Maybe you’ve gone into the kitchen and don’t remember why. Or perhaps you draw a blank when trying to remember a familiar name. You may have even missed an appointment because it slipped your mind.
These common memory lapses can occur at any age, but we tend to get more upset by them as we get older because we fear that they’re a warning sign of dementia or a loss of mental acuity.
Luckily these concerns are often baseless. In fact, most of these mental hiccups simply reflect normal changes in the structure and function of the brain as we age. But it’s not just aging that can weaken our brain power. Fatigue, stress, and overwork can also interfere with our ability to concentrate, learn new facts, or remember familiar information. Fortunately, there are a number of simple things you can do to keep your mind sharp, no matter what your age.
This is your brain on aging
As we grow older, the brain experiences changes. Studies show that the brain shrinks about five percent per decade after age 40. Blood flow to the brain also decreases, causing the brain to utilize oxygen and protein less efficiently.1 In addition, aging brain cells don’t communicate with each other as well as they once did, making it harder for the brain to process thoughts, retain short-term memory, and create new cells.2
Until recently, many age-related cognitive changes were thought to occur because neurons died or stopped functioning. Neuroscientists believed that you were born with a certain number of neurons and, as you got older, some of these neurons were lost. Today, science knows better. New research shows that dopamine controls the formation of new neurons deep in the center of the adult brain.3 Because of this regeneration, the normal aging process likely leaves most mental functions intact, and may even provide the brain with unique advantages that form the basis for wisdom.
Arguably one of the easiest ways to support this regeneration and boost brain health is with supplements. Known as nootropics, brain-specific supplements often contain a dizzying array of tongue-twisting ingredients. But there are several nutrients that are both time-tested and clinically-proven to fortify cognition and improve memory.
Research shows that ginkgo biloba boosts blood flow in the brain, destroys free radicals, and prevents neuronal damage. There is also some evidence that this Ayurvedic herb improves attention span and mental flexibility. One 2016 review of 21 studies involving more than 2,600 participants found that ginkgo improved cognitive function and the ability to accomplish activities of daily living in patients with mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease.4 Another recent study review found that people with dementia experienced a significant reduction in a variety of cognitive symptoms when taking ginkgo for 22 to 24 weeks.5 Because this botanical has been proven to safely benefit both cognition and memory, it plays a prominent role in the suite of Kyolic brain supplements: Kyolic Brain Memory, Kyolic Brain Focus, and Kyolic Neuro-Logic. Two of these supplements also feature Aged Garlic Extract (AGE), a unique form of specially aged garlic that preclinical trials suggest may reduce some markers of Alzheimer’s and can decrease oxidative stress, inflammation, and neuronal loss, while also improving cognition.6,7,8,9
Eleuthero ginseng is another nootropic that may improve memory thanks to its neuroprotective properties. For instance, since eleuthero increases circulation, it may enhance blood flow to the brain, improving mental functions such as memory and concentration. What’s more, a recent preclinical study found that the beneficial compounds in eleuthero readily crossed the blood-brain barrier and, as a result, may improve memory.10 Because Kyolic Brain Memory pairs ginkgo biloba with AGE and eleuthero ginseng, it’s ideal for anyone looking to maintain their cognition and memory as they get older.
If you’re looking for overall brain protection, adding phosphatidylserine (PS) to the mix takes neuroprotection to the next level. Clinical trials have found that PS improves memory, learning, concentration, word recall, and mood. In one study, a group of elderly volunteers with dementia were given a PS supplement for 12 weeks. By the end of the study, the researchers found that 49 percent of the volunteers taking PS experienced significant improvements in brain function.11
In fact, PS has been scientifically shown to be so effective, it forms the foundation of Kyolic Neuro-Logic—a formula created by board certified neurologist David Perlmutter. Along with PS, this formula also contains a synergistic blend of neuroprotective and nootropic nutrients including ginkgo biloba, AGE, choline, carnitine, folic acid, and vitamin B12.12,13,14
Adopt an intelligent life
It would be nice if you could just pop a brain boosting supplement and call it a day. But to truly maximize your memory and cognitive powers, it’s important to pair the nutrients mentioned above with a healthy lifestyle. Embracing the following habits can help you keep your mental edge.
