Beat the Blues to Stay Mentally Sharp
Maybe it’s when you fumble for a familiar word. Or when you walk into a room and suddenly realize you can’t remember why you’re there.
We jokingly call these experiences “senior moments.” But when they happen regularly, they’re anything but funny. At some point, you’ll ask yourself a very serious question: “Am I losing my edge?”
For most people, the honest answer is “yes.” But a new study from two top universities identifies a major risk factor for declining mental sharpness. And the good news is that it can be easy to turn your risk around.
This new study followed almost 1,000 people for 17 years, and identified a key link to mental decline. Believe it or not, just having the blues can increase your chances of mental decline by 50%.1
But you can beat the blues. And that means you can cut your risk of losing your mental edge – by a wide margin. Here are some simple ways to boost your overall mood:
- Get moving. Any kind of physical activity helps support a more positive mood.2 Walking and gardening are two of my favorites.
- Take a break with a pet. Just stroking a cat or dog promotes lower blood pressure and higher levels of the mood-boosting chemicals dopamine and serotonin.3
- Volunteer. Several studies show that volunteers are happier and healthier – physically and mentally – than non-volunteers. And here’s a bonus: Volunteers live longer, too.4
Herbs can also help improve your mood, too.
Panax ginseng is probably best known for its energizing qualities. But it does much more. It’s been used in the Orient for thousands of years as an adaptogen. That is, it helps your body adapt to stress.5 and stress can trigger emotional lows.
In recent animal studies, ginseng promoted chemical and nerve responses that – in people – are considered signs of beating the blues.6 Studies also prove ginseng boosts metal clarity,7 so you may find this herb particularly useful.
For women suffering from the anxiousness and moodiness that can accompany the change of life, black cohosh is an excellent option.8 and it has the added benefit of promoting relief from other problems linked to the change.
Finally, here’s an easy way to help hold on to your mental edge – whether or not you suffer from the blues:
Get more vitamin E.
That’s right. In a just-published Dutch study, people with the highest vitamin E intakes were 25% less likely to suffer mental decline.9 In other words, vitamin E is like an insurance policy for your brain.
To boost your vitamin E intake, just add a few servings of foods rich in vitamin E every week. Almonds, hazelnuts, avocado, olive oil and peanuts are all healthy ways to add rich sources of vitamin E to your diet. Spinach and carrots are among the vegetables with the highest vitamin E content.
Those “senior moments” go from amusing to alarming when they happen too often. But with these simple safeguards, you can cut your risk of mental decline sharply.
Dr. Kenneth Woliner, M.D.
Best Life Herbals
1 J.S. Saczynski, et al. Depressive symptoms and risk of dementia. Neurology, 2010;75:35-41.
2 Strawbridge WJ, et al. Physical Activity Reduces the Risk of Subsequent Depression for Older Adults. Am J Epidemiol 2002; 156:328-334.
3 See http://www.johnshopkinshealthalerts.com/alerts/depression_
4 Lum TY and Lightfoot E. The Effects of Volunteering on the Physical and Mental Health of Older People. Research on Aging, Vol. 27, No. 1, 31-55 (2005)
5 Liu Chang-Xiao and Xiao Pei-Gen. Recent advances on ginseng research in China. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Volume 36, Issue 1, February 1992, Pages 27-38.
6 Dang H, et al. Antidepressant effects of ginseng total saponins in the forced swimming test and chronic mild stress models of depression. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2009 Nov 13;33(8):1417-24. Epub 2009 Jul 24.
7 Reay JL, et al. Single doses of Panax ginseng (G115) reduce blood glucose levels and improve cognitive performance during sustained mental activity. Journal of Psychopharmacology, Vol. 19, No. 4, 357-365 (2005).
8 Geller SE and Studee L. Botanical and dietary supplements for mood and anxiety in menopausal women. Menopause. 2007 May-Jun;14(3 Pt 1):541-9.
9 Devore EE, et al. Dietary Antioxidants and Long-term Risk of Dementia. Archives of Neurology, Vol. 67 No. 7, July 2010.