What causes cognitive decline?

A variety of physical changes in the aging brain can trigger cognitive impairment and memory loss. Age-related thinning of the cerebral cortex, a decrease in the production of neurotransmitters (the brain’s “chemical messengers”) and the accumulation of neurofibrillary tangles and plaques in the brain can all compromise cognitive ability.

Factors contributing to these physical changes can include chronic inflammation, declining hormones, oxidative stress and arterial dysfunction. Lifestyle issues – such as obesity, overweight, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, and physical and chronic emotional stress – can also set the stage for age-related cognitive impairment.

Fortunately, dietary, nutritional supplement and lifestyle modifications can significantly slow cognitive decline and may even help to restore function and memory – without the need for toxic medications. Of course, as always, we like to suggest that you seek the advice of a trusted, integrative physician to see what’s best for you. Having said that: let’s take a closer look at some good ideas.

Count on cucumbers

Mildly-flavored and refreshing, the humble cucumber turns out to have potent powers to promote brain health. Studies have shown that cucumbers are rich in a flavonoid called fisetin, which prevents memory loss and age-related cognitive decline.

One study showed that cognitive improvements due to fisetin took place despite the continued formation of amyloid plaques (which are strongly associated with Alzheimer’s disease). In other words, cucumbers benefited cognitive function despite physical manifestations of neurodegenerative disease being present in the brain.

Sharpen up the brain by eating strawberries

Like cucumbers, these tasty berries are packed with fisetin – as well as with a complement of healthful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory polyphenols. Eating strawberries has been shown to cause reduction in memory decline.

In fact, a study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital showed that older women who ate at least a cup of strawberries per week delayed cognitive aging by up to two and a half years – an impressive finding. Naturally, it’s a good idea to buy organic foods – as often as possible – to lower your burden of toxins.

Grab some grapes to lower brain stress

Grapes – especially the purple and red varieties – are high in anthocyanins, antioxidant natural plant pigments that can help fight oxidative stress in the brain. But their most important weapon against cognitive decline may be their content of resveratrol – a phenolic antioxidant molecule also found in red wine.

With known anti-aging effects, resveratrol has been shown in studies to optimizes overall brain metabolism and function. In one double-blind study, dosages of resveratrol ranging from 250 to 500 mg a day were shown to enhance working and spatial memory in older adults.

Bank on blueberries

When it comes to protecting against cognitive decline, blueberries really do reign supreme among superfoods. Extensive and well-documented studies show that blueberries reduce oxidative stress, stimulate the growth of new neurons in the brain, and Improve learning, memory and overall cognitive performance.

If it’s not possible to obtain fresh berries – no worries. Experts say that extracts, and powdered and frozen versions, are just as potent as their fresh counterparts – if not more.

As we age, a certain amount of minor cognitive decline is normal – and inevitable. But the above nutrients can help slow and minimize its development, potentially preserving sharp mental function well into your ‘senior’ years.

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