Cognitive ability and impairment, how to improve with natural supplements, herbs and vitamins, role of foods and diet by Ray Sahelian, M.D. June 27 2014

Definition
Cognition can be defined as the ability to learn, perceive, and reason. Although certain cognitive aspects can improve with age, memory does not.

It's a sad fact that as we age our cognitive ability declines, particularly our , followed by attention and visual-spatial abilities. On the other hand, our vocabulary could increase. There are several factors that influence age related cognitive impairment. Among them, educational level, health, life style, personality. Successful maintenance of cognition during aging is dependent on several conditions : absence of disease leading to a loss of autonomy, maintenance of mental and physical activities, adequate sleep, healthy diet, avoidance of smoking and excessive drinking, avoidance or reduction of certain medications that damage brain tissue, and active and social engaged lifestyle. Worry, anxiety or depression lead to cognitive impairment. This can be reversed in some people by the appropriate use of certain nutritional supplements and good attention to proper food intake.

Diet and food, do they influence our cognition?
Including a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, along with adequate consumption of fish or fish oils is quite beneficial. Those who consume large amounts of sugar and simple carbohydrates, especially if older, are more likely to see a decline in their mental function. Mayo Clinic, news release, October 2012. There appears to be a slower rate of global cognitive decline over several years in persons with high intake of vitamins C, E, carotenes and flavonoids.

Natural supplements that influence cognitive function
There are dozens of herbs and nutrients that can benefit those with cognitive impairment, disorder, or decline. See memory for another article that reviews these supplements.

Mind Power Rx for Cognitive Function enhancement. It combines a delicate balance of brain circulation agents and neurotransmitter precursors with powerful natural brain chemicals that support healthy:

Memory and mood
Mental clarity
Concentration 
Alertness and Focus

 

The herbs in Mind Power Rx mental enhancement product are: Ashwagandha, Fo-Ti, Ginkgo biloba, Gotu kola Ayurvedic antioxidant, Ginseng, Mucuna pruriens.  The nutrients and vitamins in Mind Power Rx include Acetyl-l-carnitine, Carnitine, Carnosine, Choline, DMAE, Inositol, Methylcobalamin, Pantothenic acid, Tyrosine, and Vinpocetine. This cognitive enhancing formula also has a form of choline called CDP Choline.

Natural supplements, herbs, vitamins, minerals and their benefit, role of food and diet
Seniors who consume lots of carbohydrates and sugar are at increased risk for mild cognitive impairment.

Creatine supplementation could benefit vegetarians.

Vitamin D benefit
Low levels of vitamin D are associated with substantial cognitive decline in the elderly population, which raises important new possibilities for treatment and prevention. Archives of Internal Medicine 2010.

Green Tea
Scientists have found that green tea slows brain aging, helping prevent declining memory, cognitive impairment, dementia and Alzheimer's. Many studies indicate regular tea consumption is associated with lower risks of cognitive impairment and decline.

Hypertension
People with a history of high blood pressure are at an increased risk of developing cognitive impairment. Hypertension treatment in old hypertensive subjects may offer some benefit against dementia and cognitive decline. However, there may be risks to hypertension treatment with potent drugs, and caution is advised to use drugs that are safe and do not cause significant side effects.

People with high diastolic blood pressure, which is the bottom number of a blood pressure reading, are more likely to have thinking or cognitive impairment, or problems with their memory, than people with normal diastolic blood pressure readings. For every 10 point increase in the reading, the likelihood of a person having thinking problems is seven percent higher. Neurology, 2009.

Cognitive Decline associated with Age Related Macular Degeneration
Worsening of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a degenerative eye disorder that is the leading cause of blindness in the elderly, appears to be associated with some cognitive impairment. An association is logical because both are both chronic neurodegenerative disorders affecting persons as they age. Furthermore, worse vision affects daily functioning and social interaction, and that the resulting predisposition to depression and social isolation could indirectly exacerbate cognitive impairment.

Age related cognitive impairment
It's nearly impossible to avoid cognitive impairment as we age, but, in addition to certain lifestyle changes, the use of low dose mind boosting supplements could well reverse certain aspects of mild cognitive impairment, and perhaps even moderate ore severe cognitive impairment. Cognitive disability affects not only the person suffering the condition, but family members responsible for taking care of this individual.
   Elderly women who watch daytime soap operas and talk shows are more likely to suffer from cognitive impairment than women who abstain from such fare. It's not clear if watching these TV shows leads to weaker brainpower, or vice-versa.
   Elderly diabetics with poor blood sugar control have a high prevalence of undiagnosed cognitive dysfunction, depression and functional disabilities.
   Certain aspects of brain function, such as abstract reasoning, mental speed and puzzle-solving, begin their decline in one's late twenties. Declines in memory generally became apparent in a person's late thirties. Indicators of a person's accumulated knowledge -- like performance on tests of vocabulary and general knowledge -- keep improving with age. Neurobiology of Aging, 2009.
   The majority of men who receive hormone deprivation therapy for prostate cancer will experience some degree of cognitive impairment, such as in the ability to concentrate. Cancer, 2008.

A decline in thinking or cognitive function with age is not inevitable. Many adults maintain their cognitive function as they grow older. Dr. Alexandra Fiocco of the University of California, San Francisco, found that adults who did not smoke, exercised once a week, were socially active, had at least a high school education and a ninth grade literacy level, were more likely to maintain cognitive skills through their 70s and 80s. People who exercise moderately to vigorously at least once a week are 30 percent more likely to maintain their cognitive function than those who do not exercise that often. Those who had at least a high school education are nearly three times as likely to stay sharp as those who with less education. Elderly with a ninth grade literacy level or higher aer nearly five times as likely to stay sharp as those with lower literary levels and non-smokers are nearly twice as likely to stay sharp as those who smoked. Neurology, June 9, 2009.

Taking certain types of medication to deal with heartburn and excess stomach acid increases the risk of cognitive impairment in the elderly. The drugs in question -- called histamine-2 receptor antagonists or H2As -- include popular medicines such as Zantac and Pepcid.

Acetylcholine blocking drugs and cognitive decline
Elderly people who take commonly prescribed drugs for incontinence, allergy or high blood pressure are less able to take care of themselves, function worse than others in the same age group who don't take these drugs, and walk slower. Drugs that block acetylcholine, which is important for memory, hasten cognitive decline in elderly people.

Emails
Does tongkat ali improve cognitive decline?
   I doubt it. There are many other herbal and nutritional option for improving cognition.

I have read your book Mind Boosters and would like to know if you could advise a formula that would be beneficial for a child with Fragile X. I would like to boost is cognitive function and memory skills. He is not on any other medications however all the information I have looked at is generally in reference to increasing mental clarity in adults and not children. Some educated guidance from you would be very much appreciated.
   I have not treated any children with Fragile X syndrome. If supplements were to be used, it is a good idea, with the doctor's approval, to begin with low dosages of a common brain enhancer for a couple of weeks and to try different ones over time to see if any are effective.