Decline in Cognitive Functioning Can Begin in Your 40s

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Filed Under: Mood & Memory
Last Reviewed 03/07/2014

Decline in Cognitive Functioning Can Begin in Your 40s

A few years back, I talked about the doom-and-gloom warnings concerning the impending Alzheimer’s epidemic. The prevalence of this degenerative brain disorder, which currently affects an estimated 5.4 million Americans, is expected to increase as the baby boomers get older. But now, a new study shows that signs of age-related memory loss can actually begin to surface at a much younger age than previously believed.

A study published in the British Medical Journal looked at more than 7,000 civil servants in London between 45 and 70 years of age. The researchers found evidence of decline in cognitive functioning in all memory categories among the older age groups, which was to be expected, but the shocking discovery was that people as young as 45 also began to exhibit a decline in cognitive functioning.

The good news is that there are things you can do at any age to sidestep age-related memory loss and Alzheimer’s—and the sooner you get started on them, the better. In addition to a good daily vitamin and mineral supplement, I recommend the following steps.

Protect Your Cognitive Functioning

  • Take extra vitamins C and E. Researchers from Johns Hopkins studied the relationship between vitamin C and vitamin E intake and risk of Alzheimer’s disease in people older than 65 and found that taking 500–1,000 mg of vitamin C and up to 1,000 IU of vitamin E daily conferred a 78 percent reduction in risk! I recommend taking 1,000–1,500 mg vitamin C and 800–1,000 IU vitamin E daily to protect cognitive functioning.

  • Get plenty of B vitamins. Dozens of studies have linked elevations in homocysteine with increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. A hearty intake of vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and especially folic acid helps keep homocysteine in the normal range, prevents neuronal DNA damage and reduces brain atrophy. You want to take 800–1,000 mcg folic acid, 75–150 mg vitamin B6, and 150–200 mcg B12 to prevent age-related memory loss.

  • To keep your memory intact, it’s also important to make sure you’re getting plenty of zinc. I recommend 30 mg of zinc along with 2 mg of copper daily. 

  • Take resveratrola potent phytonutrient found in the skins and seeds of grapes. In lab studies, resveratrol promoted the breakdown of beta-amyloid plaques, lesions found in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s widely believed to have therapeutic potential in the prevention and treatment of this neurodegenerative disorder. The suggested dose of resveratrol for optimal cognitive functioning is 100 mg once or twice a day, taken with meals. 

  • Eat plenty of “brain food.” First and foremost is the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, which is most abundant in salmon, sardines and other cold-water fish, as well as DHA-enriched eggs and fish oil supplements. DHA is a vital constituent of brain cell membranes. It is required for optimal cognitive functioning, and low levels are associated with mood and memory disturbances. I recommend 500 mg of DHA (3–4 fish oil capsules) daily.

  • To further boost your brain power and help guard against cognitive functioning decline, load up on these targeted antioxidants: curcumin, 900–1,800 mg; N-acetyl-cysteine, 500–1,500 mg; alpha lipoic acid, 200–400 mg; coenzyme Q10, 200–400 mg; acetyl-L-carnitine, 1,000–2,000 mg; phosphatidylcholine, 250 mg; and phosphatidylserine, 100 mg.

  • Be active! Both physical and mental exercises reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Regular physical activity ensures robust blood flow and delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the brain. It also reduces age-related changes. Mental activity is also important. In other words, use it or lose it.

Finally, if you or a loved one are already facing a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, try supplementing with medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), natural fatty acids that are abundant in coconut oil. (To read about this breakthrough therapy, visit coconutketones.com.) The recommended dose of MCTs for neurodegenerative disorders is 20 g per meal (7 teaspoons or 2 ½ tablespoons). 

The pioneer of this therapy, Mary Newport, M.D., suggests combining 16 ounces of MCT oil plus 12 ounces of coconut oil and use as needed (store at room temperature, it gets hard when refrigerated). Start with 1–2 teaspoons per meal and build up gradually—and be aware that some people will only be able to tolerate lower amounts. A minimum of 2 g of fish oil should also be taken daily with this regimen. Look for nonhydrogenated coconut oil in health-food and grocery stores; refined MCT oil is available, but can be a little harder to find. To order, call (800) 810-6655. 

Now it’s your turn: Which of these Alzheimer’s prevention strategies have you adopted to protect cognitive functioning?

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