Of All the Things I Miss…

I miss my mind the most. How many times have you heard that joke (especially amongst the older population)?

One of my favorite television programs is Sunday Housecall with Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld on FoxNews. Dr. Rosenfeld is one of the few MD’s I know that actively recommends herbal supplements and will even admit that he takes several. However, on the 3 January 2010 show, I feel he gave some misleading information.

In the last decade or so, Gingko biloba has been touted as a preventive measure against dementia, specifically Alzheimer’s Disease. A recent study published in last week’s edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that a Gingko biloba extract did not reduce the decline in cognitive abilities in older adults. Dr. Rosenfeld echoed the results of that study on his show.

This particular study has many significant limitations. Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the American Herbalists Guild quickly released a statement pointing out the study’s shortcomings (the entire press release can be read here).

Quoting from the press release, “The leading German ginkgo extract has been subjected to a vast range of clinical trials documenting its ability to improve peripheral circulation and cognitive function, particularly in patients with early stages of mild cognitive impairment, senile dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and memory loss. Clinical trials also support the use of ginkgo extract in assisting elderly patients in walking longer distances without leg pain (peripheral arterial occlusive disease, also known as intermittent claudication). Standardized ginkgo extracts are approved for use as medicines in Germany and numerous other countries.”

Therefore, I would still continue to take a Gingko supplement, particularly if dementia runs in your family or you are pre-disposed to peripheral circulatory issues. It may help. However, speak with your doctor before starting on it. Gingko can have some side effects and can interact with some other drugs.

Of course, the best thing you can do to help your mind is keep it active. Treat your mind like any other muscle – without exercise, it will atrophy. My mother-in-law is 95 and, while not sharp as a tack anymore, still has both short- and long-term memory intact. That’s because she reads, keeps up with current events, engages in debate with others and generally thinks on a regular basis. I hope I’m in as good shape when I reach that age!

Remember, without your mind, you are nothing more than a bag of water given shape by a skeleton and muscles. Keep on thinkin’!