The decline in our ability to quickly recall names, dates and other memorized facts is known as Age-Associated Memory Impairment (AAMI). It is due to chemical changes in die brain cells as well as a general shrinkage of brain mass—a phenomenon that occurs in everybody, starting at about age 40.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that, unlike Alzheimer’s Disease (which strikes a relatively small percentage of people and is largely untreatable in its later stages), AAMI can be minimized and/or delayed indefinitely. How? Through a mix of mental and physical exercises combined with daily supplements of a remarkable compound called phosphatidylserine—more commonly
referred to as PS.
What is PS?
Derived from soy, phosphatidylserine is the only medication that’s been proven to reverse age-related memory loss in clinical studies. Best of all, this compound—which has been used for years in Europe —is now available as a food supplement in the US and can be purchased over the counter.
How it works: PS is a phospholipid—a natural fat that is present in every cell membrane of the body. PS occurs in much higher concentrations in brain cells than elsewhere, and it is essential for memory and other higher brain functions.
When consumed as a dietary supplement, PS will act within minutes to literally bathe and rejuvenate brain cells—increasing the activity of receptors on the cell surface and stimulating the production and release of various neurotransmitters, including acetylcholine, norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine. While small amounts of PS are found in rice, fish, soy and green leafy vegetables, these sources can’t provide enough PS to “jump-start” aging brain cells. That’s why supplements of PS are recommended as the first and most important step in preventing or minimizing AAMI.
Note: There is some evidence that PS supplements can produce marginal improvements in people with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.
Getting on The Program
Take a daily supplement of PS.
The recommended dosage of PS supplements will vary according to age and degree of memory impairment. For people in their 40s or 50s who have not yet experienced significant memory loss, 100 mg a day is enough to stave off AAMI.
For people who have already experienced notable memory impairment, a dose of 200 mg to 300 mg a day is recommended for 30 days —taken in separate doses of 100 mg each, two or three times a day. This higher dose will allow the PS to saturate cell membranes.
After 30 days, many can maintain the memory-enhancing effect by switching to 100 mg a day. People with severe AAMI, however, may wish to continue taking the 200 mg to 300 mg daily dosage.
Where to buy: You can buy PS in a pill or gel capsule at some pharmacies or most health food stores. Cost: About $30 per month.
Exercise your mind.
By challenging your brain, you can make new neuronal connections at any age. Suggested exercises for maximizing your memory:
- Make a conscious effort to memorize one list of items each day. Do word games, mind teasers or puzzles on a regular basis.Examples: Learn a new word every day, put together a jigsaw puzzle, read a poem and mentally illustrate each line, or write your full name on a piece of paper, then make up a sentence or two, using words that begin with each letter of your name (for Tom Crook, I might write “The old man calls regularly only on Kate”).
- Try associating items you need to remember with humorous images or bright colors. “Linking” two items together can help.Example: If Belinda needs to buy cat food and then stop by the dry cleaners to pick up a coat, she might imagine her cat sitting on her coat and getting hairs on it.
- Before you watch your favorite television show, make a list of a dozen questions that will test your memory. After the show is over, see how well you can answer your list of questions.Examples: What are the names of the characters in the show? How many locations were shown?
Build a “memory bank”
by keeping a daily journal and saving postcards, mementos, etc. Review your “deposits” regularly.
Look after your health.
Age-related memory loss is hastened by poor diet and other health problems. To protect your memory.
- Moderate your drinking. Consuming more than a couple of drinks a day is believed to hasten the brain’s aging.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking reduces the brain’s oxygen supply by lowering the oxygen-carrying ability of red blood cells and reducing overall cerebral blood flow.
- Prevent the deterioration of brain cells caused by free radicals by taking daily supplements of the antioxidants vitamin E and vitamin C. It’s important that vitamin E be derived from soy rather than synthetic sources. Dosage should be about 400 IU per day. The average multivitamin contains sufficient vitamin C. A recently published 22-year study showed that high blood levels of antioxidants in people 65 or older are associated with better memory.
- Eat a healthful diet low in saturated fats and high in carbohydrates, including plenty of fruits and vegetables. In addition, eat fish two or three times a week for the omega-3 fatty acids it contains—or take at least 250 mg of fish-oil capsules daily, along with a meal.
- Take a daily multivitamin, including the full complex of B vitamins.
Change how you handle stress.
If you’re worried by stress, the negative emotions involved will interfere with your ability to learn and remember. Instead, make a conscious decision to manage stress.
- Deep breathing. Resolve to take a few minutes to breathe deeply whenever worry sets in.
- Relax. Develop a favorite way of relaxing when you feel stressed out. This might be yoga, stretching, listening to music, walking outdoors, meditation or visualizing yourself in a relaxing setting.
- Sleep. Be sure to get sufficient sleep, since chronic sleep deprivation actually impairs the brain’s ability to revise and store memory, which happens while you sleep.
- Get regular aerobic exercise. Going for a walk, swim or bike ride for 45 minutes, four times a week, boasts more than just your physical health. Studies have shown that exercise enhances all mental functions, including memory, and decreases stress and depression—both of which interfere with memory in various ways.
Keep a positive attitude.
If you believe you can improve your memory, you can.
One recent study found that people’s attitudes about the impact of aging on their intellect correlated directly with how frequently (or infrequently) they forgot key pieces of information.
As you follow the other steps outlined above, repeat to yourself, “/ believe I can remember better than before.” Like the little engine that could, you’ll find that by refusing to accept a lower level of cognitive functioning, you’ll automatically increase your ability to remember.
Thomas Crook III, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, memory researcher and president of Psychologix, Inc., in Annapolis, MD. He is an author of more than 200 scientific publications and coauthor of The Memory• Cure—The Safe, Scientifically Proven Breakthrough That Can Slow, Halt, or Even Reverse Age-Related Memory Loss.