Wellness Centre - Cognitive memory decline - Health Tea Box

Cognitive Memory Decline

Do you notice that you seem to be more easily forgetting things? Are you struggling to concentrate or find yourself always in a brain fog? There are many symptoms of altered cognitive function, and it is important to become aware of them.

Cognitive Memory Decline: What it is and How it Affects Us

A decrease in cognitive function is a natural part of getting older. Changes in physiology and brain make-up, including alterations in hormones, mean sometimes brain lapses can occur and function can be affected. For most people however, despite their age, this does not indicate severe cognitive issues, and memory loss is not inevitable, simply because one gets older.

In contrast cognitive memory decline or mild cognitive impairment, is a cognitive impairment that affects specific areas of the brain. In fact, when doctors diagnose this issue among patients, they do so based on the thinking areas that are impacted. Mild cognitive impairment is classified as one of two types:

  • Amnestic MCI – individuals who have primarily memory related issues, forgetting appointments, conversations or where they place items.
  • Non-Amnestic MCI – individuals who are mostly affected by thinking skills that govern decision making abilities, visual perception or the steps of completing a task.

The impacts from either of these types of cognitive decline can be as simple as forgetting to go to a weekly appointment or forgetting about a phone call, to as severe as forgetting one’s address, or how to get home. For those individuals who are classified with MCI, with age, it typically worsens, and some people are unable to remember the names and faces of family members or how to perform daily functioning tasks like showering and cleaning the dishes.

While not guaranteed, for many people what starts out as MCI, unfortunately ends in the onset of Alzheimers or dementia, a far more serious version of cognitive decline that has no cure, and often leaves the individual unable to live or function alone, and no longer knowing their family, friends or themselves.

Presentation of Cognitive Memory Decline

While nobody wants to think about losing their memory or developing Alzheimers, it is occurring at an ever increasing rate and it is important to understand what it looks like and what to do about it, as well as the risk factors that make one susceptible. Advancing age is a key factor, but it also is impacted by genetics and family history, and conditions that raise the risk of cardiovascular disease.

But before you start to get worried that forgetting something on your grocery list or forgetting your water bottle at the gym is an indication of cognitive memory decline, let’s take a few minutes to understand how decline presents itself and how it differs from normal everyday forgetfulness. Some symptoms indicative of MCI include:

  • The need to make decisions or having a large selection of choices seems overwhelming and difficult to cope with.
  • Simple sequential tasks, such as brushing your teeth or cleaning the dishes become difficult to comprehend or the affected individual cannot remember the steps to complete them.
  • One easily becomes lost, even in familiar places such as the grocery store or their own neighbourhood.
  • An affected individual may become far more irritable, impulsive, rash and make unreasonable decisions that appear to occur not of sound mind.
  • Individuals have difficulty using judgement and tactfulness, often coming across as rude or inappropriate in what they say or do.

While it is possible that affected individuals will also forget single items or simple to-do tasks, the difference is that most of the impacts are far more severe and have far more impactful consequences.

From a physiological perspective, a clinician can assess for cognitive memory decline in contrast to simply forgetting things more often by seeing physical changes in the brain composition. These may include:

  • Evidence of reduced blood flow through the brain
  • Small clumps of beta-amyloid proteins or plaque build up in the brain
  • Lewy bodies – microscopic clumps of another type of protein, not present in a healthy brain.
  • Shrinkage of the hippocampus

Together, both the reported and physiological symptoms, as well as insight from family members can be used as effective means of diagnosing, and in turn addressing cognitive decline in affected individuals.

Natural Solutions to Cognitive Memory Decline

While there is no evidence to indicate that one can completely prevent the development of cognitive decline or the onset of Alzheimers, especially depending on the natural genetic make up of an individual, there is evidence to indicate that one can delay the onset and help enhance brain function well into ageing. In fact, there are many ways to do this in your every day tasks, and it can make a huge difference in the long term outcome of cognitive function with age:

  • Be sure to regularly engage in brain stimulating activities, such as crossword puzzles, Sudoku or other mental thinking games.
  • Continue to learn new things! Learning a new task, or simply reading new information leads to the generation or wiring of new brain cells and this promotes perpetuated healthy brain function.
  • Engage in activities that require hand-eye coordination, such as knitting, sports activities, manipulating puzzle pieces or other crafts like jewellery making.
  • Regularly participate in socially engaging activities, such as visiting friends, attending a community event or joining a book club.
  • Exercise and move often, as this improves blood flow to both the brain and the body.

In addition to increasing brain stimulating activities, dietary and health changes are also important. It is critical to consume brain foods, such as walnuts, Brazil nuts and leafy greens. Aim to maintain a healthy intake of essential fatty acids, by consuming foods such as fish and ground flaxseed. There are also selected herbs which have been shown to enhance cognitive function:

  • Ginseng – Improves frontal lobe function in managing Alzheimer’s Disease and has been shown to help in math tasks, memory tasks and processing tasks.
  • Ginkgo – High in antioxidants, offers anti-inflammatory properties, and has been shown to help reduce symptoms of dementia.
  • Huperzine A – Supports memory retention, cognitive processing and enhances mental energy demands.

The good news is, you can take advantage of all of the brain and memory enhancing benefits of these herbs all in one place: our day blend! Created to enhance alertness, working memory and cognitive function, it is a blend of several brain boosting herbs and is a great way to improve cognitive function throughout the day.

Ready to get started on better brain function? Learn more here!