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Memory Loss Treatment and Prevention

Feds & NY challenge Prevagen, which claims to improve memory in seniors

"Clear-cut fraud, from the label on the bottle to the ads," NY attorney general argues

The Federal Trade Commission and New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman have sued dietary supplement maker Quincy Bioscience, LLC, charging that it deceptively markets the widely-sold supplement Prevagen by falsely claiming that it improves memory, despite lacking reliable scientific evidence.

“The marketing for Prevagen is a clear-cut fraud, from the label on the bottle to the ads airing across the country,” said Schneiderman. “It’s particularly unacceptable that this company has targeted vulnerable citizens like seniors in its advertising for a product that costs more than a week’s groceries, but provides none of the health benefits that it claims. Quincy Bioscience must be held accountable for deliberately misleading consumers across the country.”

Quincy Bioscience said it "vehemently disagrees" with the allegations and said the case was "another example of government overreach and regulators extinguishing innovation by imposing arbitrary new rules on small businesses like ours."

“Prevagen is safe. Neither the FTC nor the New York Attorney General has alleged that Prevagen can cause or has caused harm to anyone. And hundreds of thousands people tell us it works and improves their lives," the company's statement said. 

Prevagen, which can cost up to $69 per bottle, is sold at major retailers and pharmacies across the country, including CVS, Walgreens, Rite-Aid, the Vitamin Shoppe, and Amazon. Sales of Prevagen in the United States from 2007 through mid-2015, minus refunds, totaled $165 million.

"Clearer thinking"

In its advertising and product labeling, Quincy Bioscience claims that Prevagen is “clinically shown” to support “clearer thinking” and to “improve memory within 90 days” – yet, the primary support Quincy Bioscience has for these claims is a single study that failed to show a statistically significant improvement in the treatment group over the placebo group on any of the cognitive measures used, Schneiderman said.

Quincy Bioscience developed and marketed Prevagen on the theory that its active ingredient, apoaequorin, a dietary protein, enters the human brain to supplement proteins that are lost during the natural aging process. Yet the complaint charges that Quincy Bioscience lacks any studies showing that this orally-administered protein can cross the human blood brain barrier, and in fact, Quincy’s own studies show that the protein is rapidly digested in the stomach and broken down into amino acids like any other dietary protein.

“The marketers of Prevagen preyed on the fears of older consumers experiencing age-related memory loss,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Yet despite the defendants’ claims, there is no scientific proof that use of the product will improve memory or provide any other cognitive benefit.”

In its statement, which was not attributed to any specific individual, Quincy insisted its product works as claimed.

“Quincy has amassed a large body of evidence that Prevagen improves memory and supports healthy brain function. This evidence includes preclinical rat studies, canine studies, human clinical studies, and, most importantly, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled human clinical testing. This type of testing has long been acknowledged by both the FTC and the FDA to be the ‘gold standard’ for scientific evidence.

The lawsit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and seeks a ban on further false claims about Prevagen, restitution for consumers, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, and civil penalties for violations of state law. 

The Federal Trade Commission and New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman have sued dietary supplement maker Quincy Bioscience, LLC, charging that it deceptively markets the widely-sold supplement Prevagen by falsely claiming that it improves memory, despite lacking reliable scientific evidence.

“The marketing for Prevagen is a clear-cut fraud, from the label on the bottle to the ads airing across the country,” said Schneiderman. “It’s particularly unacceptable tha...

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    Yoga found to improve older adults' health

    University of Illinois study finds yoga helps improve memory function

    In case you haven't noticed, nearly everyone is going to a yoga class. The breathing, stretching and relaxation regimen has always been popular among “New Age” adherents, but lately has gone mainstream in a big way.

    A 2012 study by Yoga Journal counted 20.4 million Americans among those practicing yoga, compared to 15.8 million in the 2008 study. Demographically, yoga practitioners tend to be young and female, but that may be changing.

    Physicians in recent years have begun recommending yoga for male and female patients of all ages. The Mayo Clinic says it can not only reduce stress, but lower blood pressure and improve heart function.

    “Hatha yoga, in particular, may be a good choice for stress management,” Mayo Clinic physicians advise on the Clinic's website. “Hatha is one of the most common styles of yoga, and beginners may like its slower pace and easier movements.”

    Yoga for seniors

    Hatha yoga may, in fact, be a good choice for older adults. Researchers at the University of Illinois found practicing hatha yoga 3 times a week for as few as 8 weeks helped older, sedentary adults think more clearly.

    The researchers tested two groups of seniors – one which engaged in hatha yoga classes and one which took part in simple stretching exercises.

