The Ageing Brain: What To Know & What You Can Do

The Ageing Brain: What To Know & What You Can Do

Worried about becoming absent-minded or forgetful? Dementia has overtaken cancer as the disease we dread most and, in Europe alone, one million people develop impaired memory every year, more than half of whom go on to develop dementia. The good news is that early intervention, alongside dietary and lifestyle changes, can reduce the risk. We caught up with three industry experts to find out more. From diet to sleep, here’s their advice…

Women Are More At Risk

“Nearly two-thirds of people with dementia are women, and women over 60 are nearly twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as they are to develop breast cancer. One study also found that women tend to accumulate more amyloid plaques in their brains than men, which is thought to be the main culprit in Alzheimer’s development. Moreover, once diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, women decline at almost twice the rate of men. Science has identified nine risk factors that contribute to the risk of dementia. These include mid-life hearing loss (responsible for up to 9% of the risk); failing to complete secondary education; smoking; failing to seek prompt treatment for depression; physical inactivity; social isolation; high blood pressure; obesity; and type 2 diabetes.” – Sara Davenport, author of Reboot Your Brain

Reduce Your Exposure To Toxins

“We are bombarded with thousands of chemical toxins daily; air pollution levels are rising and our water contains carcinogenic substances. Even our food is no longer safe from GMO [genetically modified organism] and chemical interference, and there are more than 3,000 different chemicals used in cleaning products and toiletries. It’s no wonder our brains and bodies struggle to keep up and function adequately. Plus, we live in a world of electromagnetic frequencies (such as from computers, smart meters and mobile phone masts), which emit pulsing waves that can cumulatively harm the brain and interfere with concentration, memory and our ability to think laterally and creatively. Studies also show that waves emitted from a wireless device trigger a chemical cascade that significantly raises your risk for neurodegenerative diseases.” – Sara

Don’t Confuse It With Brain Fog

“For women, the hormonal changes associated with the menopause can give rise to brain fog, which is not the same as dementia, and is entirely reversible. Brain fog is not a disease or disorder – it is a sign that something is amiss, such as a hormonal imbalance. Symptoms include loss of mental clarity, difficulty concentrating, focussing and paying attention, problems with memory and learning and word-finding issues. The memory issues associated with dementia, however, are characteristically different. It’s important to see a doctor if you experience disorientation about where you are, or what time of day it is, become lost in a place you’ve been familiar with for years, or repeat the same story without realising it.” – Sabina Brennan, neuroscientist and psychologist

Exercise, But Not Too Much

“Thirty minutes of walking four times a week, one hour of cycling three times a week, or 30 minutes of calisthenics daily makes a difference, according to research. Staying active is vital, but don’t overdo it. Over-exercising is as ineffective as no exercise at all, and low intensity exercise, such as walking or cycling, is the most effective form of exercise to prevent Alzheimer’s. According to Nanji Tabet, who was lead researcher on trials at Sussex University, exercise can slow progression of the disease in late-stage patients too. Exercise also boosts the mitochondria in your brain and reduces brain atrophy in the region of the brain thought to relate to memory and emotion.” – Sara

Do A Crossword

“Challenge, learning and novelty are critical to a healthy brain. It’s important to keep challenging your brain, learning new things, having new experiences and meeting new people. Learning anything new will help, and it doesn’t need to be something academic – it could be learning to play a musical instrument or taking up a hobby. Once you have learned how to do something, you no longer gain the benefit of neuroplasticity, which is why you must continue learning. Crosswords are a prime example – you will reap brain rewards when you learn how to do crosswords but once they become easy your brain is no longer challenged. Do crosswords if you enjoy them, but to reap the brain-boosting benefits, do a more difficult crossword or set yourself time limits.” – Sabina

Nearly two-thirds of people with dementia are women, and women over 60 are nearly twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as they are to develop breast cancer.

