The prevalence of dementia is increasing at an alarming rate worldwide—having more than doubled in the last 20 years and is projected to double in the next 20 years (1). This is incredibly worrying because of the potential strain it can cause on our healthcare system and adverse societal effects that follows. We have witnessed the immense burden a pandemic like covid-19 has placed on our healthcare system and government expenditure. We must act now.

In this article we will briefly touch on:

  • Definition of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and dementia
  • Potential causes
  • Signs you may be at risk
  • 2 simple ways we can protect our mental health now

 

 

Definition of AD and dementia

Dementia is not a specific disease but a class of symptoms that affects thinking, memory, emotion, and behaviour to an extent that it significantly interferes with daily life. AD is the prevailing cause of dementia; it causes the brain to atrophy—gradually diminishing memory, and cognitive function. In severe stages of AD, patients may even lose their ability to chew and swallow readily. The hippocampus is the main area of neuronal loss in AD; a part of the brain that plays a critical part in memory formation and learning.

For the past decade, experts have been searching for ways to identify preceding stages of AD. From this research, came the concept of mild cognitive impairment (MCI)—generally known as the prodromal stage of dementia (6). It is described as cognitive impairment that is worse than normal for a person’s age but without greatly affecting daily function. MCI is widespread and relatively difficult to diagnose. Still, this is an important concept as it breaks down the progression of dementia and AD. It is imperative to diagnose MCI early because more than half of such cases develop into dementia in the following 5 years (6).

Potential causes

Research has shown a strong correlation between greater midlife stress and risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and dementia in older age.  Notably, studies show that it is time pressure, i.e. the feelings of being constantly squeezed for time, not higher work demands, that is linked to AD in older age (5,7). Senior adults with constantly raised cortisol, or chronic stress over a 20-year timeframe were found to have smaller hippocampus sizes (7). This is congruous with main characteristics of AD which is neuronal loss (starting in the hippocampus) and buildup of amyloid plaques.

Although the exact cause of neurodegenerative diseases such as AD is not fully understood yet, elevated oxidative stress has been proposed as one of the potential major causes. The brain is particularly susceptible to oxidative stress because of its large oxygen requirement and great amount of lipids cells that are vulnerable to per-oxidation. Several studies demonstrate that oxidative stress exacerbates the formation of amyloid plaques which could trigger a vicious cycle in the progression of AD (8,9).  

Furthermore, research also demonstrates that cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking were strongly linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in later life (10,11,12). This is possibly due to higher rates of ischemic stroke and plaque buildup in cerebral arteries (10,11). Which highlights the importance of maintaining strong cardiovascular health for the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases.

Signs you may be at risk

It is critical that we do our best to protect our mental health and well-being. But avoidance and denial will worsen bad situations. It is crucial that we seek help immediately when we notice serious symptoms. As previously discussed, studies show that potential risk factors are increased age, chronic stress, and cardiovascular risk factors such as smoking status, obesity, hypertension, and high blood cholesterol. Apart from regular health check-ups, self-awareness is key.

If you are above 50 and find yourself:

  • Regularly forgetting appointments
  • Forgetting what you were about to say
  • Constantly forgetting names
  • Consistently feeling overwhelmed by decision-making and completing tasks

And if people around you notice these changes, these may be signs of cognitive decline. Please do not hesitate to visit your licensed physician for an examination. As with all illnesses, early detection and appropriate treatment will be most effective.

2 simple ways we can protect our mental health now

From the evidence presented above, it is apparent that there are 2 central ways we can protect our mental health and prevent neurodegeneration—maintaining strong cardiovascular health and inhibiting oxidative stress. Prevention is always better than cure. We will elaborate on these 2 points below:

Maintaining strong cardiovascular health

Lifestyle changes such as smoking cessation, maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise and consuming a balanced diet are important factors for our heart health. In addition to leading a healthy lifestyle, certain herbs have been shown to promote cardiovascular health and improve cerebral blood flow.

Specifically, several studies on Ginkgo biloba and Centella asiatica have demonstrated the efficacy of these herbs to enhance coronary blood flow, attenuate oxidative damage in the heart and mitigate cardiac dysfunction. Their synergistic effects complements and strengthens each other. These herbs were extracted for precise concentration levels and intentionally formulated into Brain Focus to promote cardiovascular health and improve cerebral blood flow.

Inhibiting oxidative stress

Oxidative stress occurs when production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) outpaces antioxidant defense. Numerous elements ranging from environment to diet and lifestyle add to oxidative stress. Environmental elements such as pollution and radiation are beyond our control. We focus on elements we can control such as­ ensuring we get enough antioxidants from a well-balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, reducing alcohol consumption and stopping tobacco usage.

A well-balanced diet and healthy lifestyle is crucial in preventing oxidative stress. However, in many instances the damage done may have been too deep that additional steps must be taken. Just as certain supplements help athletes boost their performance—throughout history various potent herbs have been used to aid healing.

Numerous studies have demonstrated the beneficial effects of potent herbs such as Ginkgo biloba, Rhodiola rosea and Bacopa monnieri on boosting brain function, restricting oxidative stress in brain tissue, preventing buildup of amyloid plaques, enhancing antioxidant defense, and reversing damage from oxidative stress.

These herbs were meticulously extracted for exact ratios of bioactive constituents and concentration levels and deliberately formulated into Brain Focus to aid in inhibiting oxidative stress and preventing neurodegeneration.

Conclusion

Mental pressure and elevated stress levels are inevitable in contemporary society. The exponential rate of increase in cases of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease reflects this. This is worrying because akin to global warming, it is not something that we can see right away. Thus, it often gets ignored.

Maintaining optimal mental health is vital for our well-being. Prevention is always better than cure.

Read more about Brain Focus in our official white paper (long version).

Read more about Brain Focus here (short version).

 

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  2. Simard, M., Hudon, C., & van Reekum, R. (2009). Psychological distress and risk for dementia. Current Psychiatry Reports11(1), 41–47. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-009-0007-z
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  6. Gauthier, S., Reisberg, B., Zaudig, M., Petersen, R. C., Ritchie, K., Broich, K., Belleville, S., Brodaty, H., Bennett, D., Chertkow, H., Cummings, J. L., de Leon, M., Feldman, H., Ganguli, M., Hampel, H., Scheltens, P., Tierney, M. C., Whitehouse, P., & Winblad, B. (2006). Mild cognitive impairment. The Lancet367(9518), 1262–1270. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(06)68542-5
  7. Sindi, S., Hagman, G., Håkansson, K., Kulmala, J., Nilsen, C., Kåreholt, I., Soininen, H., Solomon, A., & Kivipelto, M. (2016). Midlife work-related stress increases dementia risk in later life: The caide 30-year study. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences.https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbw043
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