    After 8 weeks the yoga group was noticeably faster and more accurate on tests of information recall, mental flexibility and task-switching than it had been before the classes. The stretching-and-toning group was about the same at the end as it was at the beginning.

    The two groups were balanced in age, gender, social status and other demographic factors so that played no part in the results.

    Good for beginners

    Hatha yoga is an ancient spiritual practice that involves meditation and focused breathing while an individual moves through a series of stylized postures. Neha Gothe, who led the study, says that makes it well-suited to beginners.

    "Hatha yoga requires focused effort in moving through the poses, controlling the body and breathing at a steady rate," Gothe said. "It is possible that this focus on one's body, mind and breath during yoga practice may have generalized to situations outside of the yoga classes, resulting in an improved ability to sustain attention."

    The Mayo Clinic also sees attributes to yoga that make it a helpful exercise for older adults. It can lead to better balance, flexibility, range of motion and strength. That means a senior regularly practicing yoga might be less likely to fall or be injured during other daily activities.

    The Yoga Health Foundation cites studies suggesting yoga can even help patients manage diabetes. The studies showed that practicing yoga improved nerve function in patents' hands.

    Before you start

    It's a good idea talk to your doctor before starting a yoga program if you are over 50 and have any of the following conditions:

    • A herniated disk
    • A risk of blood clots
    • Deconditioned state
    • Eye conditions, including glaucoma
    • Hyperthyroidism
    • Pregnancy
    • Severe balance problems
    • Severe osteoporosis
    • Uncontrolled blood pressure

    There are plenty of books, videos and TV programs that can guide you through the process. However, most people find it more helpful to start with a class led by a qualified instructor.

    In case you haven't noticed, nearly everyone is going to a yoga class. The breathing, stretching and relaxation regimen has always been popular among “New ...

    Researchers: laughter really is the best medicine

    Humor may keep you young and thinking clearly

    Aging can bring with it cognitive decline. Everything from full-blown dementia to those frustrating “senior moments,” when you lose track of your thoughts.

    Researchers have found that stress can be an aggravating factor. It saps both physical and mental energy as we get older.

    It can contribute to high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. Stress releases the hormone cortisol, which can damage brain neurons and make it harder for seniors to learn and remember.

    Damaging cortisol

    But researchers at Loma Linda University have looked deeper into cortisol’s relationship to memory and come up with a novel theory.

    You've heard the expression “laughter is the best medicine?” The researchers take that literally.

    The researchers gathered a group of healthy elderly individuals and a group of elderly people with diabetes and had them watch a 20-minute funny video. At the conclusion both groups completed a memory assessment that measured their learning, recall, and sight recognition.

    Their performance was recorded and compared to a control group of elderly people who did not view the video. Cortisol concentrations for both groups were also recorded at the beginning and end of the experiment.

    Results

    Cortisol concentrations were sharply lower among both groups that watched the video. Perhaps not coincidentally, the senior who watched the video also showed greater improvement in all areas of the memory assessment.

    The seniors with diabetes showed the most dramatic benefit in cortisol level changes. The group of healthy seniors produced the most significant changes in memory test scores.

    Dr. Gurinder Singh Bains, an author of the study, says the results potentially offer an effective and inexpensive addition to wellness programs for the elderly.

    “The cognitive components — learning ability and delayed recall — become more challenging as we age and are essential to older adults for an improved quality of life: mind, body, and spirit,” he said. “Although older adults have age-related memory deficits, complimentary, enjoyable, and beneficial humor therapies need to be implemented for these individuals.”

    The take-away, the researchers say, is seniors can slow memory decline by reducing stress, and laughing is an easy and pleasant way to do that. Not to mention inexpensive.

    History

    Laughter therapy is not exactly new. In the 1970s writer Norman Cousins recovered from a debilitating arthritis, he said, by taking massive amounts of vitamin C and spending several minutes a day laughing at Marx Brothers movies.

    "I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep," he wrote. "When the pain-killing effect of the laughter wore off, we would switch on the motion picture projector again and not infrequently, it would lead to another pain-free interval."

    Previous research

    Previous research has also indicated a link between humor and health. Keith Adams, a British laughter therapist, cites a September 2011 study from from Oxford University, demonstrating that continuous laughter significantly increases people’s pain threshold, by as much as 10%.

    Berk explains it this way; the act of laughter – or simply enjoying some humor – increases the release of endorphins and dopamine in the brain. That, in turn, provides a sense of pleasure and reward.

