There are two main areas of concern when it comes to the desire to boost our brainpower. One is about making us smarter (or at least more alert) on the job or when taking tests or exams. On the other end of life's timeline, it's yearning to maintain cognitive function as we age, being ever mindful that even the slightest signs of forgetfulness or absent-mindedness could mean the dreaded onset of dementia. Ponce de Leon never found the fountain of youth, and perhaps science will never concoct the magic formula or pill that will provide us the everlasting mental acuity and performance equal to our peak years. But as research continues and progress is made, there is lingering debate about what actually works, and to what extent, and what at best merits more investigation and trials. They are known as nootropics, natural supplements that have shown at least a tested glimmer of providing healthy people with beneficial effects when it comes to brain function. Per healthline.com, many of these nootropics can improve factors such as memory, creativity, and general cognitive function. They also can help ward off declines in cognition for those of us who are working our way toward elder status.
Don't Assume the Worst Regarding Brain FunctionOne thing to remember is that forgetting where you left your phone or wallet or locking your keys inside the car by themselves shouldn't be cause for major concern – unless those sorts of misfires become common; perhaps you also start forgetting how to find your way home from the church you've been attending the last 10 years. As berkeleywellness.com puts it, Few things are more unnerving than the memory lapses most of us experience as we grow older. Maybe memory loss can not be cured, but many experts believe it can be slowed. Per webmd.com, if Alzheimer's disease could be delayed by an average of one year, that would result 10 years from now in 210,000 fewer people being diagnosed with Alzheimer's, producing a cost savings of $10 billion. The problem with prescription drugs is that they're extremely expensive and often have limited effectiveness during a short window of time, Dr. Evangeline Lausier, a clinical professor at Duke University Medical Center, was quoted as saying at webmd.com.
Vitamins and Supplements to Think AboutIf you are concerned for your cognitive well-being, especially if someone close to you has expressed their own concerns about you, perhaps it's time to see your physician for, at minimum, a discussion, and maybe even some testing, perhaps in tandem with a mental health care specialist. The physician or specialist might end up recommending some dietary changes for you, to include the use of vitamins and/or supplements known to boost brainpower. Here are several worth discussing (to get beyond the marketing hype) and perhaps using, with a health care professional's guidance:
- Acetyl L-carnitine. An amino acid naturally produced by our bodies that has been shown in animal studies to increase learning ability.
- Asian ginseng. Studies have shown it to support memory, focus, attention, and even mood. Sounds like something worth remembering to put on your own list.
- Vitamin B-12. A B-12 deficiency has been linked to confusion and memory loss, a condition that has at times been incorrectly diagnosed as Alzheimer's, per berkeleywellness.com.
- Bacopa monnieri. Made from an herb used in traditional medical practices such as Ayurveda for boosting brain function.
- Choline. Per bodybuilding.com, it serves as a memory enhancer because it is a direct precursor to acetylcholine, which is found naturally in the brain and is linked to memory and cognitive functions.
- Creatine. This natural substance is popular among power lifters and bodybuilders because of its role in muscles, although it also can allegedly enhance memory and thinking skills in people who don't eat meat.
- Vitamin E. Can possibly slow the progression of Alzheimer's, but definitely needs to be discussed first with a health care professional because too much E can be a concern, especially for some already unhealthy people, per webmd.com.
- Fish oil. Think Omega-3 fatty acids, which some studies have shown to be linked to a lower risk of Alzheimer's, per webmd.com.
- Ginkgo biloba. An herbal supplement extracted from a certain tree that is believed to enhance blood flow to the brain and, in so doing, improve focus and memory.
- Huperzine A. Referred to also as Chinese club moss, it's believed to provide benefits similar to Alzheimer's drugs, per webmd.com.
- Phosphatidylserine (PS). Per healthline.com, studies with people taking 100 milligrams a day have shown diminished age-related decline in brain function.
- Resveratrol. An antioxidant found in grapes, raspberries, red wine, and chocolate – yummy! It has been associated with slowing the decline of the hippocampus, which is the component of the brain responsible for memory.
- Rhodiola rosea. An herb long used in Chinese medicine that is believed to help enhance mental processing through the reduction of fatigue, per healthline.com.
- S-Adenosyl methionine. A naturally-occurring substance in our body that can break down proteins and fats and might be useful in slowing the decline in brain function for people with depression, per healthline.com.
- Vinpocetine. Sourced from the Vinca minor plant. The Sternberg memory scanning test has shown it to be effective for improved memory function, per National Institutes of Health.