Do you often feel consumed by brain fog or have trouble putting a sentence together? Frequently misplace things? It happens to all of us on occasion, but if you feel like it’s becoming a regular occurrence then it’s time to start looking into your brain health. In fact, with over 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s currently, this disease kills more than breast cancer and colon cancer combined. (1,2)
With this staggering number increasing year after year, prioritizing the need to focus on natural dementia prevention — such as memory exercises, proper diet, herbs, and teas — is becoming more and more important.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is an umbrella or collective name for progressive brain syndromes which affect memory, thinking, behavior and emotion.
Although most people automatically think of Alzheimer’s as synonymous with dementia, there are actually over 100 forms of dementia. The most well-known form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for 50-60% of all cases. (1)
Symptoms of Dementia May Include:
Loss of memory that affects day-to-day function
Difficulty in finding the right words or understanding what people are saying
Difficulty in performing previously routine tasks
Personality and mood changes
Confusion about time or place
Problems misplacing things
Poor or decreased judgment
It’s important to note that although your risk of dementia increases with age, it is not part of the normal aging process.
Why is dementia on the rise?
In a 2015 study lead by Professor Colin Pritchard of Bournemouth University, they found that dementias are starting a decade earlier than they used to in adults (3).
Several leading experts believe a sedentary lifestyle combined with our ever-increasing exposure to environmental toxins is to blame. Pritchard states: “The rate of increase in such a short time suggests a silent or even a `hidden’ epidemic, in which environmental factors must play a major part, not just aging.”
How To Help Prevent Dementia Part I: Brain-Boosting Herbs
Besides a very small percentage of individuals who have a genetic predisposition to early-onset Alzheimer’s disease (less than 1%), there are several things you can do to help support your brain health, and the earlier you start, the better!
While there is a much larger list of things, you can do to help prevent dementia, some of the most important things taking the right herbs and making better lifestyle choices.
It’s no secret that green tea has been helping people stay mentally sharp for centuries. Some studies have shown that green tea could prevent Alzheimer’s by protecting the brain from the formation of beta-amyloid plaques. A flavonoid in green tea called EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate) can bind to beta-amyloid proteins to prevent formations, and ultimately, prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Matcha green tea is actually the powdered form of green tea. The green tea leaves are stone ground and made into a fine powder that is then made into a delicious tea. With matcha green tea you are actually eating the whole green tea leaves instead of just steeping the leaves, giving you the benefits of almost 10 cups of green tea with every 1 cup of matcha.
Recommendation: Affect Health Organic Matcha. For maximum brain boosting effects I would recommend 1-2 cups of matcha daily. I personally consume 1 cup of matcha every morning, and sometimes once in the afternoon as well.
This little-known herb has shown an amazing range of health benefits from improving diabetes, wound-healing, and antimicrobial properties. Most importantly it has been recognized for its memory-enhancing, antioxidant, and brain protective abilities. (8)
Gotu kola has also demonstrated a strong neuroprotective effect by specifically protecting against the beta-amyloid formation, which is directly related to Alzheimer’s progression of Alzheimer’s. (9)
Ginkgo is an antioxidant-rich herb that helps improve blood circulation by opening up blood vessels and making blood less sticky.
Studies where patients were treated with 120 mg-240 mg per day of ginkgo extract suggest that ginkgo may help people with Alzheimer disease (10,11):
Improve thinking, learning, and memory (cognitive function)
Have an easier time performing daily activities
Improve social behavior
Have fewer feelings of depression
Several studies have found that ginkgo may work as well as some prescription Alzheimer disease medications to delay the symptoms of dementia. (11)
How To Help Prevent Dementia Part II: Lifestyle Factors
Add Brain-Boosting Omega-3 Fats To Your Diet
Omega-3 fatty acids improve both your heart AND brain function, a double win! You can supplement with dietary sources such as fish and nuts and/or look for a good quality omega-3 supplement.
Aim for 150 Minutes or More of Exercise Each Week
For those over 65, adding 2-3 strength sessions to your weekly routine may cut your risk of Alzheimer’s in half. (5)
Manage Stress + Anxiety
Keeping our stress levels in check is a huge protective factor to reducing dementia risk. Over time high levels of stress and anxiety negatively affect blood pressure, cortisol levels, cholesterol, and overall mental health.
Conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol also increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. (5)
There are a lot of different ways to help manage stress, from sipping a mood boosting tea, checking in with yourself regularly, or doing an easy 5 min. Breathing exercise a couple of times a day.
Regular face-to-face connection with someone who cares about you and makes you feel heard helps improve not only brain health but overall health and wellness. Remember, humans are social creatures!
Prioritize Your ZZZ’s
New research suggests that disrupted sleep isn’t just a symptom of Alzheimer’s, but a possible risk factor. Studies have linked poor sleep to higher levels of beta-amyloid, a sticky brain-clogging protein that in turn further interferes with sleep — especially with the deep sleep necessary for memory formation.(6)
If you have trouble falling asleep, try some of these tips: eat dinner early, avoid looking at a screen an hour before bed, and drink tea with relaxing herbs like passionflower, valerian, and skullcap to promote a more restful sleep.
Many people forget that our brains act as a muscle and needs to be given a good workout to stay healthy. Mental exercises such as meditation, puzzles, or learning something new are all great ways to stimulate your brain!
Drink More Tea:
Taking the time to prioritize your brain health as early as possible is an amazing way to help protect against dementia and cognitive decline. Spending much-needed face time connecting with our older loved ones as well as helping to educate them on the things they can do to slow mental decline can have a powerful positive impact on both of you!
“Neurological deaths of American adults (55–74) and the over 75’s by sex compared with 20 Western countries 1989–2010: Cause for concern.” Surgical Neurology International. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Feb. 2017.
Isoda, Hiroko, Junkyu Han, and Hideyuki Shigemori. “Protective Effect of Di-O-Caffeoylquinic Acid on Human-Derived Neurotypic SH-SY5Y Cells Against Alzheimer’s Disease Amyloid-Beta-Induced Toxicity.” Cells and Culture (2010): 755-57. Web.
Gauthier, Serge, and Sandra Schlaefke. “Efficacy and tolerability of Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761® in dementia: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials.” Clinical Interventions in Aging (2014): 2065. Web.