    These changes make the immune system work better. There are even changes in brain wave activity towards what's called the "gamma wave band frequency", which also amp up memory and recall.

    “So, indeed, laughter is turning out to be not only a good medicine, but also a memory enhancer adding to our quality of life,” Berk said.

    Aging can bring with it cognitive decline. Everything from full-blown dementia to those frustrating “senior moments,” when you lose track of yo...

    Never mind a string around your finger; try rosemary to improve your memory

    A chemical in the fragrant perennial herb can help you remember things

    Say the word “rosemary.” What does it bring to mind -- the girl that got away, a fragrant food seasoning, a Simon and Garfunkel song? The whole point is -- bringing something to mind.

    A new study finds that essential oil of rosemary has an effect on the ability of healthy adults to remember things in the past and even to do things in the future, like taking medication at the right time.

    In addition the study, being presented at the British Psychological Society's annual conference, found the improvement in memory had nothing to do with the participants' mood. That suggests a chemical influence was responsible. The researchers think this could improve the everyday lives of people with age-related memory loss.

    Lengthy track record

    The ties between rosemary and memory and fidelity are well documented. Ancient Egyptians used it in weddings and funeral rituals. Shakespeare knew, too. In "Hamlet," Ophelia points out that rosemary is for “remembrance: pray you, love, remember."

    Other studies had already suggested that compounds in rosemary aroma could improve long-term memory and mental arithmetic, by inhibiting enzymes which block normal brain functioning.

    "We wanted to build on our previous research that indicated rosemary aroma improved long-term memory and mental arithmetic,” said Dr. Mark Moss, who led the study. "We focused on prospective memory, which involves the ability to remember events that will occur in the future and to remember to complete tasks at particular times [which] is critical for everyday functioning."

    Conducting the study

    The researchers divided the 66 participants into two groups and asked them to wait in different rooms -- one of which had been scented with rosemary essential oil.

    The volunteers then completed a series of memory tests -- such things as hiding objects and finding them again later, or passing a specified object to a researcher at a time which had been specified earlier.

    Those assigned to the rosemary-scented room performed better at both types of test. They were also found to have higher levels of 1,8-cineole, a compound found in rosemary oil, in their blood. The compound has previously been shown to influence chemical systems in the body which have an impact on memory.

    "These findings may have implications for treating individuals with memory impairments,” said Jemma McCready, a research intern who carried out the study."Remembering when and where to go and for what reasons underpins everything we do, and we all suffer minor failings that can be frustrating and sometimes dangerous. Further research is needed to investigate if this treatment is useful for older adults who have experienced memory decline.”

    Say the word “rosemary.” What does it bring to mind -- the girl that got away, a fragrant food seasoning, a Simon and Garfunkel song? The whole point is --...

    Drinking Cocoa Could be Good for Your Brain

    It may not be just a 'comfort food'

    You like hot chocolate? Guess what -- it likes you.

    New new research in the American Heart Association's journal Hypertension finds that consuming cocoa flavanols daily may improve mild cognitive impairment.

    Each year, more than six percent of people 70 or older develop mild cognitive impairment -- a condition involving memory loss that can progress to dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

    Flavanol factor

    Flavanols, naturally occurring antioxidants, can be found in tea, grapes, red wine, apples and cocoa products and have been associated with a decreased risk of dementia.

    They may act on the brain structure and function directly by protecting neurons from injury, improving metabolism and their interaction with the molecular structure responsible for memory researchers said. Indirectly, flavanols may help by improving brain blood flow.

    In this study, 90 elderly participants with mild cognitive impairment were randomized to drink daily either 990 milligrams (high), 520 mg (intermediate) or 45 mg (low) of a dairy-based cocoa flavanol drink for eight weeks. The diet was restricted to eliminate other sources of flavanols from foods and beverages other than the dairy-based cocoa drink.

    Cognitive function was examined by neuro-psychological tests of executive function, working memory, short-term memory, long-term episodic memory, processing speed and global cognition.

    Researchers found:

    • Scores significantly improved in the ability to relate visual stimuli to motor responses, working memory, task-switching and verbal memory for those drinking the high and intermediate flavanol drinks.
    • Participants drinking daily higher levels of flavanol drinks had significantly higher overall cognitive scores than those participants drinking lower-levels.
    • Insulin resistance, blood pressure and oxidative stress also decreased in those drinking high and intermediate levels of flavanols daily. Changes in insulin resistance explained about 40 percent of the composite scores for improvements in cognitive functioning.

