As the Baby Boomer generation reaches retirement age and beyond, the market for supplements that ward off the effects of aging, including cognitive decline and dementia, has risen sharply. But does research support taking supplements that may drain the wallet or are older adults falling prey to false advertising?
According to a recent McMaster Optimal Aging Portal blog post, research has found no evidence that taking vitamins or minerals prevents dementia or cognitive decline among middle-aged or older adults with no existing signs of cognitive decline. Although some studies found that vitamin C and beta-carotene may boost cognition when taken for the long-term (5 to 18 years), the research is considered low-quality and therefore unreliable. Folic acid and vitamin B12 show some promise improving memory when taken for two years, but again, the research isn’t conclusive.
Instead of focusing on a magic pill that will prevent dementia or cognitive decline, older adults can help protect their brain health by eating a nutritious Mediterranean-style diet, staying physically active, and continuing to learn new skills while remaining socially engaged. Even during COVID-19 distancing, staying socially connected with others helps promote overall well-being.
Worldwide, an estimated 50 million people have dementia and as the elderly population continues to grow, the burden on healthcare systems and caregivers will rapidly increase; with the number of people diagnosed with dementia doubling every five years. Without a cure for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, individuals can help cut their risk by making lifestyle choices that support healthy cognition in older age.
- Regular physical activity (150 minutes each week)
- Stop smoking
- Nutrition – eat a healthy diet low in saturated fat and high in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Stay socially engaged
- Manage hypertension
- Manage diabetes
- Treat depression
- Treat hearing loss
- Manage high cholesterol