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Can we slow down cognitive decline? Latest research

Many of us have seen the cognitive powers of older family and friends diminish over time, even to the point of dementia taking over their lives.

It’s no surprise that there is huge interest in how we might protect our own brains to at least delay if not even prevent failing cognitive abilities.

At When They Get Older we keep an eye on the latest research and reports that might give clues as to how we can look after our brains. Here’s a round-up of recent studies and advice looking at how to keep minds active and cognitive capabilities high.

Diet and supplements

A study has suggested that adopting a keto diet – high-fat, low-carb – could enhance memory and cognitive performance. Seems it works for ageing mice.

Dietary supplement suppliers have noted that cognition impairment is a worry for many as they age, and are targeting marketing of a wide range of products at this group. Study Finds has taken a look at 10 most marketed supplements, and found that either they have no clear benefit, or the research has been with too small a group to be sure of the findings. The supplements mentioned include B vitamins, caffeine, L-teanine, Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin E, Gikngo Biloba, Ginseng, Curcumin, and CDP-choline.

That said, another large clinical trial has found that multivitamins may more improve memory and slow cognitive decline. The researchers stress that multivitamins are not a replacement for a healthy diet and lifestyle, but could have a complementary role. Nutritional interventions play an important role because the brain requires several nutrients for optimal health, and deficiencies in one or more of these nutrients may accelerate cognitive decline. Some of the micronutrients that are known to be important for brain health include vitamin B12, thiamin, other B vitamins, lutein, magnesium, and zinc, among others.

Brain health

Brain training is another area where numerous companies are actively promoting games and other activities, says an article in Medscape. According to some experts, actively managing brain health can play a role in preventing or delaying Alzheimer’s disease. On the whole though, it would seem that evidence that brain games can put off cognitive decline or dementia is, once again, insufficient for certainty.

One brain game suite singled out positively in the article is BrainHQ, which comprises numerous brain-training exercises, linked by a common thread, and designed to make the brain faster and more accurate.

Observational studies also suggest an association between improved cognitive performance and/or lower dementia risk and engaging in number and word puzzles, such as crosswords, cards, or board games. Several commentators point out that just doing the same brain exercises will keep brains active but not necessarily improve cognitive reserve. It’s new activities that could be key. Examples might be learning a brand new language, or new steps in dancing.

Memory expert Dave Farrow, author of the book “Brainhacker,” believes that our minds have slowed because individuals are no longer asked to remember things. Here’s his trick to improving recall skills and slowing memory loss.

In conclusion, there’s no definitive answer, but learning new activities could be a worthwhile exercise for the brain, possibly with supplements of important  micronutrients.

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