    Encouraging evidence

    "This study provides encouraging evidence that consuming cocoa flavanols, as a part of a calorie-controlled and nutritionally-balanced diet, could improve cognitive function," said Giovambattista Desideri, M.D., study lead author and director of Geriatric Division, Department of Life, Health and Environmental Sciences, University of L'Aquila in Italy. "The positive effect on cognitive function may be mainly mediated by an improvement in insulin sensitivity. It is yet unclear whether these benefits in cognition are a direct consequence of cocoa flavanols or a secondary effect of general improvements in cardiovascular function."

    The study population was generally in good health without known cardiovascular disease. Thus, it would not be completely representative of all mild cognitive impairment patients. In addition, only some clinical features of mild cognitive impairment were explored in the study.

    "Given the global rise in cognitive disorders, which have a true impact on an individual's quality of life, the role of cocoa flavanols in preventing or slowing the progression of mild cognitive impairment to dementia warrants further research," Desideri said. "Larger studies are needed to validate the findings, figure out how long the positive effects will last and determine the levels of cocoa flavanols required for benefit."

    You like hot chocolate? Guess what -- it likes you....

    Don't Worry About Momentary Memory Lapses

    A majority of seniors often struggle to remember things, researchers say

    If you are between 62 and 95 and sometimes struggle to recall a word that's "on the tip of your tongue," don't sweat it. New research from the University of Michigan (UM) suggests it's normal.

    In fact, in a study of 105 healthy, highly-educated older adults, 61 percent reported this memory mishap.

    To reach its conclusions, the study had participants complete a checklist of the memory errors made in the last 24 hours, as well as several other tests. About half the participants reported making other errors that may be related to absent-mindedness, such as having to reread a sentence because they forgot what it said, or forgetting where they placed an item.

    Brain-training

    Researchers hope to use the results to design programs to brain-train people to overcome memory problems they experience as a part of daily life.

    "Right now, many training programs focus on the age differences in memory and thinking that we see in laboratory studies," said Cindy Lustig, UM psychology professor and the study's senior author. "However, those may not translate to the performance failures that are most common in everyday life."

    The study uncovered an interesting occurrence. In a lab setting young adults usually showed better memory function than their elders. But in a real-world setting, older adults sometimes outperform young adults at things like remembering appointments because the former are likely to use memory supports such as calendars, lists and alarms.

    Not a sign of Alzheimer's

    Lustig cautioned that an elderly person occasionally forgetting a name does not mean he's in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease or other dementia.

    "Everybody forgets," she said. "However, our findings suggest that certain types of memory errors may be especially important to monitor for increases, which then should be discussed with a clinician."

    Lustig said future research should identify how people change their lives to avoid errors. If people restrict their activities to avoid memory errors, it could affect their independence.

    If you are between 62 and 95 and sometimes struggle to recall a word that's "on the tip of your tongue," don't sweat it. New Research from the University o...

    Increase In Memory Loss May Signal Impending Death

    Researchers say memory decline accelerates a couple of years before death

    When an elderly person begins losing their memory at a noticeably faster rate, it may mean they are in the last years of life.

    New research finds that a person’s memory declines at a faster rate in the two- and-a-half years before death than at any other time after memory problems first begin. A second study shows that keeping mentally fit through board games or reading may be the best way to preserve memory during late life.

    Both studies are published in the online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

    Small study

    The results are based on a relatively small study. For the study, 174 Catholic priests, nuns and monks without memory problems had their memory tested yearly for six to 15 years before death. After all the test subjects had died, scientists examined their brains for hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease called plaques and tangles.

    “In our first study, we used the end of life as a reference point for research on memory decline rather than birth or the start of the study,” said study author Robert S. Wilson, PhD, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

    The study found that at an average of about two-and-a-half years before death, different memory and thinking abilities tended to decline together at rates that were eight to 17 times faster than before this terminal period.

    Higher levels of plaques and tangles were linked to an earlier onset of this terminal period but not to rate of memory decline during it.

    Staying mentally fit

    The second study, also conducted by Wilson, focused on mental activities and involved 1,076 people with an average age of 80 who were free of dementia. Participants underwent yearly memory exams for about five years.

    They reported how often they read the newspaper, wrote letters, visited a library and played board games such as chess or checkers. Frequency of these mental activities was rated on a scale of one to five, one meaning once a year or less and five representing every day or almost every day.

    The results showed that people’s participation in mentally stimulating activities and their mental functioning declined at similar rates over the years. The researchers also found that they could predict participants’ level of cognitive functioning by looking at their level of mental activity the year before but that level of cognitive functioning did not predict later mental activity.

