Aging Does Not Cause Memory Loss

Dr. Sonya Nobbe, ND

Memory is one of our most precious assets and I meet many people seeking ways to protect this life-enhancing attribute. Unfortunately, many of these people address their concerns by taking a variety of natural health supplements that claim to improve memory, including CoQ10, B-vitamins, and ginkgo, without a clear understanding of whether they’re working. The effectiveness of these products lies in matching one of them to the underlying cause of the change in your memory, and many people are surprised to learn that “aging” is not one of these.

The components in the brain responsible for memory require a substantial number of nutrients, adequate blood flow, hormones, and other chemical messengers for optimal function. The key to improving memory lies in understanding the underlying cause of the decline, specific to the person. Is it decreased blood flow to the brain caused by impaired heart function or a motor vehicle accident? Nutrient deficiencies caused by poor digestion or by daily liver and kidney detoxification of prescription medication? Or perhaps it’s hormones – declining estrogen or testosterone levels in the body, or increased stress hormones. Recent research even identifies insomnia as one of the earliest risk factors for developing memory impairments later in life, likely because it affects everything in our bodies from stress hormones to immune system function. Identifying and treating the underlying cause of the change is naturopathic medicine’s specialty.

Supporting function of a healthy brain is important whether we’re concerned about common forgetfulness, or of the more serious medical concern of dementia. Dementia is a medical condition that can affect not only memory, but also abstract thinking, personality, and language. It includes conditions like Alzheimer’s, but also memory impairments as a consequence of stroke, or Parkinson disease, for example. Akin to the realm of mental health disorders, there is no medical test to diagnose dementia and no standardized recommendations by mainstream health professionals for preventing dementia. It remains a relatively poorly understood health condition and integrative medical approaches for dementia include moving beyond supporting brain organ function, to include exploring health conditions known to cause or mimic dementia themselves, such as Lyme disease, or damage from environmental toxins such as pesticides, lead, and mercury.

Dr. Mark Hymen, MD, practices Functional Medicine, a form of integrative medicine with a philosophy and methodology quite similar to Naturopathic Medicine in many regards. I recommend his article on memory, here, for easy tips on preventing and reversing memory decline. Your Naturopathic Doctor can help you implement these tips if you’d like some more support.