Ask the Experts: How can I keep my brain healthy to avoid forgetfulness as I age?

Dr Jack Wong (PhD), research director at BRAND’S Suntory Asia, explains the link between ageing, memory health and what we consume

Some memory decline is normal as you age. However, struggling to perform daily activities may be a sign that you require medical attention. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Why does ageing impact brain health and memory?

Age is one of the major risk factors for memory decline. Structural changes occur in the brain as you age. The brain's overall size starts to shrink in the 30s or 40s, and this might affect cognitive functions.

Cortical density, which refers to the number of connections between neurons, also decreases, and this might lead to slower processing.

Also, research has shown that the ageing brain generates less neurotransmitters - or chemical messengers - such as acetylcholine and GABA, which might negatively impact memory health.

What are common memory-related problems people face?

It is normal to experience a decline in memory as you age, or problems such as a delay in recalling names, dates, appointments or events, or occasionally misplacing documents or objects.

You may also have difficulties in recalling details of a conversation you've just had, or remembering what is on the "tip of your tongue".

What are some indicators that forgetfulness is not linked to age?

Those that begin to interfere with daily activities. These may include not being able to identify close friends or family members, being disoriented even in familiar places, or struggling to carry out routine tasks like driving or showering. In these instances, please seek medical advice immediately.

Memory decline is not experienced only by seniors. Some people may see signs of it from as early as 30 years old, according to some studies. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

How soon could memory decline become a problem for me?

Studies have shown that a person's mental performance can start to decline from as early as at 30, though this should not interfere with daily tasks and activities.

Apart from ageing, what else could lead to memory decline?

Smoking, poor nutrition, anxiety, psychological stress and even a lack of sleep. Some of these risk factors can be managed such as by getting enough sleep, quitting smoking or getting adequate nutrition.

What are some lifestyle habits that could help me improve my memory?

An active lifestyle is associated with better brain health and performance, so get moving. Smoking can accelerate memory problems, so quit to reap the benefits. It may also help to enjoy a healthy diet; eating the right food can help boost overall well-being and memory performance.

At the same time, studies have shown that being socially disengaged is a major risk factor in overall well-being and cognitive decline. So stay connected with family and friends.

Share five things that I can add to my diet to support brain health.

You can consider consuming the following:

  • Green, leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, collards, and broccoli, which are rich in brain-healthy nutrients like vitamin K, lutein, folate, and beta carotene. These plant-based foods may help slow cognitive decline.

  • Fatty fish. Fatty fish are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for healthy functioning of the brain and brain development. Plant-based foods such as sources such as flaxseeds, avocados, and walnuts are also sources of omega-3.

  • Berries. Flavonoids, the natural plant pigments that give berries their brilliant hues, also help improve memory, research shows.

  • Walnuts. Nuts are excellent sources of protein and healthy fats, and walnuts, in particular, might also improve memory. Walnuts are high in a type of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which helps lower blood pressure and protects arteries. That's good for both the heart and brain.

  • Health supplements: BRAND'S MEMO+ contains ProBeptigen, or hydrolysed chicken extract, which is derived from proprietary BRAND'S Essence of Chicken technology. In a clinical study funded by BRAND'S Suntory Asia, it has been suggested that regular dietary supplementation of ProBeptigen could help to support brain health and cognitive functions in six weeks.

Dietary supplement BRAND'S MEMO+ contains ProBeptigen, or hydrolysed chicken extract, which reportedly supports brain health even as you age. PHOTO: BRAND'S Suntory Asia

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