    “The results suggest a cause and effect relationship: that being mentally active leads to better cognitive health in old age,” said Wilson.

    When an elderly person begins losing their memory at a noticeably faster rate, it may mean they are in the last years of life.New research finds that a p...

    Researchers Say Memory Loss Can Begin As Early As 45

    Treatment needs to begin sooner, study suggests

    The popular image of someone suffering from dementia is a gray-haired senior citizen, but recent studies suggest the process of memory loss begins much sooner.

    While some recent studies concluded that there was little evidence of cognitive decline before the age of 60, British researchers say the presence of amyloid plaques in the brain, one of the things associated with memory loss, has been detected in young adults.

    A study at Inserm and the University College London studies nearly 7,300 men and women between the ages of 45 and 70. The subjects were monitored for ten years.

    As expected, the results show that cognitive performance declines with age and more rapidly so as the individual's age increases. The decline is significant in each age group.

    For example, during the period studied, reasoning scores decreased by 3.6 % for men aged between 45 and 49, and 9.6 % for those aged between 65 and 70. The corresponding figures for women stood at 3.6% and 7.4% respectively.

    Significant consequences

    The authors stress that evidence pointing to cognitive decline before the age of 60 has significant consequences.

    "Determining the age at which cognitive decline begins is important since behavioral or pharmacological interventions designed to change cognitive aging trajectories are likely to be more effective if they are applied from the onset of decline." said Archana Singh-Manoux, one of the authors.

    The study concludes that some patients should begin treatment for Alzheimer's disease and other cognitive impairments at an earlier age.

    The issue is a significant one since the large Baby Boom generation is now entering its senior years. As many as 10 million Baby Boomers will die of Alzheimer's, according to some estimates.

    Researchers say memory loss can begin as early as 45...

    Med Helps Depressed Seniors Stay Sharp

    Study shows donepezil helps improve cognition

    Depressed older adults with mild cognitive impairment in areas such as language, memory and executive functioning showed improvements  when they were treated with the dementia medication donepezil.

    “Cognitive impairment is a core feature of depression in older adults and may foreshadow the development of dementia,” says Charles Reynolds, the study’s lead author and a professor of geriatric psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh. “While treatment of depression usually benefits associated cognitive impairment, it does not completely regulate cognitive impairment and may not delay the progression to dementia.

    Even in remission, older adults with past depression may still show residual cognitive difficulties, such as slowing of information processing speed and impairments in executive or language function. "Our study showed that by adding donepezil, cognition can be improved beyond that which is seen simply with the treatment of depression itself,” Reynolds said.

    Med vs. placebo

    For the study -- which is published in the current issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry -- researchers compared 130 depressed adults over the age of 65, with 67 receiving donepezil, marketed under the trade name Aricept and 63 receiving a placebo.

    The participants were followed for two years while researchers explored the effects of donepezil and placebo on five areas of neuropsychological functioning, including speed of information processing, memory, language, visuospatial functioning, and executive functioning, or brain processes that are responsible for planning and abstract thinking.

    Surprises

    The researchers noted two unexpected findings: Donepezil seemed to delay the progression of mild cognitive impairment to frank dementia; and the use of the drug was associated with somewhat higher recurrence rates of clinical depression episodes.

    “So, there was both a benefit and a risk to adding donepezil to antidepressant pharmacotherapy in older adults," according to Reynlods. "Fortunately, the majority of recurrent depressive episodes could be treated to remission.”

    Adding donepezil to maintenance antidepressant medication appears to be useful to the care of older, depressed patients with mild cognitive impairment but does not benefit those with normal cognition. The researchers stress that clinicians should watch for early signs of any depressive relapse and treat as needed.

    Researchers from the University of Toronto, Washington University in St. Louis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of Virginia contributed to the study, which was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health.

    Med Helps Depressed Seniors Stay Sharp Study shows donepezil helps improve cognition ...

    Walking, Eating Celery May Ward Off Memory Loss

    New research shows healthy diet, lifestyle helps keep cognitive abilities intact

     Simply walking every day could help you retain more of your memory function later in life, according to a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh. However, it means doing a lot of walking.

    Kirk I. Erickson, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh and lead author of the study, says walking six miles a week could help the brain retain its size as individuals age. The study followed 299 older people who kept track of their walking distances.

     After a nine-year period, the subjects underwent brain scans to measure brain size. They were also tested for Alzheimer's disease and other forms of memory impairment, from mild to severe. Those who walked at least six miles each week were found to have more brain mass than those who walked less.

