Most of us also know someone who’s quality of life has declined with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or dementia. Neurodegenerative disease affects not just one person. Close family and friends are impacted as well.
But memory loss is NOT a normal part of aging.
Recent research in aging and brain function have found that as we get older individual brain molecules, cells, cerebral circulation, and even the physical shape of your brain are affected in some way.
Some of these changes begin right around your 21st birthday. So if you’re a ‘young’ neurohacker, this post is for you as much as it is for the aging Baby Boomer or senior citizen.
We also know that your brain responds to the same types of insults we throw at it as the rest of your body. Attacks by stress, nutritional deficiencies, poor diet, toxins, not enough exercise or sleep all affect cognition.
But the human brain has an amazing ability to repair and maintain itself even into old age. All we have to do is give it what it needs to survive and thrive. And worries about dementia or memory loss go away.
In this post we’ll take a look at what can go wrong as your brain ages. And we’ll identify the nootropic supplements that can correct those problems. Before they cause any lasting damage. Our goal is to maintain full, or even optimized cognitive function until the very end.
The Dementia Epidemic
Much of the problem with the rise in dementia and many other neurodegenerative diseases comes from the way age-related cognitive decline is dealt with by modern medicine.
If you’re dealing with memory loss or other cognitive issues, simply putting a label on it is not helpful. Naming the problem does nothing to help you identify and treat the underlying causes of the disease.
But we do know that environmental toxins, exercise, deficiencies in hormones, inflammation, lack of vitamins and omega-3 fats, and stress all affect brain function.
So the best place to start dealing with a problem like the cognitive decline is to get to the bottom of what’s causing it.
Simple genetic testing can tell you if you carry a gene that puts you at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s. You can also find out if your brain and body have a harder time detoxing from heavy metals. Or a gene variant is making it difficult for you to lower your cholesterol.
If you have low thyroid function or sex hormones, heavy metal toxicity, inflammation or deficiencies in certain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants or fatty acids – you will experience a decline in cognitive function.
And if left unchecked could develop into dementia, Alzheimer’s or some other neurodegenerative disease.
For most people, changes in your diet and the right nootropic supplement stack can make a profound difference in cognition and memory. Stacking the odds in your favor so you can avoid cognitive dysfunction altogether.
Mental decline occurs over time. Sometimes quickly, and sometimes over many years. But it never gets better. Unless you do something about it.
So if you’re dealing with memory loss, it’s up to you to do whatever you need to and determine what imbalances are present in your brain and body. And then use the list of nootropics below to figure out how to fix them.
No single treatment or nootropic stack works for everyone. Because everyone is different. So each issue investigated here offers several different options for you to try.
Choose one or two from each category and see how they work for you. A little trial and error on your part could mean a sound mind and great memory well into old age.
Free radicals and brain aging
Extensive research has shown that oxidation of DNA, proteins and lipids by free radicals are responsible for functional decline in your brain.
It’s estimated that 10,000 oxidative interactions between DNA and free radicals in each of your brain cells occur every day. And as you get older, at least 1 of every 3 proteins per cell is dysfunctional because of oxidative damage.
Free radical and oxidative damage to the brain is by no means the only cause of cognition problems. But the role of free radicals in cognitive dysfunction is a major issue. And one that can be effectively controlled with the daily use of nootropic supplements.
Here’s a list of nootropics that can defend against oxidative damage and free radicals. Choose one or two for your nootropic stack.
- Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) See Amazon For Great Value– This naturally-occurring, sulfur-containing fatty acid is unique among other antioxidants. Because it is both water- and fat-soluble.
Alpha Lipoic Acid has the unique ability to neutralize free radicals in all cell environments. This potent antioxidant can even reduce brain damage after a stroke. Alpha Lipoic Acid boosts the synthesis of acetylcholine and increases glucose uptake in brain cells.
ALA regenerates other depleted antioxidants (Vitamins C & E, glutathione), and recycles CoQ10. Reducing inflammation, and getting rid of heavy metals. Boosting cellular energy and memory.
Alpha Lipoic Acid should be part of every nootropic stack. Recommended dosage is 50 – 600 mg per day depending on your neurohacking goals. See dosage notes in my full ALA review for more.
- Coenzyme Q10( See amazon for great value) – CoQ10 is a natural antioxidant synthesize
d in every single cell in your body and brain. CoQ10 helps produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Your brain cell mitochondria’s source of energy. It takes fat and other substances and converts them into usable energy.
