Many terms describe a person’s lapse in clear thinking – from brain fog and senior moment, to dementia and Alzheimer’s.
What follows are descriptions of these terms, as well as proven tips to help make your brain healthier now while also preventing cognitive decline in the future. I’ve included a video that may prove helpful.
Alzheimer’s vs Dementia
Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are two distinct but related terms.
Dementia is a broad term that describes a decline in cognitive function interfering with a person’s daily activities.
Dementia can affect various aspects of cognitive function, including memory, language, decision-making, and attention.
Alzheimer’s is a specific type of dementia that accounts for most cases. It’s a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that affects the brain, leading to the loss of neurons and the accumulation of abnormal proteins.
These changes lead to the hallmark symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, including memory loss, confusion, and disorientation. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in older adults.
Brain Fog vs Senior Moment
Brain fog and senior moment are lighter terms to describe different brain experiences.
Brain fog is a term used to describe a subjective feeling of cognitive impairment, such as difficulty thinking, processing information, or focusing.
Various factors, including stress, lack of sleep, medication side effects, and certain medical conditions, can cause brain fog. People experiencing it may feel like they can’t think clearly or remember things as well as they usually would.
On the other hand, senior moment is a term used to describe a specific episode – a brief lapse of memory or attention typically associated with aging.
It’s often used lightheartedly to describe forgetfulness or absent-mindedness that occurs more frequently in older individuals. These lapses may include forgetting names, misplacing items, or losing track of a thought mid-sentence.
The Aging Brain: How to Keep Your Mind Razor Sharp
Ever had the sensation of walking into a room and then forgetting why you entered in the first place?
Ever been in a conversation with a friend and about to mention the name of a book or a Hollywood actor you admire, but suddenly the name of the book or actor slips your mind?
Most people have had bouts like this.
When you’re younger, it’s no big deal.
But as you get older, it can happen more frequently and become irksome.
More than 50 million Americans suffer from some form of memory loss.
Profound cognitive dysfunction absolutely requires the help of a medical doctor.
But brain fog and senior moments are when you forget something tiny, such as the original purpose you walked into your living room or the day’s date.
There are ways to help you remember what matters most.
What follows are proven techniques for improving your brain health so that your memory, cognition, and mind power continue to improve as you age.
1. Help Your Brain by Following an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Microglia are immune sentinel cells in your central nervous system:
- Although they positively benefit the regulation and formation of new synapses (including pruning away those that aren’t needed), if these cells get over-activated later in life – excessive inflammation – it will impair your cognitive function.
- For this reason, an anti-inflammatory diet can provide the ultimate prevention.
An anti-inflammatory diet addresses the issue of brainpower at its most basic level – the health of your body’s cells. In particular, the antioxidants in vegetables can help protect your brain from damage caused by free radicals.
Dr. Terry Wahls is a physician and clinical researcher who has developed a dietary approach to help treat her own multiple sclerosis.
She believes that a paleo-style diet, which emphasizes whole, unprocessed foods – and absent of food sweeteners – can help prevent and manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s and dementia.
According to Dr. Wahls, a paleo-style diet high in vegetables, fruits, nuts, and lean proteins provides the necessary nutrients and antioxidants to support brain health and reduce inflammation.
Dr. Peter Attia is a physician and researcher who advocates for a low-carb, higher-fat diet for optimal health.
He believes that a paleo-style diet, which emphasizes whole, unprocessed foods and eliminates pro-inflammatory foods such as refined carbohydrates and vegetable oils, can positively impact brain function by reducing inflammation in the body.
In addition, he notes that the brain requires a constant source of fuel in the form of glucose and that a diet higher in healthy fats can provide a stable source of energy for the brain, leading to improved cognitive function.
Eating foods rich in antioxidants can help reduce inflammation in the brain.
Brain foods include:
- vegetables (many varieties from many colors)
- almond, pecan, walnut, and brazil nuts
- eggs and fish (in moderation)
- and olive oil.