     Erickson says the findings are encouraging because they point to simple, inexpensive steps individuals can take to ward off dementia.

    "Just by walking regularly, and so maintaining a little bit of moderate physical activity, you can reduce your likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease and spare brain tissue," he said.

    Celery, peppers and carrots

    Other recent research points to additional easy steps to maintain memory function. Researchers writing in the Journal of Nutrition report a diet rich in the plant compound luteolin reduces age-related inflammation in the brain and related memory deficits by directly inhibiting the release of inflammatory molecules in the brain, researchers report.

    Luteolin is found in many plants, including carrots, peppers, celery, olive oil, peppermint, rosemary and chamomile.

    The researchers focused on microglial cells, specialized immune cells that reside in the brain and spinal cord. Infections stimulate microglia to produce signaling molecules, called cytokines, which spur a cascade of chemical changes in the brain.

    Some of these signaling molecules, the inflammatory cytokines, induce "sickness behavior": the sleepiness, loss of appetite, memory deficits and depressive behaviors that often accompany illness.

    Inflammation

    "We found previously that during normal aging, microglial cells become dysregulated and begin producing excessive levels of inflammatory cytokines," said University of Illinois animal sciences professor Rodney Johnson. "We think this contributes to cognitive aging and is a predisposing factor for the development of neurodegenerative diseases."

    Johnson has spent nearly a decade studying the anti-inflammatory properties of nutrients and various bioactive plant compounds, including luteolin. Previous studies - by Johnson's lab and others - have shown that luteolin has anti-inflammatory effects in the body. This is the first study to suggest, however, that luteolin improves cognitive health by acting directly on the microglial cells to reduce their production of inflammatory cytokines in the brain.

    By walking regularly and eating the right foods, you may be able to hold onto your "gray matter" longer...

    How to Keep Your Brain in Shape

    12 ways Boomers can strengthen our minds to avoid those 'senior moments'


    Has this ever happened to you? Youre looking for something but suddenly you forget what youre looking for. Or you put down your car keys, but you cant remember where.

    Or how about this? You begin a conversation and halfway through you cant remember what you were talking about. Or you meet someone at a party that you know youve met many times before, but suddenly you draw blank on his or her name.

    Often, we jokingly refer to these experiences as senior moments. But as we get older and these moments become more frequent, its no longer very funny. It can be downright embarrassing or, worse, a foretelling of dementia or serious memory loss that may lie ahead.

    Anyone who has seen a parent or loved one battle with Alzheimers or any of the other forms of dementia that eat away at our ability to remember knows firsthand just how very sad and debilitating these diseases can be.

    Such diseases are becoming more prevalent as our population ages. According to the Alzheimers Association, 13% of those over the age of 65, or one in eight people, have Alzheimers -- and an estimated 16% of women and 11% of men have dementia over the age of 71. (Although rare, there is also something known as early-onset Alzheimers which, according to researcher Glenn E. Smith, affects an estimated 200,000 in the United States under the age of 65 with the majority of cases occurring during someones 50s).

    Temporary forgetfulness

    Heres some good news for Boomers who have those senior moments. Paul David Nussbaum, Ph.D. is a Pittsburgh-based clinical neuropsychologist who has been researching brain health and caring for those with dementia and related disorders for more than twenty years and who is author of Save Your Brain: 5 Things You Must Do to Keep Your Mind Young and Sharp (McGraw-Hill, 2010). He calls those senior moments temporary forgetfulness.

    He says that when those instantaneous memory losses occur, its usually due to stress caused by trying to do too much all at once, hormonal changes that occur naturally around the fifties, and perhaps mood fluctuations related to changes in life circumstances.

    If the problem is severe, Nussbaum recommends you could get a neuropsychological assessment at a well-regarded academic medical center. But for most, those embarrassing occasional memory losses are not the precursor of the kind of dementia that robs someone of his or her life story as Nussbaum calls it.

    Brain health movement

    Still, those moments are a wake-up call that you need to put more time and energy into your brain. Nussbaum is part of what is known as the brain health movement. This is a movement that advocates taking a proactive approach to making lifestyle choices that will at least lower our risk of future brain disease.

    The Alzheimers Association and the medical community are quick to point out that genetics and aging itself are two factors we simply cannot control that put us at risk for Alzheimers and other dementias. However, in this column Im going to focus on those factors we can control.

    Plasticity of the brain

    In bygone days, it was believed that we were born with a certain number of brain cells and that was it. But starting in the 1990s, scientific discoveries confirmed that we can actually generate new brain cells. How do we do it? We have to actively work on having a brain with plasticity.

