- Why can’t my grandfather remember my name anymore?
- This toxic protein peptide that will destroy your memory and alter your communication skills. The bad news is it’s already in your brain
- Is there any hope for those already in the clutches of memory disorder? Science seems to think so.
“I see you still have my initials on your arm.”
“Oh, uhhh… Aren’t those my initials?”
“They are mine too. Remember?”
“Ummm. Yeah, that’s right. Natalie… hmm… Anabell… Moore? That’s your name?”
This is a conversation I had with my grandfather on Thanksgiving Day.
Here’s the back story…
When my grandfather was in World War II, he had his initials, which are N.A.M., tattooed on his forearm.
He never told me his real reasoning for getting the tattoo, except that he was young and “that’s just what soldiers did.”
Coincidently, he and I have the same initials. My middle name is actually Ann. Annabell is my grandmother’s name. And when I was a child, he would tell me he had my initials tattooed on him because I was his only granddaughter.
A picture of my grandfather’s tattoo that has faded just like his memory.
I believed this version of the story up until somewhere around age 10 — that’s when he decided to finally come clean and I was able to put together that we had the same initials.
Even though he told me the truth, he and I still thought of his tattoo as something special only we shared. We would often joke about it or reference it when one of my brothers contested he was his favorite grandchild.
My grandfather is now 90 years old.
And up until this year, we were always able to communicate easily without stress or embarrassment, joke about past experiences, and even make plans for the future.
I will admit over the last two decades, I have seen a gradual decline in his memory. He would occasionally ask for help with certain details but could usually find his way through a story or memory.
These days, he has a hard time remembering dates, details, names, and events and often struggles to communicate clearly — even with his wife of nearly 70 years. He often seems anxious, and I worry that he might be depressed.
This year, instead of helping friends and family decorate the house for Christmas (a tradition he used to love), he chose the company of my parents’ dog.
In fact, he even totally isolated himself and the dog by sitting on the back porch, away from where we were all gathered.
This is not normal behavior for the man who used to love to tell me his outlandish stories about his fishing adventures or his tall tales about hunting for pirate treasure. It all just seemed to happen so suddenly. Even last year, he helped with the tree and the outside lights.
It was very difficult to watch as someone who once made an art of storytelling and socializing chose to sit alone with a dog rather than engage with his family — this is not the man I knew as my grandfather.
And the saddest part for me — he’s even lost the context of our ongoing tattoo reference and the ability to correctly recall my full name.
While he has yet to have an official dementia diagnosis, his cognitive functions and memory are rapidly declining. As a result, so are his communication abilities and relationships.
While his current cognitive state is upsetting, I can’t help but wonder if an earlier intervention may have preserved his memory.
Yet I am hopeful.
As Nate introduced yesterday, certain nutrients can aid in brain enhancement and may even prevent age-related brain shrinkage. These maybe able help my grandfather gain some cognitive traction, even now. We will get into more detail on those shortly.
First, let’s take a look at what could be hindering my grandfather’s memory, communication skills, and personality.
Dementia: The Inside Story
He being 90 years old, some of my grandfather’s memory deficits are expected and considered normal.
But he’s gradually losing his ability to problem solve and is having trouble maintaining his normal activities, relationships, and, at times, emotional stability.
These changes may be due to the presence of amyloid plaques in his brain.
The amyloid plaques are mostly made of beta-amyloid deposits. Beta-amyloid is a toxic protein peptide fragment. Brains with certain types of dementia, like Alzheimer’s, have more of these plaques than healthy brains.1
Sometimes the plaques are located on regions of the brain crucial to communication or memory, thus increasing symptoms of dementia .1
It’s still unknown if the plaques are the cause of dementia or if the disease causes the plaques. Either way, it seems the less beta-amyloid in your brain, the healthier it is.1
Neurofibrillary tangles are another key player in the unhealthy brain game. These tangles are twisted threads made of a protein called tau. Tangles reside inside of nerve cells.1
Healthy tau ensures proper transport of nutrients and neurotransmitters. Tau in diseased brains becomes tangled and causes damage to other parts of the cells and halts neuron communication.1
While the presence of plaques and tangles alone is enough to impair brain functions, they also increase brain inflammation. Chronic inflammation of the brain increases the disease process in dementia brains. In fact, brain inflammation may be one of the root causes of dementia.2
And lastly, and perhaps most alarming, my grandfather’s brain maybe shrinking.
