Monday, February 25, 2008

Is Your Memory Fading?: There's good news

Many of us complain about brain fogginess as we age. Don't worry there are lots of things that we can do to help keep our brains in great shape. I just turned 50 and have incorporated many of these ideas into my daily life and have found that my ability to focus and my short term and long term memory have improved dramatically.


Sleep is one of the most important factors in mental clarity. Most people need at least 8 hours of sleep to keep their minds sharp. There are some people who insist that they only need 5 hours of sleep to feel rested; however, studies show that if you consistently deprive your body of the sleep it needs, it will eventually find a way to catch up.

Stress Reduction
If you are feeling stressed, try yoga or meditation either sitting, lying down or walking. Many of my friends report that meditation and yoga have changed their lives by reducing stress dramatically. One recent Massachusetts General Hospital study of 35 men and women showed that those who regularly meditated 20 minutes a day experienced physical changes in their brains; specifically MRI's showed that those who meditated had an increased thickness in regions of their brain that involve memory and attention( areas that typically shrink with age).

Daily Exercise
Exercise is also helpful to a healthy brain. It can increase blood flow to the brain and keep arteries entering the brain clear of cholesterol and increases a substance called brain-derived neurotropic factor which helps sustain neurons and plays a role in maintaining memory. A recent University of Illinois study showed that aerobic exercise…as little as three hours a week can help preserve brain volume. Go for a brisk 1 hour walk or bike ride every day to improve your mental clarity.

Daily Mental Challenge
Your brain grows with mental exercise. To help ensure that your brain stays strong, you must use it like any other muscle in your body. Mental challenges help to maintain connections and communication between neurons by constantly challenging those neurons. Every system in the brain requires stimulation to keep working. You can challenge your brain by learning to play an instrument, learning a new language, crossword puzzles or playing bridge. Whatever you choose is up to you, just make sure you find something that you enjoy and do it often.

Nutrition can make a big difference in maintaining a well oiled brain The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish increase the brain's ability to send and receive messages reports a scientist from Tufts University. The best way to reach the suggested serving of omega 3( 1.1 to 1.4 grams daily for women and 1.6 grams for men) is by eating fatty fish like Salmon, mackerel or tuna at least three times per week.

B vitamins are important for protecting your brain. The ability to process complex tasks in the brain has been attributed to folate( one of the B vitamins). B vitamins seem to play a role in the functioning of neurotransmitters. Fruits and vegetables, especially leafy green vegetables like spinach are rich sources of folate. Also important for cognitive function: B12 found in meat, fish and fortified cereals. Many people become deficient in B12 as they age, and low levels of the vitamin have been linked to problems with verbal memory, visual recall and short-term memory. If you are on acid blockers long term ask your doctor to check your vitamin B12 levels, since these types of medications can sometimes interfere with the absorption of B12.

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