    What is plasticity? Nussbaum says its a brain that is dynamic, constantly recognizing, and malleable. In that way, we can also build up brain reserve, which, as Nussbaum says, could lead to better memory processing, better moods, more energy, and more efficient thinking. He says that brain reserve will, later on, make us better equipped to at least delay when or if dementia strikes.

    Researchers have discovered there are ways to improve brain function as pointed out in The Healthy Brain Initiative. This study contends that what contributes to a healthy heart also contributes to a healthy brain. (See also "Heart Health for Boomers."

    In his book, Nussbaum identifies five concerns that he calls critical areas for improving brain health:

    • Socialization;
    • Physical activity;
    • Mental stimulation;
    • Spirituality;
    • Nutrition.

    In researching how to have a healthier brain, I found twelve top ways (many of which overlap with Nussbaums five critical areas) to enhance the plasticity of your brain, to build brain reserve, and to at least slow down the onset of dementia in later years:

    1. Exercise. By boosting blood flow to the brain, exercise seems to be the number one factor in keeping your brain healthy. The American Geriatrics Society (AGS) recommends exercising on a regular basis or at least for thirty minutes, three times a week. Suggested exercise options include walking, gardening, swimming, cycling, or dancing.

    2. Engage in activities that stimulate the brain like reading books, newspapers, or magazines, taking part in crafts, or exploring new information on the Internet.

    3. Keep your mind challenged through word games and crossword puzzles. (Michel Noir, Ph.D. and Bernard Croisile, M.D., Ph.D. provide 301 easy, medium, and hard puzzles for building your brain plasticity in their series of brain-building exercise books including Beef Up Your Brain (McGraw-Hill, 2009).

    4. Limit TV viewing to fewer than 7 hours a day. (See also Do Soaps & Talk Shows Dull The Brain?)

    5. Eat a well-balanced diet that is filled with vegetables, fruits, sufficient protein, B vitamins, and high in omega-3 fatty acids and not saturated fats.

    6. Stop smoking.

    7. Consider if the prescription drugs you are taking combine to have a memory loss consequence and ask your physician to adjust accordingly.

    8. Stay hydrated. Drink a lot of water.

    9. Reduce stress in your life. As Paul E. Bendheim, M.D., author of The Brain Training Revolution (Sourcebooks, 2009), notes, stress in moderation can actually improve your short-term memory. He writes, Think of how the pressure and sense of urgency of an impending deadline improves your focus, concentration, and efficiency. However, there is also a different kind of stress that damages memory. High chronic stress levels are unhealthy and have been shown to damage the hippocampus [part of the brain] and thus impair memory and learning, Bendheim continues.

    10. Get enough sleep. If you get less sleep because youre stressed, it will usually have a negative impact on your concentrateionand memory. Anyone who has ever pulled an all-nighter in school knows that too little sleep tends to mess up your memory and brain functioning. It also makes you more vulnerable to drowsy driving which can lead to an increased possibility of an accident or fatalities if you fall asleep at the wheel (or even to accidents at work).

    11. Do something fresh and challenging. Dr. Nussbaum says the best way to build up those brain reserves is to do something that is new and hard. Stimulate that cortex with the novel and the complex One way to accomplish that? Travel says Nussbaum. It promotes brain health by exposing your brain to a new environment. Using the hand that is not your dominant hand is another way of doing something novelif you are a rightie brush your teeth with your left hand or trying teaching yourself to write with your other hand; learning a second or third language is another challenge to build up brain reserve.

    12. Stay connected socially. Connect with family or friends on a regular basis. If you are still working, make sure you reach out to your connections through work. If you are retired and no longer working and feeling too isolated, consider a part-time job, getting active in any of the associations or community groups you belong to, or doing volunteer work to get more socially connected.

    10 Warning Signs of Alzheimers

    Still worried that your occasional forgetfulness is the sign of something far worse? Here are the ten warning signs of Alzheimers Disease, according to the University of South Florida Byrd Alzheimers Institute:

    • Recent memory loss that affects your job skills;
    • Difficult performing familiar tasks;
    • Problems with language;
    • Disorientation of time and place;
    • Poor or decreased judgment;
    • Problems with abstract thinking;
    • Misplacing things;
    • Changes in mood or behavior;
    • Changes in personality;
    • Loss of initiative.

    These symptoms for Alzheimers are a far cry from occasionally misplacing your car keys. Fortunately research is showing that you can impact on how healthy your brain is or at least those factors that are not caused by genetics or advancing age. With science and technology partnering to help us all live a lot longer, keeping our brains as healthy as possible should be one of our top priorities.

