules, it is not surprising that our brains are literally burnt out often resulting in brain fog or mental fatigue. Memory loss is one of the most common fears that people have as they get older, so together with Trinny, I am going to look at steps to boost brain power and hopefully protect your memory from fading.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s
We tend to use the terms interchangeably however they are different. It is normal to have some memory lapses however in the case of dementia, this affects one’s ability to carry out everyday tasks such as driving, cooking, shopping and so on.
A normal person may forget where they put their keys sometimes however someone with dementia may forget where they put their keys frequently and may even forget what keys are used for.
Dementia is defined as a clinical syndrome that may result from a number of diseases including Alzheimer’s. It is diagnosed as impairment of at least two functions carried out by the brain, for example an inability to comprehend or verbalise language and form short term memories.
In Alzheimer’s, nerve cells are lost in the hippocampus which is the learning and memory centre. So the reasons for Alzheimer’s are very specific which include some of the reasons mentioned below. Aside from Alzheimer’s, dementia may also be caused by damage to the blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients to the nerve cells in the brain and this is termed vascular dementia.
It is important to realise in most cases, dementia is not genetic.
There are many reasons for memory loss which include stress, ageing, head injuries, too much information in one go and a hormonal connection, due to high cortisol levels.
It is theorised that as we get older, plaques develop in between nerve cells that disturb the signals of nerve impulses. Another thing that occurs is that the nerves get tangled so that sometimes signals are transmitted to the wrong set of nerves causing confusion. This is all linked to one thing – inflammation.
So what can we do about this?
First and foremost is the fact that what you eat matters. A UCLA study found that the Mediterranean diet is one of the main lifestyle factors that could help to prevent the brain from developing toxic plaques and tangles that are associated with age related decline in memory. (plaque is composed of a toxic protein called beta-amyloid in between nerve cells that prevents transmission of nerve impulses)
The Mediterranean diet includes fresh fruits and vegetables, olive oil, nuts and seeds, consuming fish, especially oily fish, and eating meat ideally only once a week. You could equally call it the anti-inflammatory diet since inflammation is a known culprit for many things within our bodies.
Equally, this diet provides sustained energy from medium chain triglycerides found in oily fish, olive oils and also from complex carbs that sustain physical and mental energy.
The same study at UCLA also found that those who were undertaking exercise on a regular basis had the lowest levels of plaque and tangles. More studies need to be performed to find out if one type of exercise is better than another, however the important thing is to undertake some form of exercise regularly.
Further tips to enhance memory and concentration
Feeding the brain – we have already talked about the Mediterranean diet and adding some of the foods we mentioned such as avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds should be of benefit in improving blood flow to the brain, will help form structural components of brain cells and may protect your brain from ageing and damage.
Dehydration – it is absolutely imperative that we hydrate our bodies. The brain tissues contain 73% water so that the type and quantity of fluid that we consume can be just an important. Studies indicate that a 2% decrease in hydration levels can greatly affect memory and attention.
Resting your brain – it is absolutely important that you get adequate sleep. During sleep, your brain consolidates memories, removes toxic debris and repairs itself. A lack of sleep will affect attention, memory and concentration. Try to aim for between seven and nine hours; if you have difficulty sleeping then try using a supplement such as Cherry Night powder or the new Herbal Sleep PM.
Exercise – as mentioned earlier, physical exercise raises the levels of a protein that stimulates the production of new brain cells and nerve connections. We know the virtues of walking, for example, which often increases vitality and enthusiasm whilst lowering tension and fatigue.
Brain exercises – just as the body benefits from exercise, so does the brain. Brain training programs, acronyms, mnemonics (patterns of letters, words, shapes etc) are all useful as is meditation.
Focusing your brain – this might be the most overlooked way of improving your memory. It is rare for someone to focus on one task only – people are often distracted by telephones, computers and are often multi-tasking.
Cleansing your brain – if you smoke, think about a cessation program because the toxins from this can damage your brain cells.
Consider Vitamin B12 supplements
A surprising common reason for mental fog and memory problems is vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 is required for healthy brain function and to repair the sheaths surrounding the nerves. As we age, we lose the protein in the stomach called intrinsic factor which transports vitamin b12 from the intestines into the bloodstream resulting in deficiencies.
It is recommended that you get your B12 levels checked especially if you are over the age of 50. A supplement with sublingual forms such as Methyl B12 lozenges or B12 Boost Spray may help. These forms by-pass the GI tract delivering B12 straight into the bloodstream.
Consider a nootropic
Nootropics are a buzzword for a range of drugs, nutrients and herbs that can help improve our attention, memory, recall and other brain functions.
Theoretically there are many things that could be termed nootropics such as caffeine (helps concentration temporarily but after that you often get a slump). This has led to the creation of a definition of a nootropic.
Definition of a Nootropic
The idea that a drug or a herb may improve your intelligence, or improve your memory, may seem like science fiction, but scientists are working on new compounds that can help enhance various functions carried out by the brain.
When you look at nootropics, you will note that there are actually many herbs and nutrients ( as many as 80 synthetic compounds and natural ones) that may work in different ways to either help protect the brain or help provide fuel for the cells in the brain to work efficiently or have an effect on the production of neurotransmitters by the brain.
Typical examples include Ginkgo biloba, Turmeric and Sage Leaf which all work in varying ways and so many manufacturers tend to use a combination of vitamins and herbs together as a brain boosting supplement – one such supplement is Neubria’s Spark for Memory.
Many people refer to nootropics as smart drugs, which is wrong. Smart drugs are basically stimulants that are prescribed usually for ADHD or sleeping disorders such as Ritalin, amphetamines and other classes of drugs. In a healthy individual they will provide intense short-term focus without providing any other benefits to the brain and used regularly they are not without side effects because they can increase blood pressure, cause a fast heart rate and so on.
Synthetic nootropics belong to a class of compounds called the racetams such as piracetam. There is still debate over whether these compounds actually help to provide any long-term benefits and they are not without side effects, which can include headaches, dizziness, nausea and so on.
The nootropic that I favour is called Limitless Plus – this contains:
A very specific extract derived from the non-GMO tomato fruit called Noomato. We know that the tomato fruit is rich in vitamins such as C and A as well as containing a broad range of antioxidants most notably lycopene. Lycopene is a potent anti-inflammatory so this helps to ensure healthy processing of information at the synapses. The anti-inflammatory properties also help to protect our nerve cells from degradation.
Neumentix is included in the formulation and is a specific extract from non-GMO spearmint. Spearmint contains over 50 different types of antioxidants including rosmarinic acid which protect the cells from oxidative damage. It is also thought that it may enhance acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in learning and memory. It is understood that this chemical is deficient in those with dementia.
Limitless Plus fits the definition of a true nootropic and provides both short-term and long-term benefits. It is ideal for anyone that needs short term concentration for exams and also for anyone who is worried about brain function and does not wish to take pharmaceuticals.