As the plaques and tangles grow, they maybe limiting communication between the neurons in his brain. When neurons can no longer communicate, they die. As the neurons deplete, so does brain size — literally shrinking the brain.
Significant brain shrinkage is indicative of the last stage of Alzheimer’s. Keeping a “plump” brain may be the secret to staving off the effects of memory loss and fluctuating moods.
Since I can’t actually see what is going on in my grandfather’s brain, I have to assume these dysfunctions may be to blame.
This is why it is so important to hinder brain aging before it gets to this point.
To help you get started on the road to a healthy, plump, and uninflamed brain, I will now introduce you to few nutrients that may help stave off the effects of brain again and increase cognitive power.
Science Says It’s Never Too Late to Make a Memory
Bacopa monnieri is an herb long utilized by Ayurvedic medicine.
A study in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine shows Bacopa may help you retain and process new information quicker, improve mood, as well as decrease depression and anxiety, even if you’re older, due to all of its cognitive-protective properties.3
Bacopa does this by improving impulse transmissions (think about sending a letter) between brain nerve cells, repairing damaged neurons, and regenerating synapses (these are the letter carriers of the brain).
It also increases serotonin levels. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that helps to curtail depression and anxiety. Having a high serotonin level may also help increase emotional stability.
Another Ayurvedic treatment is curcumin. It is the active compound in the spice turmeric in many Indian, Middle Eastern, and Asian dishes.
But curcumin has much more to offer you than its pungent flavor. A study published in The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics reports:
Curcumin administration has been reported to attenuate cognitive deficits, neuroinflammation, and plaque pathology in Alzheimer’s models. Beyond Alzheimer’s, oral curcumin efficacy in vivo has been shown in models for many conditions with oxidative damage and inflammation, including many types of cancer, diabetes, atherosclerosis, arthritis, stroke, peripheral neuropathy, inflammatory bowel, and brain trauma.4
Put simply, curcumin can not only help protect your brain from the effects of cognitive loss, but it may also protect your body from developing diseases that can result in cognitive loss.
As an added health bonus, curcumin may help to prevent atherosclerosis and stroke. As we have reported in a previous article, heart health is of significant importance to cognitive function.
Another vital component of brain health is vitamin B-12.
In fact, a B-12 deficiency can lead to poor cognition and memory issues, depressed mood, and increased levels of an amino acid called homocysteine. Homocysteine is particularly dangerous to heart and brain health, as it can increase risk of cardiac disease.4
With almost 40 percent of adults in the U.S. having low B-12 levels, there is a good chance low B-12 may be affecting you or someone you love.5
What is even scarier, homocysteine can cause brain shrinkage, specifically in the hippocampus.6
But there is good news. B-12 intake may reduce homocysteine levels. One study shows that an increase in B-12 intake can reduce brain shrinkage up to 53 percent a year.6
Meaning even at age 90, my grandfather can still combat further brain shrinkage, inflammation, and memory loss… and maybe even see improvement. But only if he starts using these powerful nutrients now.
It also makes me wonder if things would have gotten this bad if he had been utilizing these natural herbs and B-12 before the age of 90. Would things be different now?
According to the research, yes. Taking Bacopa, curcumin, and B-12 may have prevented some of his cognitive loss.
So this year, I gave my grandfather, and the rest of my family, some of these brain-boosting supplements as holiday gifts in hopes of making memories that will truly last a lifetime.
Managing editor, Living Well Daily