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Cognitive decline is a potentially awful effect of ageing. I’m sure you’re aware of the severe effects of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Although there are genetic components to these diseases and there is some understanding of how they progress, the knowledge we have on what triggers such severe cognitive decline and how to protect against, cure, or even slow these diseases is still in its infancy.
What we do know is that even without such diagnoses we will have some form of cognitive decline as we age…our brain cells simply do not regenerate as efficiently or work as effectively. However, there are some things that we can do to help support our cognitive function and limit the impacts of ageing:
A diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins A, C and E, will help protect against oxidative damage which becomes more severe as we age and our antioxidant defence systems are diminished. These can be found in a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds to name a few examples.
We can also supplement with omega 3, or have a diet that contains plenty of oily fish, which has shown to offer neuroprotective effects against cognitive decline and maintaining better function into older age.
Creatine Is a supplement known more for improving strength, power and helping build lean muscle. However, it is showing some really interesting results in protecting against loss of cognitive function too. A reduction in mental fatigue has been observed under demanding mental activity and sleep deprivation whilst also being implicated in supporting repair and reducing the effects of traumatic brain injury such as concussion. Creatine has also shown neuroprotective effects against neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimers, in animals (Although more research is needed in these areas to see if this could be an effective option in humans.)
Exercise is important for maintaining function of both the body and brain, keeping the mind and central nervous system sharp. Mental exercise, learning new skills and taking time to keep developing new knowledge may also be important for protecting the brain, forcing it to regenerate new cells and keeping the mind younger.
It may not seem like you can do anything to stop the mind slowing as we age, but we can certainly influence how quickly cognitive decline happens and protect our quality of life long into old age.
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