Senior Health: Vitamins That Protect Brain Function

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Vitamins That Protect Brain Health and Delay Alzheimer’s

By Glenn Krakow, 9:00 am on

In the United States, one person develops Alzheimer’s disease every 68 seconds. A growing body of research has found that a healthy diet–along with brain exercises and an active social life–can go a long way toward protecting brain health and even delaying or preventing Alzheimer’s. Home Care Assistance of El Dorado County shines a spotlight on a handful of vitamins and minerals that are believed to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.

Vitamin D
Several studies have confirmed a link between vitamin D deficiency and Alzheimer’s, as memory loss is more common among people with low vitamin D levels. While the exact relationship is not well understood, vitamin D receptors are found in many regions of the brain and it’s believed this vitamin affects the way the brain works and how well we can learn, think, and behave. Research indicates that small doses of vitamin D can improve thinking and memory.

Vitamin D supplements rarely have side effects, but if your elderly loved one consumes too much, he or she may experience sleepiness, fatigue, dry mouth, nausea, headaches, lost appetite, and body weakness.

Magnesium
Magnesium is an essential mineral that helps support many functions of the body, including brain health. Research indicates that low levels of magnesium increase the risk of amyloid beta building while higher levels promote the breakdown of amyloid beta. These peptides are the main component of the plaque found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Magnesium supplements are usually safe at a dose of less than 350 mg per day, although some people develop diarrhea, nausea, and an upset stomach. The best way to increase magnesium intake and avoid side effects is eating a fiber-rich diet. Many foods high in fiber are also high in magnesium, including vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts.

Vitamin E
Research has found that people who get plenty of vitamin E from food sources are at a lower risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia, although this same protective effect has not been found in people who take vitamin E supplements.

The best way to increase vitamin E levels are eating sunflower seeds, peanuts, wheat germ, and vegetable-based oils. Some fruits and vegetables, such as mangoes, broccoli, and spinach, are also high in vitamin E.

Vitamin E may not be safe for people with a vitamin K or iron deficiency, or people with a blood clotting disorder. The most common side effects of vitamin E supplements include headaches, diarrhea, nausea, blurry vision, rashes, and fatigue.

B6, B9, and B12
The B vitamins–folate (B9), cobalamin (B12), and pyridoxine (B6)–are important for recycling DNA molecules in the body. B vitamin deficiency can lead to a build-up of an amino acid called homocysteine that’s toxic to many cells in the body. High homocysteine levels are also a known risk factor for dementia, although the relationship isn’t well understood. B vitamin supplements can reduce homocysteine levels and slow the build-up of amyloid beta and tau, which are responsible for the brain plaques associated with Alzheimer’s.

B vitamins are generally safe except in people with low folate or iron levels. The most common side effects of B vitamin supplements include anxiousness, swelling, headaches, and itchiness.

Learn more about senior health and wellness from the knowledgeable staff at Home Care Assistance. Although we offer hourly and live-in home care, we are known for our comprehensive memory care services including Alzheimer’s and dementia care in El Dorado County. Our care services include the use of the Cognitive Therapeutics Program, specifically designed to prevent mental decline and delay the onset of dementia. Call (916) 358-3801 or (530) 409-4411 and speak with a friendly Care Manager for more information.