50 million Americans are over age 65. One trillion dollars is distributed annually to 65 million Americans through Social Security. One in five American adults suffers from some form of mental illness. And it need not be so. When Weston Price, DDS traveled the world in the 1930s studying indigenous people, he found mental illness very rare or non-existent. It is our modern lifestyle that creates depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, bipolar, autism, insomnia, and more. Meaning, since unhealthy lifestyle created the problem, healthy lifestyle can prevent or reverse the problem. What are the components to help improve cognitive function and maintain a long and healthy lifestyle.
Attitude, Meditation, Community ….
Stress, loneliness, hate, revenge, fear, and a sense of being overwhelmed generate a mind filled with depression and anxiety. “You cannot be grateful and unhappy at the same time.” Start each day with a sense of appreciation for what you do have, not focusing on what you don’t have. Spend at least 15 minutes daily in meditation. Still the mind. Focus on a word or phrase that brings you peace. Forgive others. Let the Universe take care of their punishment. Give away your time and money to those in need. Altruistic people and volunteers live longer and healthier lives. Maintain social connections. Stay involved with your community, friends, and family.
What Affects Cognitive Function?
You are what you eat. The mind is a blatant scoreboard for your nutrient intake. A deficiency of nearly any nutrient can eventually lead to mental problems. For example, studies show that up to 20% of dementia in the elderly is strictly due to a deficiency of vitamin B12 and/or folate. Lithium and magnesium are key minerals in protecting and nourishing the brain. Fish oil feeds the brain with critical fatty acids for mental health. A Harvard psychiatrist authored a book on fish oil in mental health as being front line therapy for depression, anxiety, and dementia.
Obesity increases the risk for depression and Alzheimer’s while intermittent fasting lowers the risk for cognitive decline. Developed nations eat too much, too often and the wrong foods. While the average person consumes 152 pounds of sugar each year, that sugar ends up “cooking” the brain through advanced glycation end products.
Alcohol abuse is directly linked to depression and Alzheimer’s. Modest consumption of red wine, green tea, coffee, and dark chocolate can protect and enhance brain functions. Many prescription drugs (such as statins for cholesterol, hypertensive meds, anti-anxiety, Parkinson’s drugs, anti-seizure, sleeping aids, anti-depressants) can cause memory loss.
The modern world has dumped a plethora of toxins into our air, food, and water. Add in the giant experiment of massive amounts of electro-magnetic “smog” from wifi, radio, microwave, cell phones and towers and you have the making of disturbing the brain’s ability to function. Toxic metals; such as lead, mercury, aluminum, and arsenic; can drastically alter the brain’s ability to function.
How to Improve Cognitive Function
Nutrition Supplements Can Enhance Cognitive Performance
There are numerous supplements, from essential vitamins and minerals to obscure precursors of brain chemicals, that can enhance cognitive performance. Acetyl L carnitine, L glutamine, L pyroglutamic acid, DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol), ashwaganda, blueberry, ginkgo, ginseng, vinpocetine, lithium, phosphatidylserine are among the leaders in this enticing field of nootropics. The risk to benefit to cost ratio is highly in favor of experimenting with these inexpensive supplements.
Exercise and Activity for Improved Brain Function
Activity not only supports the body but also the mind. Active people have enhanced circulation to the brain which protects the brain from oxygen deficiency. Schedule 30 minutes daily of some form of exercise: swimming, walking, dancing, biking, cardio, etc. Ballroom dancing has been shown to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s by 73%. There is no downside here.
Deep Sleep Restores Brain Function
Deep restorative sleep is rare in the developed world. Too many people get too little sleep, stay up too late, and awake exhausted. Sleep is crucial to rebuild the brain at night.
Use it or lose it
There are about 100 billion nerve cells in the human brain, each cell connected (synapse) to a thousand other cells, making roughly 100 trillion junctions that may be responsible for memory. Then there are the glial cells that do not conduct electricity, but are the maintenance crew in the brain and charged with eliminating unused neuron junctions. An army of brilliant neuroscientists have spent the last half century analyzing the weaknesses and potential of the human brain. Exotic research shows that you must “use it or lose it”. The glial cells roam around the brain and take out unused junctions. Hence, the need to keep the brain active through work, play, dance, reading, games, travel, and more.
Cognitive Function Can Be Restored
For decades, scientists and physicians told us that the human brain begins to lose cells and mental capacity around age 40. That Alzheimer’s disease is irreversible. We now have evidence to the contrary on both of these axioms. The plasticity of the human brain is remarkable. We can continue to have substantial mental abilities well into our senior years. Alzheimer’s disease is reversible. Respect your brain. You need it. Treat it with the support ideas listed above and you will have a razor sharp mind instead of cognitive decline.