Top tips for your brain and memory health

By Dr Marilyn Glenville

Dementia, including Alzheimer’s, is one of the world’s most feared conditions and it is not hard to see why.

Approximately 4,000 new cases of dementia will occur in the Irish population every year and the incidence of dementia is higher than cancer and heart disease (NUI Galway and Trinity College Dublin ). And frighteningly these numbers are expected to more than treble over the next 30 years.

You may fear that dementia is in your genes, but that is only part of the story, even if you are at high risk because of your inheritance, it is not inevitable that you will succumb to the disease. The way you live your life and in particular the way in which you eat can make a huge difference to your future, slowing down cognitive decline, or even reversing it. Indeed research shows that diet and lifestyle have more to offer the ageing brain than the drugs that are promoted for it.

What you eat can have an enormous impact on your memory as you age. The largest study looking at the association between the Mediterranean diet and memory was published in 2013 in the medical journal Neurology. The research showed that eating a Mediterranean diet is linked to a reduced incidence of cognitive decline. The advice is to increase the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables, olive oil, and eat more oily fish.

Supplements of Omega 3 fish oils can also be helpful as Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA ) (one of the major Omega 3 fatty acid in the brain ) seems to have the most protective effect against Alzheimer’s. The DHA in Omega 3 fatty acids helps to prevent the plaque forming in the brain which is present in Alzheimer’s.

Other nutrients which can be helpful include an amino acid called acetyl-L-carnitine as it increases the brain receptors that would normally deteriorate with age, so it can be helpful for memory loss and dementia including Alzheimer’s.

People with Alzheimer’s have been found to have a shortage of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the brain and drugs which mimic acetylcholine are often used as a treatment for Alzheimer’s. Acetylcholine is critical for memory and brain function.

Choline is a precursor (starting block ) for acetylcholine and is contained in high amounts in egg yolks and is also found in soya and nuts. So these are good foods for boosting memory and brain function.

Acetyl-L-carnitine works with coenzyme Q10 and alpha lipoic acid to maintain the function of the mitochondria. The mitochondria are the power houses of your cells, they provide the energy for your cells to function and survive.

The B vitamins, B6, B12, and folic acid are included in National Hygiene Partnership’s (NHP ) Brain and Memory Support at the same levels (vitamin B6 20mg, vitamin B12 500mcg, folic acid (as methylfolate 800mcg ) as used in the research in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showing that people in the trial using B vitamins in these amounts were almost entirely protected from brain shrinkage compared to those using the placebo. Those taking these levels of B vitamins had 90 per cent less brain shrinkage.

There has been a great deal of research in the last 10 years to show that physical activity can help brain function. One study of a group of women over the age of 65 tracked their level of physical activity over eight years. The researchers found that those women who were the most active had a 30 per cent lower risk of cognitive decline. What was interesting was that it was not the intensity of the exercise that made the difference but the amount. So with walking, the distance the women walked was more important than how fast they walked.

Just as your body needs regular exercise, your brain needs regular exercise too. Keep it fit by playing cards and chess games, reading books, doing crosswords, learning an instrument or new language, or by pursuing a new hobby.

Go and see Dr Marilyn Glenville at the Radisson BLU Hotel, Galway at 7pm on Thursday, March 2, and discover the Seven Step Brain Protection Plan. It is your chance to discover how to use a combination of nutrition, exercise, sleep, and brain training to improve your memory, concentration, and focus, while also reducing your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

There are a limited number of tickets available, so purchase early to avoid disappointment. Tickets cost €15 and are available in all Evergreen stores and online at www.evergreen.ie

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