You know that feeling, the one when you walk into a room looking for something, and completely forget what it was or why you are there. When these memory slip-ups occur, you start to worry about dementia, or worse – Alzheimer’s. I’d like to talk about these ‘senior moments’ and show that memory disorders aren’t as uncontrollable as they seem and that there are many things you can do to help yourself.
According to the Mayo Clinic, dementia isn’t a specific disease; it is a group of symptoms caused by conditions or changes in the brain. Symptoms might include language difficulty, loss of recent memory or poor judgment. Alzheimer’s disease is just one form of dementia.
Memory conditions have some of the strongest genetic indicators, but even if your parents or grandparents have exhibited serious forgetfulness, this doesn’t necessarily condemn you to dementia. You do have the ability to override the genetic messengers so your mind remains strong and you have good brain function for years to come.
Use It or Lose It
You are not alone in forgetting names, places and faces. Memory loss starts at age 16 and is relatively common by age 40. Your hand eye coordination starts to slow down as you get older and you find it nearly impossible to beat your 12-year old at a video game. However, don’t give up on that video game just because you’ve been losing a lot. Exercising your brain this way can delay the natural slowing of the connection between your mind and your body as you age.
Constant brain exercise rebuilds the areas that are breaking down. Don’t sit in front of the TV, go out and socialize. The give and take of good conversation keeps your brain active. Stretch your mind by trying new things, learn a new language, teach a class or mentor someone. Every time you do a crossword puzzle, play scrabble or chess, or try to figure out the logic behind Sudoko – you’re exercising your brain. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, your brain doesn’t know the difference, all it understands is that it is getting a workout and has to rise to the challenge.
The National Institute on Aging (NIA) funded a study that strengthens the connection between Alzheimer’s and intellect as you’ll see in this extract:
“Women who scored poorly on measures of cognitive ability as young adults were found to be at higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease and poor cognitive function in late life, according to a new report by researchers at the University of Kentucky. The ground-breaking study of nearly 100 nuns found that the complexity of the sisters’ writings as young women had a great deal to do with how they fared cognitively later in life. Of the nuns who died, 90 percent of those with Alzheimer’s disease confirmed at autopsy had low linguistic ability in early life, compared with only 13 percent in those without evidence of the disease.”
I believe the information discovered in this study is pertinent to both men and women, so challenge your brain constantly, or as they say, “use it or lose it.”
Brain Fuel – Your Quality of Life Depends on It.
Water, oxygen, and nutrients – these three essentials go a long way to slowing down the natural aging of your brain. You normally lose 10% of brain weight between ages 20 and 90 so keeping it, and the rest of your vital organs, well hydrated are essential to your overall good health. Exercise, both aerobic and muscle building – brings oxygen to your brain, which helps with the rebuilding and strengthening of the neurons. Neurons are the part of the brain that tell you to pick up the book off the floor, talk to your son about his homework, or run a marathon.
Nutrients, both in the form of supplements and food, are the third leg of the triangle to maintaining optimum brain health. A diet of bright, colorful fruits and dark leafy vegetables, complex carbohydrates and good quality protein helps keep your mind young. Levels of phosphatidylcholine decline as the brain ages, replacing this important nutrient could help with your memory and learning abilities. Studies have shown that supplements such as Acetyl L-Carnitine help support positive mood balance. Vinpocetine easily crosses the blood-brain barrier and dilates blood vessels; it enhances circulation to the brain and improves oxygen utilization.
If you keep your mind and your body active – through exercise, diet, learning new things, and interacting with intelligent people – you stand a good chance of living a happy and intellectually stimulating life.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.