Two Simple Ways To Achieve A Better Memory And Avoid Cognitive Impairment

November 3, 2010 by  
Filed under Health, Healthy Ageing, Mental Health

What if I told you that keeping your mind sharp and your faculties in top notch condition could be achieved without any great effort, and you might even enjoy it? Well, I hope you would be tempted to try it and the most recent research offers great hope on how we can stay lively and alert and it works whether you are a student or retired so keep reading…

The first method is something you are no doubt already doing if you enjoy talking to others in a social setting. Of course most of us do, but a new University of Michigan study shows that talking with other people in a friendly way can make it easier to solve common problems can provide mental benefits according to psychologist Oscar Ybarra, a researcher at the U-M Institute for Social Research.
But, and there is always a but isn’t there, the emphasis is on friendly because conversations that are competitive in tone, rather than cooperative, have no cognitive benefits and indeed have negative results in terms of raising blood pressure and possibly losing said friends.

Cognitive function includes working memory, self-monitoring, and the ability to suppress external and internal distractions — all of which are essential in solving common life problems and succeeding at the bridge table. Previous research has found that social interaction provides a short-term boost to cognitive function that’s comparable in size to playing brain games, such as solving crossword puzzles.

Even having just a brief 10 minute conversation where you are getting to know another person can result in a boost to your subsequent performance on an array of common cognitive tasks. All very nice, and enjoyable, but why or how does it work?

“We believe that performance boosts come about because some social interactions induce people to try to read others’ minds and take their perspectives on things,” Ybarra said. “And we also find that when we structure even competitive interactions to have an element of taking the other person’s perspective, or trying to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, there is a boost in executive functioning as a result.”

What this highlights is the connection between social intelligence and general intelligence and so if you want to perform your best, having a friendly chat with a colleague before a big presentation or test may be a good strategy.

A second approach:
Many people are already aware that the B-Complex vitamins help us when stressed, indeed they are a popular element in stress supplements together with vitamin C, and new research now shows they may also help to slow the progress of dementia.

A two-year clinical trial in Oxford has shown that B vitamins, including B-6, B-12 and folic acid, slow down the rate of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) by half. MCI is a condition which is a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia as approximately 50 percent of people diagnosed with MCI go on to develop Alzheimer’s within five years

Scientists from Oxford University said their two-year clinical trial was the largest to date and David Smith of Oxford’s department of pharmacology, who co-led the trial, said: ”It is our hope that this simple and safe treatment will delay development of Alzheimer’s in many people who suffer from mild memory problems.”

MCI does not usually interfere with daily life, but around 50 percent of people diagnosed with it go on to develop the far more severe Alzheimer’s disease within five years. Smith and colleagues conducted a two-year trial with 168 volunteers with MCI who were given either a vitamin pill containing very high doses of folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12, or a placebo dummy pill.

These B vitamins are known to control levels of an amino acid called homocysteine in the blood, and high blood levels of homocysteine are linked to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Brain scans were taken at the beginning and the end of the trial to monitor the rate of brain shrinkage, or atrophy.

Dr. Gustavo C. Román, medical director of the Alzheimer & Dementia Center at the Methodist Neurological Institute in Houston, Texas, said that patients who already exhibit signs of dementia and test positive for high levels of homocysteine are more likely to respond well to the large doses of B vitamins.

CAUTION: If you want to try this for yourself, please be aware that the trial involved extremely high doses that have to be closely medically monitored so do not self dose at anything over the recommended levels without medical advice.

As a preventive, adding a high potency vitamin B complex to your daily routine can’t hurt and could be extremely helpful.

An apple a day keeps old age at bay


I know the original saying is that it keeps the doctor away, but there is new evidence that the cognitive decline we associate with growing older can be delayed with the help of apple juice.

The Center for Cellular Neurobiology at the University of Massachusetts have been studying laboratory mice and found that using the standard maze trials the mice performed better than was normal after drinking apple juice. Our ability to carry out mental tasks like working out how to negotiate a maze does decline with age as our cognitive ability is lessened. The mice got the human equivalent of 2 glasses of apple juice a day for 1 month and it was found that they were producing less beta-amyloid. This is a small protein fragment that is responsible for forming the “senile plaques” that are commonly found in the brain of those suffering from degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

The lead researcher suggested that if everyone was to drink two glasses of apple juice a day they would lessen their risk of cognitive decay and help keep their mind functioning at their best. For the most effective juice, buy organic or juice your own – the taste difference is really amazing.

Vitamin D and Alzheimer’s link confirmed


Cambridge University and the University of Michigan, have for the first time identified a relationship between Vitamin D and cognitive impairment in a large-scale study of older people. In northern climates there can be a lack of vitamin D, particularly in the winter months, when we suffer from grey skies and not enough sunshine.

Vitamin D is vital to our immune system and to keep our bones strong in the process of breaking down old bone and building up new bone. This process goes on throughout out lives, but it can slow down without the right levels of vitamin and mineral support. We obtain our supply from sunlight, foods fortified with vitamin D like cow’s milk, soya milk and cereals and oily fish. Unfortunately, as we get older we are less able to absorb vitamin D from sunlight so need to increase our intake from other sources or take supplements.

This new study is important because it reinforces the connection between vitamin D, cognitive function and dementia as in Alzheimer’s. The researchers assessed cognitive function in 2000 adults aged 65 and over in England, and what they found was that as levels of Vitamin D went down, their levels of cognitive impairment went up. In fact they had double the chance of being cognitively impaired than those in the study who had good levels of vitamin D.

As prevention is infinitely better than cure – which, sadly, in the case of Alzheimer’s is still being sought – it makes sense to do all you can to weigh the odds in your favour. Keep mentally alert with quizzes, crosswords or bridge. Take up a new hobby that stretches your brain (line or sequence dancing works well for this) and think about learning a new language or skill. Book a holiday in the sun in the winter and sensibly enjoy exposure to sunlight as often as you can. Supplements are easy to obtain, but there are cautions with them so don’t exceed the dose recommended by your doctor or a qualified nutritionist.