The amount of money that Americans spent to combat dementia and other cognitive issues in 2010 was between $157 and $215 billion.
That’s somewhere between $41,000 to $56,000 per sufferer. People live longer due to advances in medicine, but, unfortunately, your mind may not come along for the ride without regular maintenance.
But it’s not just older Americans looking to stay sharp. Professionals and students from all walks of life are exploring nootropic supplements to keep their minds sharp.
Never heard of nootropics? Actually, you may have taken one today and didn’t even know it. Quite possibly, the funky, new-agey name threw you off.
But nootropics are popular with many people looking to increases their cognitive output or maintain an active and healthy mind.
In the following article, we’ll explore some different nootropics and look into their effectiveness in improving cognitive function.
What Are Nootropic Supplements?
The word nootropic has its origins in Greek. It means to “shape” or “bend” the mind. In popular culture, nootropics are often referred to as “smart drugs” and in the clinical world as “cognitive enhancers.”
But while you may think of nootropics as a pill you swallow to give your brain a boost, in reality, nootropics come from many natural products, as well as synthetic ones.
There are three main types of nootropics: prescription, synthetic compounds, and dietary supplements. Many nootropics can be bought over the counter at a local health store. These tips can help you choose the right one.
In one way or another, nootropics generally act as a stimulant in the body, and you should always be careful when using them. Certain nootropics could have side effects, especially those currently prescribed to fight attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or chronic dementia.
Researchers warn of expecting a wonder pill that can turn your mind up to 11 at the drop of a hat.
They also warn of the “placebo effect.” An instance where you are confident that you will succeed, and when you do, you attribute the success to something other than your own natural ability.
All that said, we all know that a cup of coffee in the morning gets many revving to start the day or that some vitamins help the body ward off minor illness. So the proper nootropic, of which coffee is one, may have a place in your daily regiment and give you a mental edge.
As stated above, there several popular dietary supplements that people take to keep their minds sharp. Among them are omega-3 fatty acids, Ginkgo biloba, Panax ginseng, creatine, Rhodiola, and, of course, caffeine.
Caffeine is the common stimulant found in coffee and tea. And we are all aware that a good cup of coffee is not only the way many people start their day, it can also get your mind up and running.
But too many cups of coffee can leave people irritable, queasy, and jittery. The Food and Drug Administration recommends not exceeding more than 4 or 5 cups of coffee or tea a day. That’s roughly 400 milligrams.
Caffeine pills are sold over the counter, but people should watch their intake of these products. Although rare, people can suffer from a caffeine overdose.
In fact, many nootropic supplements have some caffeine mixed in with them to give them an added kick.
Another popular component of nootropics is omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are derived from fish and fish oil, so there’s a reason they call fish “brain food.”
Like coffee and tea, omega-3s have a large body of research to back up their nootropic effects. The fats found in omega-3s are some of the building blocks the body uses to repair damaged brain cells. These fatty acids have been shown to improve the function of the brain and nervous system.
Omega-3 dietary supplements are low risk and have few side effects. Still, anyone who is beginning a new dietary regimen and is on medication should consult their doctor before moving forward.
Ginko biloba and Panax ginseng
You’ll often hear these two dietary supplements advertised as natural cognitive enhancers on radio and television spots.
Ginkgo biloba is a tree that grows in Asia, and studies have found that it may have some positive impacts on maintaining mind sharpness as one grows older.
Panax ginseng is a shrub that grows in China and is a longtime homeopathic remedy in Asia for dementia and other diseases. In China, ginseng is used to prevent stroke and even ward off Alzheimer’s disease’s debilitating effects. However, few clinical studies have shown the supplement useful for fighting these medical conditions.
Piracetam, phenylpiracetam, pramiracetam, and aniracetam are all synthetic compounds that may positively affect the brain’s neurotransmitters. These racetams are being looked at to combat some of the effects of dementia and other cognitive impairments.
The use of these racetams has produced no serious side effects, but they are still under intense study.
Of the medications that impact cognition, many of them are stimulants and have some side effects, many of which are serious. In America, many of these medications are household names, like Adderall and Ritalin, because of their use for treating ADHD.
Lesser-known prescription drugs used to moderate cognitive function include modafinil and memantine. The brand names for these drugs are Provigil and Axura, respectively. Axura is one of a cocktail of drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s disease, while Provigil is commonly used to combat narcolepsy.
These prescription drugs all have side effects. They should only be taken with a prescription after consulting a medical professional.
You could experience insomnia and hallucinations from taking these drugs. Any you may experience a rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, and addiction as side effects.
With all addictive drugs, abuse of these substances can lead to high-stress situations and risky behaviors. However, as nootropics go, these prescription drugs are some of the most studied and have a proven impact on cognitive function.
Healthy Mind, Healthy Body
While there are many nootropic supplements to choose from, remember that you need to maintain a healthy daily regimen to maximize their effects. That includes proper diet and exercise.
It is proven that even 10 minutes of cardio exercise a day can help your heart, improve muscle growth and maximize brain function. Couple that with a proper diet and a nootropic supplement, and you are likely to keep your mind and body sharp.
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