It is estimated that up to one third of adults will experience a gradual decline in cognitive function known as mild cognitive impairment as they age. Less severe than dementia, mild cognitive impairment is defined as cognitive defects that do not interfere with daily living. It may include slower thought processing, a reduced ability to learn and impaired memory.
New research has uncovered possible reasons for mild cognitive impairment and has also identified potential therapies that may enable people to battle age-related mental decline more effectively than ever before.
Below, please find valuable information on how to recognise cognitive impairment, which is not a normal sign of ageing, and how to correct your lifestyle in order to live a long and memorable life.
Symptoms of a Foggy Brain
Besides forgetfulness, a person with brain fog can experience anxiety, confusion and suffer from insomnia. It may include slower thought processing, a reduced ability to learn, impaired memory, decreased ability to maintain focus and decreased problem solving capacity.
In addition, people who suffer from this problem often feel tired, irritable and experience headaches. These general symptoms can describe many other problems and hence a proper diagnosis by medical professionals at Sleep Renewal is essential to identify the real problem and to determine appropriate treatment.
Causes of Age-Related Cognitive Decline
Biological Risk Factors Contributing to Cognitive Decline:
If our bodies are not healthy and well maintained, this state can result in physical deterioration of the brain and eventually cognitive decline:
- Oxidative stress: The brain uses around 20% of the oxygen available in the body; this makes it particularly vulnerable to oxidative damage caused by free radicals which could cause neurons to die.
- Inflammation: The blood-brain barrier prevents inflammatory agents from entering the brain, but with e.g. smoking, obesity, bad eating habits and leaky gut syndrome; this can be compromised, allowing irritants to enter the brain. Leaky gut syndrome leads to a leaky brain.
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Upper Airways Resistance Syndrome (UARS):
OSA and UARS, two common sleep breathing disorders, can cause massive oxidative stress and inflammation. According to a recent study published in the journal SLEEP, patients with OSA syndrome demonstrated reduced brain gray matter concentration. "Gray matter" refers to the cerebral cortex, where most information processing in the brain takes place. Poor sleep quality and progressive brain damage induced by OSA and UARS could be responsible for poor memory, emotional problems and decreased cognitive functioning.
In addition, disrupted sleeping patterns due to OSA and UARS are associated with massive inflammation and damage to the Hippocampus, the part of the brain involved with memory processing. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness in the medical community about these two sleep disorders means that the diagnosis is often missed and the root cause of symptoms such as poor memory and cognitive decline remain untreated and damage to the brain and heart festers on!
- Hormonal imbalances: Throughout the brain there are steroid hormone receptors which regulate many of its daily functions. A hormonal imbalance will disrupt these receptors, with (amongst others) our emotions and memory suffering as a result. These hormones include oestrogen, testosterone, DHEA, pregnenolone and thyroid hormones.
- Cerebrovascular health: It is essential that the brain has an optimal oxygen and nutrient-rich blood supply to function well. Studies have shown that a poor blood supply to the brain can lead to a decline in cognitive function. This is why a Sleep Study is essential to rule out OSA and UARS.
Other parameters affecting Cerebrovascular health include:
- Low HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) levels have been linked with declining brain health.
- Elevated homocysteine levels have been linked to reduced blood flow to the brain.
- High blood pressure has been associated with capillary damage in the brain which can lead to the development of neurodegenerative diseases.
- Diabetes has been linked with lower levels of neuronal growth factors and a higher incidence of all types of dementia.
- An MRI study showed a link between abdominal obesity and deteriorating brain structure.
Psychological Risk Factors Contributing to Cognitive Decline
- Our psychological health impacts our brain health significantly. Boredom, loneliness, limited social interaction and high stress levels can lead to a decline in brain function.
- Research has shown that severe anxiety can lead to cognitive decline earlier in life.
- Many studies have shown a link between depression and cognitive dysfunction. Sadly, it was found that depression worsens cognitive dysfunction, but poor cognitive health predisposes ageing patients to depression.
- Various studies have shown that excessive stress can also lead to cognitive dysfunction.
- It is important to maintain a large network of friends and personal relationships as many studies have shown that an active social life decreases the risk of cognitive decline.
- Mental and physical activity stimulate the neural network and it is critical that these activities are maintained throughout life. Using your brain as much as possible is good for you.
- Meditation has been shown to help relieve stress, increase cerebral blood flow and help improve brain function.
Dietary Considerations for a Healthy Brain:
- A Western diet that is high in simple carbohydrates and dietary fat is bad for the body and the brain. Changing this to a Mediterranean diet will improve the nutrients the brain needs for optimal function.
- By the same token, heavy alcohol consumption is bad for overall health and should be avoided at all costs.
- Moderate coffee consumption has been shown to have a protective effect on the brain. Coffee, like red wine, is an excellent source of antioxidant and neuroprotective compounds.
Nutraceuticals to Support Brain Health
Healthy eating habits such as adopting a Mediterranean diet will ensure adequate nutrients, but optimal neuroprotection may require a micronutrient intake in excess of what we can obtain from a Western diet.
Some supplementation may be necessary, but it is better to follow the advice of your Health Renewal doctor in order to provide the supplementation your body needs, instead of taking supplements randomly which could have a negative effect.
Well-known supplements should include Superba™ Krill Oil (Omega 3), resveratrol, anthocyanins (blueberries), co-enzyme Q10, B-vitamins and Ginkgo Biloba. In addition, a comprehensivee multivitamin supplement and Bio-identical Hormone Replacement therapy (BIHRT) may help fill any gaps as needed.
Other Health Renewal solutions
At Health Renewal, your functional doctor will help you to halt and even reverse any cognitive decline with advice on nutrition, supplementation and healthy lifestyle changes.
Overnight Sleep Studies done in the comfort of your home will diagnose OSA or UARS which have a negative effect on overall health and brain function.
Correcting this problem could give you a new lease on life and loads of energy!