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5 tips to help your aging brain (how to help a loved one with dementia)

Updated: Jun 1, 2021

A dear friend of mine is slowly watching the demise of her father, who's been suffering the excruciating disease of dementia. This letter is in part written to her. She's a research and data geek, or at least her family is, and so I've included references and research where applicable. It's also written to my dear friend and teacher in Germany who has a strong family history of Alzheimer's and to any of those folks out there who're going through the same challenges.

Dementia and neurodegenerative diseases are affecting 1 in 8 of our 65+ generation, this is a silent epidemic that we really must take action on, each and every one of us.

There are at least five treatment recommendations I give whenever I see someone with dementia or signs of memory loss. I also recommend these supplements for anyone with a strong family history of dementia. There are, of course, many more options available depending on your specific health history and current condition. (NB: These recommendations do not take the place of seeing a licensed healthcare practitioner you trust).

1) Increase microcirculation in the brain with Gingko biloba - 240 mg daily

Ginkgo biloba is an herb used to treat altitude sickness (prevention), cerebral vascular insufficiency, cognitive disorders, dementia, dizziness/vertigo, intermittent claudication (the pain you feel when your leg muscles don't get enough blood while you exercise), macular degeneration/glaucoma, memory loss, premenstrual syndrome, SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction, and as a vasodilator. It's important to note here that it's not safe to take during pregnancy or if you're on blood thinners. Gingko has been shown to not only increase blood flow to the brain, but also seems to be protective for nerve cells that are damaged in Alzheimer's. Read more on Gingko here.

2) Reduce homocysteine levels with folate and B12

Any supplement you choose to reduce homocysteine levels (such as Homocysteine Supreme) should include folate and B12, at the minimum. Homocysteine levels, in a meta-analysis of 9 good case-controlled studies are shown to be elevated in people with Alzheimer's, with levels of folate and B12 being low. Reference here. You can get a simple blood test to assess your homocysteine level, and determine if taking B12 and folate would help protect your brain cells. The dosage you need varies, but I'd recommend at least 400 mcg 2x/day of folate and 200mcg of B12 2x/day.

3) Regulate cortisol levels with phosphatidyl serine - 300 mg daily

Phosphatidylserine is a dietary supplement that has received some interest as a potential treatment for Alzheimer's disease and other memory problems. Several studies with phosphatidylserine indicate improved cognitive abilities and behaviors. One of those studies you can link to here, which shows that phosphatidylserine has positive effects on cognitive performance in Japanese subjects with memory complaints.

4) Balance blood sugar levels

Make sure to get bloodwork that looks at both your blood sugar level and HgbA1c (hemoglobin A1C levels). HgbA1c is a measure of your average blood sugar over 3 weeks. Optimal blood glucose levels on a fasting blood test should be between 80 and 90. HgbA1c should ideally be below 5.3. There are many ways to balance your blood sugar, beginning of course with diet. Lots of smart people have written about how to do this, I won't bore you by adding my voice. Here's a link to read about 15 easy ways to lower your blood sugar. This is key for many health conditions.

5) Centella asiatica - 100 mg daily

Apart from wound healing, this herb is recommended for the treatment of various skin conditions such as leprosy, lupus, varicose ulcers, eczema, psoriasis, diarrhea, fever, amenorrhea, diseases of the female genitourinary tract. Here we use it to improve cognition and to re-vitalize the brain and nervous system. Often people with dementia have anxiety and this herb has anxiety reducing properties through various effects on neurotransmitters (namely GABA). For more on this herb, read here.

A particularly helpful book that I often poke my nose into for great explanations and treatment advice is Why Isn't My Brain Working by Datis Kharrazian. You can find it on Audible or direct order from your local bookstore. I hope this is helpful to you, and perhaps gets you curious about other options for yourself or your loved one.

Invitations to Improve Your Brain Health

+ The Radiance of Being Alive Qi Gong. Join us for our online bi-Weekly Qi Gong practice every Tuesday and Thursday. Qigong is a moving meditation that relaxes the nervous system and is shown to enhance brain function. (For direct reference click here). Dive into the ancient practice of cultivating and renewing your vital energy and improving your cognition and clarity. This practice is good for any age, any nationality and any political point of view. We're on Zoom so invite your friends to be in this profound practice with us! By Donation. Register here.

+ Meditation for Spring: In several studies investigating the relationship between mindfulness, meditation, cognition and stress in people with Alzheimer's disease, meditation produced a reliable reduction of cognitive decline, reduction in perceived stress, increase in quality of life, as well as increases in functional connectivity, percent volume brain change and cerebral blood flow in areas of the cortex. (Reference here). Upgrade your consciousness and prevent memory loss by tapping into the wellspring of collective meditation. Every Wednesday at 9:30 AM EST for 45 minutes. Open to beginners and experienced meditators. Sign up here.

We're in this together,

Dr Kelly Jennings


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