- Eat a Mediterranean diet filled with antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, as well as extra virgin olive oil and fatty fish packed with brain-healthy omega-3s. According to a 2021 study in the journal Nutrients, this way of eating boosts memory and may reduce key biomarkers of Alzheimer’s.15
- Get moving! Regular exercise increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), an important molecule involved in changes related to learning and memory.16
- Train your brain. Some studies suggest that brain training improves cognition.17 Try engaging in online brain games, playing bridge or chess, learning how to play an instrument or studying a new language.
- Build a social network. Spending time with friends and family has been shown to ward off cognitive decline.18
- Stress less. Chronic stress has been linked a greater risk for cognitive issues, especially among older adults.19 Take a time out and indulge in some mental R&R by meditating, taking a yoga class, or even just listening to some relaxing music.
- Make sleep a priority. Getting enough high quality sleep is essential for proper brain function.20 Strive to get seven to nine hours of shut eye every night.
- Peters R. Ageing and the brain.Postgraduate Medical Journal. 2006;82(964): 84-88.
- Temido-Ferreira M. Novel players in the aging synapse: impact on cognition. Journal of Caffeine and Adenosine Research. 2019;9(3):104-127.
- Tobin MK. Human hippocampal neurogenesis persists in aged adults and Alzheimer’s disease patients. Cell Stem Cell. 2019;24(6):974-982.e3.
- Yang G. Ginkgo biloba for mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Current Topics in Medicinal Chemistry. 2016;16(5):520-8.
- Savaskan E. Treatment effects of Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761® on the spectrum of behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia: meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. International Psychogeriatrics. 2018;30(3):285-293.
- Chauhan NB. Effect of aged garlic extract on APP processing and tau phosphorylation in Alzheimer’s transgenic model Tg2576.Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2006;108:385-394.
- Nillert N. Neuroprotective effects of aged garlic extract on cognitive dysfunction and neuroinflammation induced by beta-amyloid in rats. 2017;9(1):24.
- Ray B. Oxidative insults to neurons and synapse are prevented by aged garlic extract and S-allyl-L-cysteine treatment in the neuronal culture and APP-Tg mouse model.Journal of Neurochemistry. 2011;117:388-402.
- Chauhan NB. Amelioration of early cognitive deficits by aged garlic extract in Alzheimer’s transgenic mice. Phytotherapy Research. 2007;21:629-640.
- Yamauchi Y. Memory enhancement by oral administration of extract ofEleutherococcus senticosus leaves and active compounds transferred in the brain. Nutrients. 2019;11(5):1142.
- Moré M. Positive effects of soy lecithin-derived phosphatidylserine plus phosphatidic acid on memory, cognition, daily functioning, and mood in elderly patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.Advances in Therapy. 2014;31: 1247–1262.
- Derbyshire E. Choline, Neurological development and brain function: a systematic review focusing on the first 1000 days.Nutrients. 2020;12(6):1731.
- Kobayashi S. Acetyl-L-carnitine improves aged brain function. Geriatrics & Gerontology International. 2010;10 Suppl 1:S99-S106.
- Xu H. Vitamin B6, B9, and B12intakes and cognitive performance in elders: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011-2014. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment. 2022;18:537-553.
- Ballarini T. Mediterranean diet, Alzheimer disease biomarkers, and brain atrophy in old age. Neurology. 2021;96(24):e2920-e2932.
- Di Liegro CM. Physical activity and brain health.Genes (Basel). 2019;10(9):720.
- Al-Thaqib A. Brain training games enhance cognitive function in healthy subjects. Medical Science Monitor Basic Research. 2018;24:63-69.
- Zhaoyang R. Daily social interactions related to daily performance on mobile cognitive tests among older adults. PLoS One. 2021;16(8):e0256583.
- Senft Miller A. Lifetime stress exposure, cognition, and psychiatric wellbeing in women.Aging & Mental Health. 2022;26(9):1765-1770.
- Dzierzewski JM. Sleep and cognition in older adults.Sleep Medicine Clinics. 2018;13(1):93-106.
This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.