Studies show that supplementing with CoQ10 protects against brain cell damage by raising energy levels. It preserves brain function, and helps fight mental illness and migraines.
You have two CoQ10 options for your nootropic stack – ubiquinone and ubiquinol. If you’re under 25 and in good health you can likely get the benefit of CoQ10 with the less expensive ubiquinone. Over 25 and you’re better off with Ubiquinol.
Recommended Coenzyme Q10 dosage for nootropic use is 200 – 400 mg per day.
- Creatine See Amazon For Great Value – This non-essential amino acid is synthesized in your liver. And used in your brain to re-charge the Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) that fuels the mitochondria in brain cells.
ATP is directly involved in producing, packaging and secreting neurotransmitters. Helping boost intelligence, improve memory, facilitate faster thinking and improve mood.
Creatine fuels ATP which boosts cellular metabolism. Helping protect neurons from damage caused by toxins. Keeping cellular energy levels up also helps protect mitochondria against the assault of free radicals.
Recommended dosage for Creatine is 5 grams per day.
- Gingko biloba See Amazon For Great Value – Ginkgo biloba is one of the oldest species of trees on earth. And has been used in Chinese medicine for millennia. Gingko helps reduce oxidative stress by eliminating free radicals.
Gingko also increases nitric oxide levels which dilate blood vessels. Increasing cerebral circulation improves oxygen and glucose availability to neurons which improves memory, recall, cognition and learning.
A study with 31 stroke patients looked at the effects of supplementing with Ginkgo in stroke recovery. The patients were given 1,500 mg of Gingko per day. Researchers found the stroke patients using Gingko had lower oxidative stress, inflammation and better antioxidant levels. Along with a greater decrease in C-reactive protein and an increase in circulating antioxidants.[v]
Recommended nootropic dosage of Gingko biloba extract is 120 – 240 mg per day.
- N-Acetyl L-Cysteine (NAC) See Amazon For Great Value – NAC is a derivative of the naturally occurring amino acid L-cysteine. And works by primarily helping restore your body’s natural antioxidant glutathione.
Glutathione is a potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and free radical scavenger. Supplementing with NAC modulates glutamate levels and dopamine release in your brain. And it helps restore dopamine receptors.
Adding NAC to your nootropic stack helps reduce irritability, anxiety and depression. And protects your brain from excess glutamate and oxidative stress. Recommended dosage of N-Acetyl L-Cysteine is 600 mg, 3-times per day.
- Pine Bark Extract (Pycnogenol®) See Amazon For Great Value – This extract of maritime pine bark offers several nootropic benefits to the aging brain. Pycnogenol prevents accumulation of oxidatively damaged proteins. And may reduce the risk of diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Huntington’s.
Pycnogenol helps increase cerebral blood flow by increasing nitric oxidewhich dilates blood vessels. It prevents decreases in dopamine and norepinephrine
Studies show that Pycnogenol helps reduce DNA damage caused by oxidation. And it inhibits proinflammatory gene expression and glycation. Recommended dosage of Pine Bark Extract (Pycnogenol) is up to 300 mg per day.
Synapses and brain aging
Research over the last several years has shown that our brain has the remarkable ability to re-wire itself throughout life.
Every time we have a new thought, encode a new memory or learn a new skill, we are building a new neural network in our brain.
Integral to these neural networks are neurons connected through their dendrites and axons via
The numbers and size of synapses change during aging. During normal, healthy brain aging, the numbers of synapses remain the same in most brain regions. In regions where they decrease, the remaining synapses may increase in size to compensate.
On the other hand, there is a profound decrease in synapse numbers in brain regions involved in learning and memory in people with Alzheimer’s. Other brain regions lose synapses in Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease.
A reduction in number of synapses could be the cause of brain shrinkage as we get older. Our brain loses about 5% of its weight per decade after age 40.
Studies have shown that this synapse loss in neurodegenerative disorders occurs early in the disease process. Long before brain cell death and symptoms occur.
Most of the signal transduction pathways that regulate the health and survival of your neurons take place in synapses.
Research shows that synapse signaling systems are particularly vulnerable to oxidative stress and decreases in energy. (Refer to the previous section on “Free radicals…” for nootropics to prevent oxidative stress).
But we also know that age-related decreases in neurotrophic factor promotes synapse degeneration and brain cell death.
