You know the feeling: You walk into a room and immediately forget what you went in there for. Or maybe it’s been taking you longer to learn new things, or to remember where you put your keys. You’re not alone. Mild forgetfulness affects about 40% of people 65 and over1. But while memory impairment may come with the territory, you’re not powerless to keep it in check. There are things you can do for your brain health as you age—including some key supplements:
Turmeric—and its derivative Curcumin—has long been recognized for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. Now, multiple studies have shown it also promotes brain health, helping to improve focus and memory performance2, 3. It seems to do this by supporting two key parts of the brain: the amygdala, which is involved in memory processing; and hypothalamus, which connects the nervous system to the endocrine system (the network of glands that regulate hormones). For this reason, taking turmeric daily may be a boon for the brain.*
Heads up: Curcumin is lipophilic, meaning it binds to fats. To maximize its benefits, take it with a full meal or check the label to make sure it’s already paired with a healthy fat.
Few supplements have achieved the celebrity status of Omega-3 fatty acids, and for good reason. These polyunsaturated fats—especially in two forms called DHA and EPA—are credited with a host of benefits, including healthy brain function in older adults. Numerous studies have shown that Omega-3s support the health of nerve cells and have anti-inflammatory properties that can help promote a healthy immune response in the brain.*
And it’s not just seniors who can reap the brain-boosting benefits of these famous fatty acids. According to a systematic review, they may be especially beneficial to infant brain development in pregnant and breastfeeding parents4.
But there’s a catch: Your body doesn’t naturally make Omega-3’s, so they have to be consumed through your diet. Fatty fish are a good source, but if you don’t eat a lot of seafood, a supplement might be the way to go.
3) Gingko Biloba
Gingko Biloba, derived from the oldest tree in the world, has been used for its medicinal properties for centuries. Although it’s been around for hundreds of millions of years (literally!), scientists are just now uncovering all the potential therapeutic uses of this amazing plant. The compounds in Gingko Biloba have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antiapoptotic (anti-cell-death) properties5,6. It may also increase blood circulation and help protect nerve cells. That last one is key to healthy aging: Gingko Biloba appears to preserve brain receptors that are prone to age-related damage, enhancing neuron plasticity and promoting neuron health. All this to say it’s a great supplement to add to your plan as you get older.*
4) Nicotinamide riboside (Tru Niagen)
Nicotinamide riboside is a lesser-known form of vitamin B3 that serves as a precursor to NAD+, one of the most crucial molecules involved in cellular processes. Higher levels of NAD+ may help cells resist stress and increase the activity of enzymes that can protect them from damage7. Importantly, it can be used by the brain, meaning these protective effects may apply to neurons. Nicotinamide riboside is found in small amounts in just a few foods, meaning many people find it easier to use supplements like Tru Niagen to get a decent dose of this unique and powerful compound.*
Ginseng has long been used medicinally in Eastern and North American cultures. As an adaptogen, it supports the hormonal control center that manages cortisol—the fight-or-flight hormone—meaning it may promote a healthy response to stress 8. It’s also an antioxidant, meaning it supports cell health9 and, importantly, has a well-studied positive effect on memory. For all these reasons, ginseng is worth considering if you’re interested in healthy aging.*
Bonus tip: Lifestyle choices
Don’t forget, lifestyle choices play a vital role in memory and brain health. To keep your mind in shape as you age, look for ways to reduce stress, get regular exercise, eat a healthy, balanced diet and engage in mental activity.
Laura is a nutritionist and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant with a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Ball State University and a Master of Science in Health Sciences with a public health concentration from Indiana State University. She is a competitive distance runner who loves to support individuals in achieving their goals.