Try A Video Game

“Even ten minutes daily of training your memory with everyday tasks makes a difference. Try writing and memorising shopping lists, paying bills, organising invoices and filing papers. For a more formal cognitive brain training, there is Nintendo’s Brain Training video, which is currently used with more than 30,000 patients in nursing homes throughout Japan, so consider trying this, too.” – Sara

Be Inspired By The Mediterranean Diet

“Studies show a healthy diet can reduce your risk of developing dementia by up to 53% and it’s never too late to make a change. The Mediterranean diet is one to try, naturally packed with vitamins B and E and omega-3 fatty acids, all of which have been shown to have protective effects on the brain. Specific foods to include in your diet include green leafy vegetables, berries (particularly blueberries) and seafood. Basing your meals on a wide variety of plant foods, including avocados, lots of different coloured vegetables, fruit, greens, pulses and whole grains as well as fish and seafood, is a great place to start. Omega-3 fatty acids are also great for the brain, and although there are some plant sources, including flaxseeds, walnuts and chia seeds, the best source by far is oily fish. If you’re not vegan or vegetarian, tuck into salmon, mackerel and sardines to boost your intake.” – Aliza Marogy, founder of Inessa

Consider A Supplement

“You may not have heard of BioPQQ but it’s a supplement worth taking if you want to boost your brain health. Research shows BioPQQ protects mitochondria from amyloid plaque, slows plaque build-up and also appears to stimulate the production of new mitochondria. In studies with mice, it helped with cognitive function and also helped the mice develop a new skill – negotiating a maze – faster than mice in a control group. As an additional benefit, PQQ also stimulates the growth of neurons in the brain, another protection against the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Alpha lipoic acid, which supports healthy mitochondrial ageing, keeping your brain sharp as you age, is also worth taking, while citicoline boosts memory, learning, logical reasoning and focus. Supplementing with 1,000 to 2,000mg of citicoline daily seems to improve verbal memory in people aged 50 to 85.” – Sara

Stress Less

“There is nothing wrong with stress per se – in fact, the stress response is often activated when we rise to a challenge and learn new things. However, stress becomes problematic when it becomes chronic and poorly managed. When this happens, neuroplasticity is enhanced in the brain’s fear centre (the amygdala) and suppressed in the hippocampus (memory and learning) and in the frontal lobes (decision-making and rational thinking) – as a consequence, we move from rational thinking to reflexive thinking and begin to see threat where there is none. This in turn can interfere with sleep, which is essential for memory and learning. At the same time, not enough stress is equally problematic. The phrase ‘use it or lose it’ applies here – your brain simply cannot afford to waste vital resources on brain cells that are not being used. Under-stimulation can lead to boredom and depression, which impact brain function.” – Sabina

Improve Your Sleep

“A link has been found between Alzheimer’s and the ability to sleep. The brain is 95% as active while sleeping as it is during the day, and science shows the brain regulates itself as you sleep. If you have difficulty sleeping, plaque levels in the brain increase, but the reverse is true if you have a good night’s sleep. How you sleep makes a difference, too. Sleeping on your side has been found to improve one of the brain’s waste-clearing processes, lowering the Alzheimer’s risk.” – Sara

Know When To Get Help

“Don’t ignore initial signs and hope they will go away, or that it will get better, because it won’t. Make an appointment to see your doctor and get as early a diagnosis as you can.  You may be referred to a specialist consultant – neurologists, geriatricians or old age psychiatrists are all qualified to carry out physical and mental tests. You may also be offered a brain scan to identify changes – CT, CAT or MRI scans will show changes in brain structure, while SPECT or PET scans show changes in brain activity. The Charing Cross Hospital memory clinic can also carry out the Addenbrooke’s cognitive exam (ACE), which is useful in the detection of cognitive impairment.” – Sara
Reboot Your Brain by Sara Davenport and Beating Brain Fog by Sabina Brennan are both available now. For more information visit, and
DISCLAIMER: Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.

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