We can help prevent age-related problems with synapses by using nootropics that will promote the growth of new synapses(synaptogenesis).
And we can increase Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) that boosts synapse growth and repair.
For a list of nootropics to increase BDNF, see the article:
13 Nootropics to Boost BDNF
Below are some nootropic supplements to consider for synapse health and growth. Select one or two for your nootropic stack.
- Ashwagandha – This ancient remedy is one of the most powerful herbs in Ayurvedic healing. Ashwagandha helps regenerate axons and dendrites of neurons. And helps reconstruct synapses.
Recommended nootropic dosage of Ashwagandha extract is 250 – 500 mg per day.
- Artichoke Extract – This natural PDE4 inhibitor supports the secondary messenger Cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP). cAMP helps stimulate the production of CREB (cAMP response element-binding protein). CREB is a protein needed for new neuron and synapse growth.
Increasing CREB enhances long-term potentiation (LTP). Which supports the formation of memory. Recommended nootropic dosage of Artichoke Extract is 900 mg per day.
- Berberine – Berberine increases glucagon-like peptide (GLP-1). GLP-1 is a peptide hormone that plays a crucial role in controlling diabetes. And is involved in cognition, learning and neuroprotection.
Studies have shown that GLP-1 enhances synaptic plasticity. It also reduces the aggregation of amyloid-β protein (Aβ), and the microtubule-associated protein Tau which are associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Berberine also works as an antioxidant. And is an acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitor. Increasing acetylcholine levels improves learning and memory. Recommended nootropic dosage for Berberine is 900 – 1,500 mg per day.
- Forskolin – Forskolin is the only known nootropic supplement to naturally and directly boost cAMP (Cyclic Adenosine Monophosphate). cAMP helps directly stimulate the production of CREB (cAMP response element-binding protein). CREB is a protein needed for new neuron and synapse growth.
Increasing CREB enhances long-term potentiation (LTP). Which supports the formation of long-term memory. Recommended nootropic dosage of Forskolin is 125 – 250 mg per day.
- Inositol (Vitamin B8) – Inositol is used in your brain as a “secondary messenger”. It facilitates communication between brain cells. All of your major neurotransmitters need inositol to relay messages.
Neurotransmitters, neuromodulators and hormones have been shown to exert their action via an intracellular (inside the cell) secondary messenger system in which the activated neuroreceptor stimul
Lower than normal levels of myo-inositol in middle-aged adults can signal the initial stages of cognitive decline such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Recommended nootropic dosage of Inositol is up to 3 grams per day.
- Magnesium – Magnesium is the 4th most abundant mineral in your body. And critical for optimal cognitive health. It is a cofactor in more than 300 enzymatic reactions in your body and brain.
Magnesium regulates the activity in neuron ion channels. Governing the flow of neurotransmitters. It also regulates brain synaptic plasticity. Which is critical for learning and memory.
Recommended nootropic dosage for Magnesium-L-threonate is 1 gram per day.
- Pterostilbene – This naturally derived polyphenol antioxidant is gaining a reputation in the nootropics community for controlling brain inflammation, boosting dopamine, helping reverse cognitive decline and fighting brain cell aging.
Pterostilbene boosts insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), and modulates the receptor kinase pathway that is central in the learning and memory process. It reduces reactive oxygen species (ROS), and increases the antioxidant glutathione and su
And Pterostilbene has been shown in clinical trials to elevate BDNF in the hippocampus. Improving learning and memory. Recommended nootropic dosage of Pterostilbene is 50 mg per day.
- Uridine Monophosphate – Uridine is a precursor to Ribonucleic Acid (RNA). RNA provides instructions to your DNA to help create memory by facilitating connections between brain neurons (synapses).
Uridine is a precursor to the synthesis of phosphatidylcholine (PC). A phospholipid that is a primary component of healthy brain cell membranes. Uridine also promotes neurite and synapse growth.
Recommended Uridine Monophosphate nootropic dosage is 150 – 250 mg twice a day.
Alzheimer’s, dementia and brain aging
We have many nootropic supplement options that positively affect the various pathways involved in abnormal brain aging and neurodegenerative disease.
The big drug companies are also searching for disease-specific approaches to combat neurodegenerative diseases. In the case of Alzheimer’s for example, they’re looking for drugs that inhibit β- and γ-secretases that reduce Aβ production.
