Source: Medical News Today.
By Katharine Lang, Dec. 13, 2022.
Fact Checked by Hannah Flynn
A healthy diet and lifestyle
“Keeping physically healthy can help protect against memory loss and dementia. The NIATrusted Source recommends regular aerobic exercise, and a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
In addition, getting the right amount of sleep, socializing, minimizing stress, and keeping health conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes under control will help reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
Dr. MacSweeney reiterated this advice:
“It has been shown that as a population we can reduce risk of cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s by adhering to healthy lifestyle habits including exercise, diet (Mediterranean diet high in fish oils) and keep[ing] sugar intake low — the brain hates sugar. High levels of mental and social activity. The brain needs to be exercised just like our bodies to stay in good condition. Avoid excess alcohol and smoking.”
A new studyTrusted Source has also highlighted the importance of vitamin D in preserving cognitive function. In this study of postmortem brains, the brains of people with higher cognitive function before death contained higher levels of vitamin D.
The researchers found that although the higher levels of vitamin D were associated with up to 33% lower odds of dementia symptoms, they were not associated with any decrease in post-mortem dementia neuropathologyTrusted Source.
Therefore, they could not suggest a mechanism for the potentially protective effect of vitamin D, or show a causative link.
They advised that ensuring you get sufficient vitamin D from sunlight and from foods such as oily fish might be beneficial. However, they warned against taking high doses of the vitamin to try and prevent dementia, as this can cause other health problems.
Exercise the brain
“Engaging in cognitively stimulating activities is also beneficial. We also know that depression and anxiety can negatively impact cognition, so it is important to treat those conditions if present. Maintaining social connections, engaging in meaningful activities, and exercising also help mood, which in turn, can impact cognition. It is not only your body that benefits from exercise, keeping the brain exercised can help preserve your mental abilities well into older age.”
– Dr. Miriam Weber
“Although keeping active and engaged as you age may not prevent dementia, mentally stimulating activities, such as volunteering, reading, playing games, or learning new skills could help lower the riskTrusted Source.
Doing word games, such as crosswords, has long been advocated in the popular press as a means of keeping yourself sharp, but until recently, there has been little evidenceTrusted Source in peer-reviewed journals.
Now, a new study published in NEJM Evidence has demonstrated their efficacy in a small group of people with MCI.
The participants, who had an average age of 71, and some degree of mild cognitive impairment, did either intensive crossword puzzle training or intensive cognitive games training on a computer for 12 weeks. They continued with booster sessions to 78 weeks.
At 78 weeks, crossword puzzles had improved both a primary cognitive outcome measure (ADAS-Cog) and a measure of daily functioning more than cognitive games. More strikingly, brain shrinkage — measured using MRITrusted Source — was less in those who did the crossword training.”
Can memory loss be reversed?
“So, you can reduce your risk of memory issues, but once the memory starts to fail, can the problem be reversed?”So, you can reduce your risk of memory issues, but once the memory starts to fail, can the problem be reversed?
There is some evidence that it may be possible. In a mouse study,Trusted Source researchers managed to reverse memory loss using chondroitin-6-sulphate, a substance that has also been shown to increase lifespan in the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans. It might have similar effects in people, but has yet to be tested.
In a more recent studyTrusted Source, researchers improved memory function in adults aged between 65 and 88 years using electrical stimulation via a wearable cap.
The researchers found that giving 20 minutes of electrical stimulation on 4 consecutive days led to an improvement in both working memoryTrusted Source and long-term memory for at least 1 month. They could focus the stimulation to affect different types of memory.
Dr. Robert Reinhart, of Boston University, corresponding author on the study, explained: “We developed two brain stimulation protocols — one for selectively improving short-term memory via low-frequency parietal stimulation, and another protocol for selectively improving long-term memory via high-frequency prefrontal stimulation.”
However, the improvement was only tested over one month, so the researchers call for further investigation into whether similar treatments might have a long-term benefit.”
The bottom line
“As we age, many of us will find we experience more frequent memory lapses, but unless these start to interfere with daily functioning, they are unlikely to be a sign of impending dementia.
To minimize the occurrence of memory issues, the advice is to keep active, eat well, look after your health, and stay engaged in lots of social and stimulating activities. And remember, like any part of the body, the brain will function better if it is exercised.
So keep up the daily word puzzle, and for even greater benefit tackle it with a friend. It could well be doing you more good than you realize.”