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Can Folic Acid Help Seniors Maintain Healthy Brain Function?

With National Folic Acid Awareness Week coming up the first week of January, we thought it fitting to explore how folic acid can help seniors maintain healthy brain function. If you have a loved one in hospice care in San Francisco and elsewhere, especially one who suffers from dementia, you may wonder how folic acid helps to improve memory.

Folate, the synthetic form of folic acid, is a water-soluble B vitamin that plays a major role in cell generation. It’s typically prescribed as prenatal vitamins for pregnant females, with the purpose of aiding in the development of the fetus and preventing birth defects. But in recent years, studies have been showing folic acid as being good for the health and well-being of older adults. Folate can even protect against some forms of cancer, prevent strokes and heart disorders, build up muscle mass, form hemoglobin, and reduce the severity of mental and emotional disorders, according to Improve Memory.

But the most interesting property it has is the ability to slow down age-related memory and cognitive decline.

A Bit About Folate

Folate (vitamin B-9) is critical when it comes to red blood cell formation as well as healthy cell growth and function, says the Mayo Clinic. People can receive folic acid by popping a multivitamin or by eating leafy, dark green vegetables, nuts, peas, and beans. You can also get it from fruits such as lemons, bananas, oranges, melons, and strawberries. While studies are still ongoing, preliminary research shows that dementia and Alzheimer’s disease may be connected to low folate levels as well as high homocysteine levels.

Low folate and high homocysteine concentrations are linked with poor cognitive performance, with one study showing high doses of folic acid given to healthy people between 50 and 75 resulting in memory test scores like those in people five years younger. They also showed cognitive speeds pretty close to people who were two years younger. Researchers say this is a great level of brain protection, thanks in part to the presence of folate.

Check out these facts about folate:

  • Folic acid, a B vitamin used by the body to manufacture DNA, is needed for quick cell division and organ and tissue formation in the development of a fetus.
  • The recommended daily intake for adults is 400 micrograms.
  • Folic acid-rich foods include fortified breads, breakfast cereals, rice, pasta, green vegetables, orange juice, and legumes (navy, kidney, lentil, and garbanzo)
  • Folic acid intake lowers risks associated with heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
  • Folate deficiency anemia is a lack of folic acid in the bloodstream, and it results in low levels of folate. You often see this in pregnant women, alcoholics, and people who take certain medications (for seizures, for instance). It’s also seen in people with lower digestive tract conditions like celiac disease.
  • Folic acid has also been known to prevent major birth defects in the spine and brain of a fetus (for example, anencephaly and spina bifida) by up to 70 percent.
  • Folate ensures a healthy heart and blood vessels.

Memory Loss

The subject of memory loss is something that has piqued the interest of researchers for some time now. With no cure for Alzheimer’s and other dementia forms, scientists have been researching possible connections that may be responsible for slowing down or preventing cognitive decline. There’s a promising connection between memory loss and low levels of folate, and can be a step in the right direction.

But even though some studies out there seem to be successful in shedding light on the subject, it’s still unclear whether folic acid can really guard against memory loss. According to Healthline, a Netherlands study revealed that participants taking folic acid supplements for many years displayed no significant cognitive performance boost.

Memory loss is an intriguing and complex thing. Here are some facts to consider.

  • The average person holds seven items in their short-term memory for 30 seconds or less.
  • The main reason people forget things is because they fail to retrieve information from memory. This can happen when you rarely access your memories, leading to decay over time.
  • The hippocampus is an area of the brain responsible for turning short-term memory into long-term memory.
  • The functionality of the hippocampus gets lower with age.
  • The best way to improve recall is to take tests.
  • When learning how to improve your memory, you can take mental pictures, use reminder apps on your phone, rehearse information over and over, and use strategies like mnemonics.
  • Interference also leads to memory loss, when select memories compete with other select memories.
  • Scent is a big trigger for memory.
  • Every time you create a memory, you form new brain connections.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

We would love to talk to you about our hospice care program in San Francisco and elsewhere, as well as how we can help your loved one make the adjustment smoothly. Contact us today at 888-978-1306.