Boost your memory now, avoid dementia later

My siblings and I are fortunate to have “healthy” parents who are in their 90s.  They have no caregivers and can function on their own, with a little assistance from their domestic helpers. I give credit to their healthy lifestyle during their younger years for their good physical condition today.

My father played tennis and basketball during his youth, then shifted to golf in his mid- 40s.  He didn’t smoke or drink except occasionally, during special occasions. He shunned rich foods and had a simple diet of fish, lean meat, fruits, and vegetables. He is, to this day, still driving his car and playing golf at age 96!  He is the chairman emeritus of the Senior Citizens Golfers and leads the group to attend golf tournaments  abroad once a year. His mind is still sharp, still manages to text and email on his iPhone but is starting to repeat himself a lot. 

On the other hand, my mother started ballroom dancing with a group of friends when it first hit Manila’s scene some 40-plus years ago. This phenomenon gave birth to a new profession — that of being a DI or dance instructor. My mom had her own DI and  each of her friends had theirs. They conceptualized special events where they would give exhibition numbers of different ballroom dances such as cha cha, mambo, rhumba, boogie, and reggae.  They practiced for days on end at our patio. My siblings and I enjoyed watching them and would sometimes try to learn their dances, often giving up because their choreography entailed a lot of intricate steps, which we found difficult to follow. I realize now that years of ballroom dancing kept Mommy physically fit and lengthened her memory span because it is only recently, at age 93 that she has started to be repetitious and forgetful. 

 Their doctors assured us that it was normal for people of my parents’ age to be repetitious and forgetful. In short, senility or dementia could set in at their age and even earlier. 

 Early or late onset of dementia is really sad, and it can happen to any of us. It can hit at an early age (rare cases due to illness) or as late as in the 90s. It could be genetic or it could be a result of an aging brain, a stroke, a brain tumor, and other neurodegenerative factors.

We cannot stop Father Time, but a neurologist friend suggested that we take measures to sharpen our memory as we get older, such as by:  

1) Learning a new language. This requires memory work and is a good exercise for expanding the brains.  

2) Playing parlor games.  For instance, chess, backgammon, mahjong — these require memory work.

3) Learning how to ballroom dance. It’s good for body, mind, and spirit.  

In short, as we grow older, we should keep learning something new, never allowing our brains to deteriorate.  

However, my neurologist friend also suggested taking supplements to help improve cognitive functions.

“Your brain needs nutrients, especially as you age. It is normal to become somewhat more forgetful as we grow older.  Aging takes its toll on the brain, as well as the rest of our body organs. Our body’s capacity to produce the chemicals and nutrients that our brain cells need to maintain mental wellness and alertness declines over the years.” 

The close association of forgetfulness with aging gave birth to the term “senior moments” or instances when our memory fails us.

According to the Harvard Medical School, there are several types of normal memory problems.  These include transience, which is the “tendency to forget facts or events over time.”  Absentmindedness is forgetting things like where you put your pen or forgetting to do something at a prescribed time like taking your medicine or going to an appointment.  Blocking is the “temporary inability to retrieve a memory.”  This explains why older adults have trouble remembering names.  Misattribution occurs when you “remember something accurately in part, but misattribute some detail, like the time, place, or person involved.”  When we age, our memories also grow older and become especially prone to misattribution.

All these give us good reasons why it is important to nourish our brains. What supplements then are recommendable?

When I was in New York last year, I read about some brain supplements which I ordered online. They were pricey and when they arrived here, I was taxed heavily by the post office.  So, I decided to look for brain supplements that are found in our local vitamin stores.  After some research work, I narrowed down my choices to two: Methyl B-12 sold at Healthy Options and BrainMaster sold at Mercury Drug.  

Methyl B12 is good for brain and nerve function, energy metabolism, red blood cell formation and cardiovascular health.  I gave this vitamin to my aunt who reported that her memory has improved and her sleep pattern is no longer dysfunctional.   

Brain Master is a 100-percent natural brain supplement.  It is the only product on the market that combines proven and time-tested Ayurvedic and herbal science treatment with B-complex vitamins B6 and B12, which are known as brain foods. 

Bacopa Monnieri is an Ayurvedic herb that has antioxidant properties and acts as a brain tonic to enhance the brain’s neurotransmitters for memory development, learning, and concentration.  Ginkgo biloba also contains antioxidants that neutralize dangerous free radicals. Ginkgo biloba is proven to improve memory and mental alertness.

Recent research on the benefits of vitamin B12 has identified it as being helpful against brain shrinkage due to aging.

Considered among the most important of all B-complex vitamins, vitamin B12 is essential for the production and regeneration of red blood cells. It keeps the central nervous system functioning properly, improves concentration and memory balance, as well as relieves irritability. Vitamin B12 helps improve stamina, thus reducing fatigue and weakness.

Vitamin B6 is required for the production of serotonin and helps to maintain healthy immune system functions, protect the heart from cholesterol deposits, and prevent kidney stone formation. Vitamin B6 is a coenzyme for the central nervous system. It is used mainly in the body for the breakdown and absorption of amino acids.

The natural nutrients in BrainMaster assist in keeping “senior moments” at bay.  “ In layman’s terms, BrainMaster works on increasing blood flow to the brain by oxygenating it,” says a senior citizen friend who has been taking it for a year now and boasting of improved cognitive functions, even the ability to remember cell phone numbers. 

Methyl B-12, sublingual vitamins come in a small bottle of 100 lozenges (Healthy Options) and BrainMaster comes in 30-capsule bottles. (Mercury Drugstores). Both vitamins claim to have no approved therapeutic claims. 

source: Philippine Star