Here's What Scientists Say About Chronic Inflammation and Memory Loss
7 minute read
One of the most dreaded things about getting older is memory loss. While the occasional bout of forgetfulness is expected, the thought of memory loss and dementia frightens everyone. One thing that brings relief is that science has uncovered a link between inflammation and memory loss.
With specific dietary and lifestyle changes that help reduce inflammation, you just might be able to protect your cognitive health and your memory.
Inflammation and Brain Health
Studies have found that when you experience chronic inflammation during midlife, you are more likely to develop memory loss and even Alzheimer’s disease. Individuals with high inflammatory markers during their 40s and 50s were found to have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s, or other types of cognitive decline. These studies also discovered that certain lifestyle and dietary changes that control inflammation could be a solution.
Individuals found to have higher levels of inflammatory proteins in their blood, such as C-reactive protein, also showed a steeper decline in memory and thinking skills. Despite inflammation being a normal immune system process, chronic and uncontrolled inflammation can be damaging. Persistent inflammation is linked to autoimmune disorders, as well as chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
The studies have not been able to discover if the inflammation itself causes cognitive decline, but they did find that a link exists. Inflammation during middle adulthood could be a significant predictor for the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
With this information, changes can be made that might help people prevent cognitive decline, or at least delay its onset. By working to reduce inflammation, you may be able to delay or avoid memory loss.
What to Do About Inflammation
Identifying the problem is half of the battle, and now that you know inflammation can contribute to memory loss, the next step is to reduce or prevent this. While certain conditions outside of your control can cause inflammation, there is still plenty you can do to reduce inflammation in your body. The more you work towards this goal, the healthier you and your brain will be.
Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial compounds full of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This protects your brain from the damage of free radicals and inflammation, both of which contribute to dementia and neurodegeneration. You can try omega-3 supplements, or increase your consumption of foods like fresh fish, nuts, and avocados.
Add Some Spice
Specifically, adding turmeric is the way to go. Turmeric is commonly used in curries and adds both flavor and color to any meal. An easy way to incorporate turmeric into your diet is through a high-quality supplement.
Turmeric contains curcumin, a potent anti-inflammatory agent that can work to protect your brain, too. Studies have found that curcumin successfully reduces inflammation, and this will reduce your risk of memory loss.
Shed Some Pounds
Being overweight or obese places strain on your body. Plus, stored fat triggers inflammatory markers to be released. The more you weigh, the higher your risk for chronic inflammation, but by shedding a few pounds, you can reduce this and protect your brain.
One of the best ways to lose weight is with regular exercise, and this also helps to reduce stress and inflammation.
Maintaining a strong social network not only boosts morale, but it also boosts brain health. Studies have found that isolation can reduce cognitive function and increase brain inflammation.
Loneliness causes an increase in certain hormones that also trigger inflammatory chemicals. Stay close to your friends and maintain a network to keep your brain happy and healthy.
Cut Down on Meat
Meat does offer certain health benefits, specifically protein, but it has a downside, too. Red meat, in particular, contains a sugar molecule called Neu5Gc, which has been scientifically linked to inflammation and cancer. Cutting red meat from the diet (or at least limiting how much you eat) will go a long way in protecting your brain from damage.
Consuming a mostly plant-based diet has been associated with healthy brain activity and reduced risk for memory loss. When you do need to eat some meat, opt for lean poultry or fish instead.
| Related: Why an Anti-Inflammatory Diet Is Key to a Truly Healthy Lifestyle |
Take Care of Your Gut
There are trillions of bacteria living in your gut that work to promote healthy digestion and support your immune system. A balanced gut reduces inflammation in the body and protects your brain. Your gut and brain communicate directly via the gut-brain axis, and when one is unhappy, so is the other.
A broad-spectrum probiotic supplement is the best way to promote gut health and support your natural flora, and in return, they can protect your brain from inflammatory damage.
The act of fasting every now and then has also been proven to reduce inflammation. Should you have any health conditions that are known to cause inflammation, then intermittent fasting may be a way to get some control over the situation.
Fasting has been proven to show improvement in symptoms for several inflammatory-related diseases, and it may be a good way to help protect your brain, too.
Watch Your Sugar
Everyone likes the occasional sweet treat, but sugar can be dangerous when consumed in excess. High sugar intake causes a higher glycemic index, which in turn causes excess production of an inflammatory chemical known as C-reactive protein. This chemical works directly on brain cells and can disrupt function and health.
There is no need to avoid sweets, but take care and watch what you eat, so your brain and memory don’t pay the ultimate price.
The Bottom Line
Forgetting where you left the keys is a nuisance, but memory loss and dementia is something we all want to avoid. Even though there are factors out of our control that may cause dementia, there are things you can do to delay this or prevent it.
Inflammation is a significant player in dementia and Alzheimer’s, but with a few changes to your life, you can reduce this, and reduce your risk of memory loss and neurodegeneration.