While we love the warmth and festive spirit of the holiday season, it’s also an important time to take a closer look at a topic of utmost importance—our cognitive well-being. The holidays are a time of joy, connection, and celebration, but they also bring with them a unique set of challenges, particularly for our mental health.
In the midst of the holiday hustle and bustle, we often find ourselves navigating various stressors and demands that can impact our mental clarity. Let’s unravel the intricacies, understand potential causes, and discover actionable steps to ensure a season filled not only with merriment but also with cognitive resilience and well-being.
Understanding Mild Cognitive Impairment
Mild Cognitive Impairment is a term gaining recognition in the realm of cognitive health. As a transitional stage between normal age-related cognitive decline and more serious conditions like dementia, Mild Cognitive Impairment raises questions about its causes and potential preventive measures through Functional Medicine.
Let’s take a closer look at the nuances of Mild Cognitive Impairment, shedding light on its possible causes and offering insights into proactive approaches for cognitive well-being with Functional Medicine.
Mild Cognitive Impairment is characterized by noticeable cognitive decline that goes beyond typical age-related changes, but does not yet meet the criteria for dementia. Individuals with Mild Cognitive Impairment may experience challenges in memory, language, thinking, and decision-making, affecting their daily lives to varying degrees.
We know that cognition is the brain’s ability to learn and remember and it affects how we decipher the importance of what’s coming at us, how we manage everyday tasks, remember events and appointments, learn new things, and make decisions.
The symptoms of Mild Cognitive Impairment are not necessarily a normal part of aging and there are things we can do to improve cognition naturally.
Common Symptoms of Mild Cognitive Impairment
Increased forgetfulness around:
- Where you put things
- If you completed a task (i.e. repeating something because you’re not sure if you did it)
- What you said or asked in a conversation
- If you took medication or a supplement
- Difficulty following directions for a recipe or other task
- Becoming overwhelmed by planning or making decisions
- Difficulty getting to places you didn’t have trouble with before
- Mental confusion
- Difficulty expressing your thoughts and feelings
- Repeating a sentence or a story you just told
- Becoming confused about where you are
- Increasing anxiety
- Increasing irritability
- Unexplained or sudden aggression
- Loss of interest in activities
Potential Causes of Mild Cognitive Impairment
Age-related Changes – Normal aging processes contribute to mild cognitive decline. As we grow older, changes in brain structure and function, such as reduced blood flow and oxidative stress, can impact cognitive abilities.
Vascular Factors – Conditions affecting blood vessels, such as hypertension or atherosclerosis, may contribute to Mild Cognitive Impairment. Poor blood flow to the brain can lead to cognitive impairment.
Genetic Factors – Genetic predispositions may play a role in the development of Mild Cognitive Impairment. Research suggests that certain genetic factors can increase the risk of cognitive decline.
Neurodegenerative Diseases – Mild Cognitive Impairment can be an early sign of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Abnormalities in brain proteins may lead to the development of Mild Cognitive Impairment and, eventually, more severe cognitive conditions.
Lifestyle Factors – Unhealthy lifestyle choices, including a sedentary routine, poor diet, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption, can contribute to cognitive decline and increase the risk of Mild Cognitive Impairment.
Psychological Factors – Conditions such as depression and chronic stress may impact cognitive function and elevate the risk of Mild Cognitive Impairment. Mental health is intricately connected to cognitive well-being.
Regular diagnostic testing is one way to proactively detect facts that may lead to Mild Cognitive Impairment. Testing for heavy metal toxicity, inflammatory markers, autoimmune disorders, food allergies and sensitivities, lyme disease and other chronic conditions.
Other basic tests, such as hormones, minerals, essential fatty acids, and other nutritional markers, may help us understand how the body is functioning, thus potentially leading to additional Mild Cognitive Impairment issues.
Preventive Measures and Treatments
Healthy Diet – A balanced and nutrient-rich diet, including foods high in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, supports brain health and may lower the risk of cognitive decline. Intermittent fasting can also be helpful as this allows the body to take periodic breaks from digestion so the body can focus all its resources on healing.
Regular Exercise – Physical activity promotes blood flow to the brain, stimulates the release of growth factors, and contributes to overall cognitive resilience.
Mental Stimulation – Engaging in mentally stimulating activities, such as puzzles, learning new skills, and social interactions, helps keep the brain active and may protect against cognitive decline.
Stress Management – Prioritizing stress-reducing practices like meditation, yoga, and deep breathing can positively impact cognitive health.
Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Technology – The emission of electromagnetic waves to stimulate the body’s own healing properties.
Regular Health Check-ups – Monitoring and managing vascular health, blood pressure, and addressing any potential risk factors can contribute to the prevention of Mild Cognitive Impairment.
Treatment of Underlying Factors – Addressing underlying factors such as leaky gut, inflammation, food allergies, autoimmune and other chronic conditions. Often these issues go undetected and untreated.
Cognitive Boosting Supplements
Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Found in fish oil and algae supplements, omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA and EPA, are essential for brain structure and function. They may support cognitive function and protect against age-related decline.
Vitamin B Complex – B vitamins, including B6, B9 (folate), and B12, are vital for brain health. They contribute to neurotransmitter synthesis and help regulate homocysteine levels, linked to cognitive decline.
Vitamin D – Emerging research suggests a potential link between vitamin D deficiency and cognitive decline. Sun exposure and supplementation can help maintain optimal vitamin D levels.
Curcumin (Turmeric Extract) – Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It may support brain health by crossing the blood-brain barrier and exhibiting neuroprotective effects
Phosphatidylserine – This phospholipid is a component of cell membranes and may support cognitive function. Phosphatidylserine supplements are derived from soy or cabbage and may help with age-related cognitive decline.
Resveratrol – Found in red wine, grapes, and berries, resveratrol has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It may support brain health and protect against neurodegenerative diseases.
When your brain fog feels more like Forever Fog, it’s time to look deeper. While Mild Cognitive Impairment poses challenges, understanding its potential causes empowers individuals to take proactive steps toward cognitive health.
Adopting a Functional Medicine approach that includes a healthy lifestyle, regular mental stimulation, and monitoring overall well-being can contribute to maintaining cognitive resilience as we age.
As research continues to unveil the complexities of Mild Cognitive Impairment, ongoing efforts toward preventive measures hold the key to a brighter cognitive future.
If you’d like more information on testing options and the Functional Medicine treatment options offered at Kare Health & Wellness, connect with our team.