ESTIMATED READING TIME 4 MINUTES
As you age, so does your brain. Although losing your keys and forgetting what you were about to say are often laughed off as senior moments, age-related memory loss can be very annoying, as well as extremely distressing.
With Alzheimer’s disease and dementia on the rise, it’s never too early to start looking after your brain. As science learns more and more about how to keep brain cells healthy, you can use this knowledge to nourish and nurture your brain so it functions at its best.
Read on to discover how you can ensure your brain stays sharp throughout your life.
As your body cells age, they accumulate changes in their structure and biology making them less likely to function as well as they did when they were younger.
Brain cells are particularly susceptible to the ageing process. As you grow older, your brain volume naturally shrinks. Research shows the brain’s grey matter decreases by an average of almost 10% by age 70 1.
Your brain needs a huge amount of energy to function at its best. It needs it so brain cells can carry out their vital functions, like producing neurotransmitters, the chemicals helping them communicate. Not surprisingly any problem with energy production will show up in your brain.
Mitochondria are little energy factories in every one of your cells, including brain cells. If they’re damaged, they won’t produce enough energy for your brain cells to function well. You might notice you’re tired after performing tasks involving your brain, like studying or doing your accounts.
While mitochondria are busy producing energy, they can’t help producing free radicals at the same time: they’re an unavoidable by-product of energy generation. Free radicals are unstable molecules, and when they’re present in excess, they’ll damage cell membranes, including the membrane inside each cell protecting the mitochondria itself.
Most of your body’s cells have a fairly rapid turnover – those lining your intestines, for example, renew themselves every 5 -7 days; your skin cells every 2-3 weeks. However, your brain cells stay with you your whole life, meaning they’re prone to accumulate oxidative damage from free radicals.
Antioxidants are your body’s arsenal against free radicals. It’s important, then, there are enough antioxidants to go around.
Let’s have a look now at some of the nutrients needed by your brain.
Cell membranes and the protective jacket covering brain cells contain fat, but only certain fats will do. Omega 3 fats are particularly important. Research has found regular consumption of oily fish, rich in omega 3, is connected with better brain health. One study of 70-year-olds showed those who consumed more omega 3 had more total brain grey matter and scored better on cognitive tests 2.
This vitamin is doubly important for brain health. It not only regulates inflammation but also helps clear accumulations of protein plaques in the brain linked with Alzheimer’s disease.
The family of B Vitamins help to manufacture the chemicals responsible for passing messages between your brain cells. In addition, they regulate a substance called homocysteine which could otherwise build up and damage brain cells.
These are types of antioxidants found in many plant foods like fruits – especially berries – vegetables, herbs, spices and green tea.
Supplements of resveratrol, one type of polyphenol, have been connected with better recall of words over a 30-minute period. The supplement also positively influenced nerve cell connections in the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in memory 3.
This antioxidant helps brain cells produce energy and protects mitochondria from damage. Your body makes Co-Enzyme Q10 for you, but production declines with age. It’s not widespread in food, so supplementation is a good idea as you get older.
Eating plenty of fruit, veggies and fish, while avoiding red meat, processed foods, dairy and sugar, is correlated with slower brain ageing and less cognitive decline. This type of eating can help to stabilise your blood sugar levels, too. This is important because elevated blood sugar is connected with faster brain ageing.
Cognitive decline that interferes with your quality of life is not an inevitable consequence of ageing.
A functional medicine consultation will assess your nutrient status, blood sugar balance and lifestyle to understand how they are impacting your brain. Nutrients, herbs, dietary modifications, and lifestyle adjustments will then be recommended to maximise your brain health both now and in the future.
Are you concerned about the health of your brain with ageing? Why not book a free 15-minute discovery call to see if Functional Medicine is for you?
Please enter your details below and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
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