Are your older patients finding it more difficult to concentrate or focus on daily work tasks and maintain their cognitive level?
If so, odds are good that they are feeling the effects of long-term stress and isolation as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This is even more frustrating if they are already showing cognitive level decline with either dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
They may already be disoriented and uncertain, particularly if they are in a nursing home setting. The 24/7 news coverage of the pandemic, lockdown orders that prevent visits from family and other loved ones, and mask requirements that they may not understand, can all combine to make an already difficult situation potentially catastrophic.
Fortunately, there has been research into several antioxidants, showing benefits in terms of cognitive function for seniors. Such supplements may prove particularly helpful during this current pandemic. Read further to find out more about how you can help your older patients protect their cognitive function during this current pandemic.
Cognitive level: how does age affect brain function?
Attention span and concentration will often naturally decline with age. This is partly due to narrowing blood vessels in the brain, which reduces the supply of oxygen and nutrients necessary for maintaining full cognitive function. This shortage of fuel for the brain can become evident in the form of memory problems, mood swings, difficulty concentrating and a shorter attention span.
A 2008 review article in Expert Opinion on Investigational Drugs discussed the role of free radicals in early Alzheimer’s disease and how natural oxidants may overcome memory loss, cognitive decline, and lowered attention span and concentration.1
Curcumin is the main active ingredient in the spice known as turmeric. Curcumin is one of the most prized medicinal herbs within the Ayurvedic medicinal tradition and has been used to treat numerous health conditions, ranging from skin rashes to gastrointestinal issues. It also works as a powerful antioxidant.
A 2018 article in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry reported on the effects of curcumin supplements for study subjects with mild memory loss.2 A group of 40 older study subjects received either a placebo or a 90-mg curcumin supplement to take twice a day. PET scans were taken of subjects’ brains to look for amyloid plaque accumulations and tau tangles, both of which are associated with ongoing memory and cognition loss from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.2
At the end of the 18-month study, the curcumin group showed an improvement of almost 30 % more than the placebo group in both memory and attention skills. Furthermore, the PET scans for the curcumin group showed significantly fewer amyloid plaque accumulations and tau tangles, indicating that the progression of memory and cognitive level loss was slower than for the placebo subjects.2
Odds are good that your older patients are already taking fish oil supplements as part of their cardiovascular health routine. If so, they are already on the right track in terms of protecting themselves against cognitive decline.
A 2015 article in Alzheimer’s & Dementia reported the results from a study examining whether or not fish oil can protect the brain against cognitive decline and atrophy, not only for patients with mild impairment or Alzheimer’s disease, but also for older individuals without any signs of cognitive level impairment.3
Medical records for 229 cognitively healthy subjects, 397 subjects with mild cognitive impairment, and 193 Alzheimer’s patients were examined to determine the effect that fish oil supplements may have had on cognitive decline and brain atrophy. For all study subjects, taking fish oil supplements appeared to slow cognitive decline and atrophy of the brain, particularly in the hippocampus and cerebral cortex.3
Dealing with the effects of the current pandemic is stressful for everyone, but it can be harder for seniors who are already struggling with their cognitive level and attention issues. Fortunately, fish oil supplements may help protect these vulnerable individuals.
- Mancuso C, Bates T, Butterfield D. Natural antioxidants in Alzheimer’s disease. Expert Opinion on Investigational Drugs. 2008;16:1921-1931.
- Small GW, Siddarth P, Zhaoping L, et al. (2018). Memory and brain amyloid and tau effects of a bioavailable form of curcumin in non-demented adults: A double-blind, placebo-controlled 18-month trial. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. 2018;26(3):266-277.
- Dysken MW, Sano M, Asthana S, et al. Effect of vitamin E and memantine on functional decline in Alzheimer disease: The TEAM-AD VA cooperative randomized trial. JAMA. 2014;311(1):33-44.