Dementia is a huge problem and growing every day. It’s now the 6thleading cause of death in the USA. You should be particularly concerned if you have a family member dealing with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Because certain genetic abnormalities put you at a higher risk for these neurodegenerative diseases.
But it seems the executives of these big pharmaceuticals aren’t frequent visitors to Nootropics drug. Because we’ve found several nootropic supplements that studies have shown specifically help fight the types of abnormalities that lead to dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease.
The key to neurodegenerative prevention with any of the following nootropics is to add them to your stack a couple of decades before symptoms of any of these diseases would normally show up.
- Huperzine-A – See Amazon For Great Value -Boosts neuron resistance to beta-amyloid induced dysfunction that could lead to diseases like Alzheimer’s. Beta-amyloid affects ATP levels in mitochondria. Hup-A protects against this damage.
Recommended nootropic dosage for Huperzine-A is 200 mcg per day.
- Resveratrol See Amazon For Great Value – Resveratrol activates AMPK which reduces levels of Amyloid-beta deposits in the cerebral cortex. Resveratrol prevents β-amyloid aggregation by scavenging oxygen free radicals, and inducing protective enzymes such as heme oxygenase. Again preventing the build-up of deposits causing Alzheimer’s.
Resveratrol can also prevent Amyloid-beta proteins from clumping together into small collections of individual molecules called oligomers. This action alone has a profound effect on preventing Amyloid-beta damage and preventing Alzheimer’s.
Recommended nootropic dosage for Resveratrol is 20 – 250 mg per day.
- Piracetam See Amazon For Great Value – Piracetam is used around the world to treat cognitive impairment in aging, brain injuries, dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Several studies show that Piracetam enhances ATP production, mitochondrial membranes and neurite outgrowth in neurons.
In one study researchers showed that Piracetam is able to repair mitochondria in those with mild Alzheimer’s and return cell function back to normal.
Recommended nootropic dosage for Piracetam is 1,600 mg 3-times per day.
- John’s wort – Research shows that St. John’s wort extract decreases oxidative stress, prevents neurotoxicity, and controls inflammation. And may be an effective treatment for oxidative stress-related neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Recommended nootropic dosage for St. John’s wort extract is up to 900 – 1,800 mg per day.
- Turmeric – Curcumin which is the most active compound that is isolated from turmeric, may help macrophages clear the amyloid plaques found in Alzheimer’s disease.
Curcumin has anti-proliferative actions on microglia. The effect of curcumin on neuroglial cells involves decreased astrocyte proliferation, improved myelingenesis and increased activity and differentiation of oligodendrocytes.
In other words, curcumin deals with activated microglia and reactive astrocytes around Amyloid-beta plaques in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s.
Curcumin decreases the main chemical for inflammation and the transcription of inflammatory cytokines. The type of chronic inflammation found in the neurons of Alzheimer’s disease.
Several studies show Curcumin inhibits the inflammation which is linked to Alzheimer’s.
Curcumin binds to amyloid beta proteins found in Alzheimer’s disease and blocks its self-assembly.
Studies show that heavy metals can induce Amyloid-beta aggregation and toxicity and are concentrated in the Alzheimer’s brain. Curcumin, by interaction with heavy metals such as cadmium and lead, prevents neurotoxicity caused by these metals.
And finally, high-fat diets and increased blood cholesterol are linked to increased amyloid plaques. Curcumin inhibits cholesterol formation and decreases serum peroxides. Benefiting the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.
If you did one thing to prevent Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative disease, add 750 mg of Turmeric Extract (95% curcuminoids) to your nootropic stack and take it 3-times per day for the rest of your life.
- Vinpocetine – Vinpocetine prevents the upregulation of NFκB (nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells). NFκB is a protein complex that controls transcription of DNA, cytokine production (signaling proteins) and cell survival. TNFα is a signaling protein (cytokine) involved in inflammation in neurons. Vinpocetine inhibits this action.
Vinpocetine also reduces the TNFα-induced expression of the mRNA of pro-inflammatory molecules such as interleukin-1β, monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), and vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1).
Researchers have found that Vinpocetine prevents this inflammatory response at the cellular nucleus level. This is a very big deal because TNFα contributes to the neuronal cell death found in Parkinson’s Disease.
And there is growing evidence that the accumulation of amyloid-β protein leads to an upregulation of interleukins and TNFα that contributes to neurodegeneration leading to Alzheimer’s Disease.
Recommended nootropic dosage of Vinpocetine is 10 mg 3-times per day.