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    How to Keep Your Brain in Shape...

    Study: Ginkgo Biloba Doesn't Slow Cognitive Decline

    Widely used supplement not effective in reducing dementia

    Lots of older adults who purchase the herbal supplement Ginkgo biloba, in hopes it will keep them mentally sharp, may be wasting their money. That's the finding of researchers reporting their results in the latest issue of the Journal of American Medicine.

    "Ginkgo biloba is marketed widely and used with the hope of improving, preventing, or delaying cognitive impairment associated with aging and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer disease," the authors write. "Indeed, in the United States and particularly in Europe, Gingko biloba is perhaps the most widely used herbal treatment consumed specifically to prevent age-related cognitive decline."

    However, evidence from large clinical trials regarding its effect on long-term cognitive functioning is lacking.

    Beth E. Snitz, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues analyzed outcomes from the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory (GEM) study to determine if Gingko biloba slowed the rate of cognitive decline in older adults who had normal cognition or mild cognitive impairment at the beginning of the study.

    The GEM study previously found that Gingko biloba was not effective in reducing the incidence of Alzheimer dementia or dementia overall. The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial included 3,069 community-dwelling participants, ages 72 to 96 years, who received a twice-daily dose of 120-mg extract of Gingko biloba or identical-appearing placebo.

    The study was conducted at six academic medical centers in the United States between 2000 and 2008, with a median (midpoint) follow-up of 6.1 years. Change in cognition was assessed by various tests and measures.

    In this study, the largest randomized controlled trial of Gingko biloba to report on outcomes to date, the researchers said they found no evidence for an effect of Gingko biloba on global cognitive change and no evidence of effect on specific cognitive domains of memory, language, attention, visuospatial abilities and executive functions.

    They also found no evidence for differences in treatment effects by age, sex, race, education or baseline cognitive status.

    "In sum, we find no evidence that Gingko biloba slows the rate of cognitive decline in older adults. These findings are consistent with previous smaller studies examining prevention of decline and facilitation of cognitive performance and with the 2009 Cochrane review of Gingko biloba for dementia and cognitive impairment."



    Study: Ginkgo Biloba Doesn't Slow Cognitive Decline...

    Rote Learning Improves Memory in Seniors

    Maybe memorizing lists isn't as worthless as we thought

    A new study offers older adults a simple way to combat memory loss: memorization.

    Researchers found that seniors who engaged in an intensive period of rote learning followed by an equally long rest period exhibited improved memory and verbal recall, according to a study was presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

    "We didnt see an immediate improvement following the intensive memorization period," said Jonathan McNulty, B.Sc., H.Dip., of Diagnostic Imaging at the School of Medicine and Medical Science, University College Dublin in Ireland. "However, after a six-week rest, the volunteers manifested both metabolic changes in the brain and improved memory performance."

    As people age, they often begin to experience forgetfulness and may have difficulty learning new material. Approximately 40 percent of people over age 60 have some kind of memory difficulty.

    Mild, age-related memory loss is caused by the loss of brain cells over time, along with changes in brain chemistry. The researchers studied how repeated cognitive exercise impacts memory and recall, as well as the health of brain cells involved in memory.

    The study involved 24 healthy older adults between the ages of 55 and 70. The volunteers engaged in six weeks of intensive rote learning, memorizing a newspaper article or poem of 500 words, followed by six weeks of rest.

    An extensive battery of learning and memory tests was administered before and after the six-week learning period. Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), a special type of magnetic resonance imaging, was performed on half of the volunteers before and after the intensive learning session, and again six weeks later.

    MRS was used to measure changes in N-acetylaspartate, creatine and choline, three metabolites in the brain that are related to memory performance and neural cell health.

    At the end of the six-week learning session, no changes in the brain metabolism or memory performance were observed. But following the rest period, all of the volunteers experienced improvements in their verbal and episodic memory -- they were better able to remember and repeat a short story and a list of words and to recall events that occurred earlier in the day or week.

    These behavioral changes correlated with metabolic changes identified by MRS in the left posterior hippocampus, a memory-related brain structure.

    "Unlike other studies on memory involving specific training regimes, memorizing is an everyday activity that anyone can undertake," said co-author Richard Roche, Ph.D., of the Department of Psychology at National University of Ireland in Maynooth. "The brain is like a muscle that should be exercised through the retirement years as a defense against dementia, cognitive lapses and memory failure."



    Rote Learning Improves Memory in Seniors...