The brain vitamins within these foods include E, C, the B’s, Omega-3, and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid, which – since it can pass easily into the brain – probably helps protect the brain and nerve tissue from free-radical damage).
2. Take Brain Fog Vitamins and Supplements that Boost Your Mind
Scientific research has established that certain supplements can help keep your mind sharp.
Several vitamins are essential for optimal brain function.
Vitamin B12: This vitamin is vital for maintaining healthy nerve cells and red blood cells, and it plays a crucial role in cognitive function. Studies have suggested that low levels of vitamin B12 may be associated with cognitive decline and dementia.
Vitamin D: Ample Vitamin D has been linked to a reduced risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Vitamin D deficiency is also associated with an increased risk of depression and other mood disorders.
Folic Acid: This B vitamin is important for brain development and function, and studies have suggested that low levels of folic acid may be associated with cognitive decline and dementia.
Other supplements can also be helpful for brain health:
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
While not technically a vitamin, omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that are important for brain health and function.
Caffeine with Theanine
Caffeine is tricky. Though too much is not good for you, it might have a place in your wellness regimen in strategic doses.
Start with 50 mg of caffeine and 100 mg of theanine about 30 minutes before you need increased focus and attention. Ask your doctor first to ensure it’s compatible with your medications.
Theanine is an amino acid that can reduce the overexcitability often caused by caffeine without impairing caffeine’s stimulatory effect.
In fact, according to the research site Examine.com, the improvements in concentration, focus, and attention span induced by caffeine and theanine are synergistic.
Eating 60 to 120 grams of blueberries each day has been proven to help improve memory and focus.
Bacopa Monnieri is an Indian plant containing potent properties that make cognition better. Take once a day with food. You can find capsules containing 300 to 350 mg, which is a sufficient dosage, but ask your doctor to ensure this plant extract is compatible with your other meds.
3. Improve Your Quality of Sleep
Yes, getting enough sleep is essential for maintaining cognitive function. However, focusing on the quality of sleep can be helpful instead of only focusing on duration.
Do what you need to do to sleep more deeply and restoratively.
Establishing a regular sleep schedule can be very helpful.
4. Do Physical Exercise Strategically
Regular exercise can improve cognitive function, reduce stress, and improve sleep quality.
Do something each day that makes you break a sweat.
5. Give Your Mind a Workout, Too
Challenging your brain with new activities can improve cognitive function and prevent mental decline.
Do challenging and engaging activities, such as:
- puzzles and crossword puzzles;
- reading fiction and nonfiction;
- learning a new language;
- learning a new musical instrument.
6. Hydrate Properly to Help Your Brain
The brain needs proper hydration to function correctly. Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water daily and avoid alcohol. Remember that proper hydration isn’t just about water; it’s also about electrolytes – such as salt, magnesium, and potassium.
7. Reduce Tension with Nose Breathing
Stress can impair cognitive function and cause mental fatigue. It’s a wise idea to regularly practice stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, slow and deep nose breathing, or aromatherapy to reduce stress levels.
Taking regular breaks can help reduce mental fatigue and improve focus. Take short breaks every hour or so to stretch and walk around.
8. Activate Your Brain by Making an Effort to Stay Social
Positive social interactions are invaluable for maintaining brain health.
A study conducted at UCLA found that people who had low social integration were more likely to experience cognitive decline than those with high social integration.
While this is not surprising – lonely people tend to be less healthy overall – researchers were surprised by how quickly the results showed up on scans of participants’ brains. After just five years, those with low social integration had lost brain volume, equivalent to an additional 6.5 years of aging.
It may be worthwhile to make an increased effort toward building meaningful connections with others.
There are many different ways to maintain strong relationships with friends and family. Here are a few tips that can help make your relationships stronger:
- Spend time together. This is probably the most important thing you can do to strengthen your relationships. Spending time together allows you to communicate and get to know each other better. It also allows you to build memories that will last a lifetime.
- Communicate openly and honestly. This is another key component of healthy relationships. If you don’t communicate openly, misunderstandings and conflicts can arise. By communicating honestly, you’ll be more likely to resolve – more positively – any issues that arise.
