With the increase of mild to severe cognitive disorders and maladies such as dementia, people strive to find ways to stave off mental and memory decline – many turning to the use of vitamin and herbal supplements like gingko biloba and omega-3 fish oil.
Mild cognitive impairment affects up to 25 percent of people over age 70 and is rarely detected in those under 60, unless brain trauma is involved. Dementia is a loss of brain function that often occurs with a comorbidity of diseases like Huntington’s, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s where the cells of the brain are damaged. The condition can also be the result of head injuries.
Memory, language, judgment, reasoning, planning, and behavior and personality are affected with cognitive disorders. In most cases, mental decline is degenerative, worsening over time.
Several studies have suggested taking brain boosting supplements and engaging in brain training in hopes of improving mental acuity, establishing new neural pathways through learning or stimulating circulation.
Although supplements have been found to have circulatory benefits in the brain, new research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) states they do little to improve mental keenness in the long term, finding the evidence to the contrary weak at best.
Dr. Raza Naqvi, of the division of geriatric medicine at the University of Toronto (Canada), St Michael’s Hospital, and study co-authors analyzed 32 separate clinical studies associated with supplementation and mental health involving 25,000 patients dating back to the 1960s.
Based on the results Naqvi suggested, “Future studies should address the impact of cognitive training on the prevention of cognitive decline, and we encourage researchers to consider easily accessible tools such as crossword puzzles and Sudoku that have not been rigorously studied.”
Previous research at Harvard determined dietary antioxidants such as beta-carotene and vitamin E did not significantly reduce the risks of developing progressive neurological conditions like dementia and stroke.
The strongest evidence reviewed by Naqvi’s team pointed to mental exercises, using computerized brain-training games or intensive one-on-one personal memory training, as the most beneficial in comparison. Thus, brain games such as crosswords and sudoku may be a more effective way of staving off memory decline as an inexpensive alternative to computer games.
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