- Be there for each other when times are tough. Interdependence is a good thing.
When we lean on each other and demonstrate reciprocity, it builds trust and intimacy.
9. Become a More Positive Thinker to Reduce Chances of Having a Senior Moment
Studies show that positive emotions can help protect against memory lapses in senior moments.
In one research experiment, researchers asked people to remember a list of words over a period of time. Some were asked to recall the words with a positive memory attached (such as “the time I got married”), and others were asked to recall the words with a negative memory attached (such as “the time I got divorced”). Afterward, everyone was tested for their ability to remember the words. The group with positive memories remembered more of them than those with negative ones.
- Another study found that older adults with positive attitudes about aging were better able to remember things than those with negative attitudes about aging.
- In a study by researchers at the University of California San Diego, participants who were asked to think about a positive memory before taking a memory test performed better than those who were asked to think about a negative memory or those who did not receive instructions at all.
These aren’t the only studies that show how critical positive emotions are for brain health in older age; many other studies have also shown that feelings like happiness, excitement, and love help protect against memory lapses in senior moments.
Conclusion on How to Make Your Brain Better and Avoid Dementia
The average length of the human lifespan has increased, and that’s a good thing.
However, keep in mind that as lifespan has become longer, it has become more common to develop neurodegenerative diseases that impact mental agility, including memory.
Memory lapses are a normal part of the aging process, but that doesn’t mean you have to put up with them. You can do plenty of things to help improve your memory and keep your mind sharp.
The human brain is an amazing organ.
The brain controls everything we do, from the simplest movements to the most complex thoughts.
And like any other part of our body, the brain needs consistent exercise and a healthy diet to stay in good shape.
A healthy lifestyle is vital for your brain health as you get older. Studies have shown that people who eat well and exercise regularly are less likely to develop age-related conditions like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
A study conducted by the National Institute on Aging found that:
- engaging in mentally stimulating activities, such as learning a new skill or language, solving puzzles, or playing strategy games, was positively associated with cognitive function in older adults.
- The study also found that participation in these activities was associated with slower rates of cognitive decline and a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
- In addition, the study found that combining mentally stimulating activities with working out and a healthy diet may have an even greater impact on cognitive health in older adults.
These findings support the importance of engaging in mentally stimulating activities and managing stress to maintain brain health as one ages.
If you notice your brain performing less well than in the past, consult with your medical doctor.
Additional Resources on How to Keep the Mind Sharp as You Age:
WHO Fact Sheets about Dementia – https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dementia
Lifestyle Choices and Brain Health (National Library of Medicine) – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6787147/
Stress and Associated Risk Factors Among the Elderly – NCBI – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7122445/
Trending Brain Cell Science – https://cordis.europa.eu/article/id/123279-trending-science-do-our-brain-cells-die-as-we-age-researchers-now-say-no
Therapeutic Dieting – https://terrywahls.com/diet/
Cognitive Health in Mature Adults – https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/topics/cognitive-health
Dr. Attia on Nutritional Biochemistry – https://peterattiamd.com/category/nutritional-biochemistry/
Cognitive Health and Older Adults – https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/cognitive-health-and-older-adults
Remembering the Details: Effects of Emotion – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2676782/
Brain Fog or Something Worse? Yes/No Test May Tell – https://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/news/20120203/simple-yes-no-test-may-separate-senior-moment-from-early-alzheimers
Diet and Exercise and Sleep – https://www.sleepfoundation.org/physical-health/diet-exercise-sleep
Good Genes Are Nice, But Joy Is Better – The Harvard Gazette – https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/04/over-nearly-80-years-harvard-study-has-been-showing-how-to-live-a-healthy-and-happy-life/
Nutrients for Improved Cognition – https://www.prevention.com/food-nutrition/healthy-eating/a35981778/vitamins-for-brain-health/
Why Older People Managed to Stay Happier Through the Pandemic –https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/12/health/covid-pandemic-happiness-age.html