Are you the type of person who knows and adores someone for years, you meet regularly at book club or at school events, you hug, avidly find out each other’s latest excitements and for the life of you YOU CAN’T REMEMBER THEIR NAME?!
This is the brain that was given to me.
When I was teaching, in my thirties my brain functioned at a higher resolution and I managed to fuddle my way around two to three hundred girls’ names each year. Well to be honest the teenage girl is a terrifying creature so I was very motivated to try my hardest to remember.
Where did I leave my keys today? In the dish in the hallway where they’re suppose to retire every evening, I fear not. Then again, I need my purse before I can find my keys because I can’t go anywhere without money. Luckily a purse is a object with some substance and color. Keys are tricky as they are small little creatures and tend to hide in nooks and crannies. They don’t say much either. I’d appreciate a whispered “I’m over here, you silly Dim-bat.” However, that’s a fantasy and instead I’ll just go and lift up the sofa to see if anything useful is under there.
I do try and be consistent with where I leave my keys, well most of the time. So hubby got me a phone app. called Tile that has a little tile attached to my keys and via the magic of bluetooth it can find them and make the tile beep so that I can hear my keys calling to me. It’s a pretty darn helpful device.
I didn’t want to look into Alzheimer’s because I’m scared of it as any sensible human should be, but Oprah’s The Magazine’s June 2017 forced me to share its information.
Alzheimer’s is the most common presentation of dementia, which is a decline in our mental cognition, memory, reasoning, and often our personality. When I was a nurse years back, I remember the anger and confusion in many Alzheimer’s patients and the enormous amount of stress involved in caring for them.
It’s a terribly tragic disease for victims and family.
Alzheimer’s patients have two proteins found in their brain in autopsy. Beta-amyloid which forms plaques and tua which creates tangles in the brain.
Maria Shriver’s father Sargent was diagnosed with Alzheimer in 2003, she described him as a brilliant man. As a result of her father’s diagnosis, Shriver recently teamed up with Equinox Sports Clubs to encourage its members to value their brains as much as their bodies in a Move for Minds crowdfunding event (moveforminds.org). She writes:
“I want women to realize that they spend all this time and money on their lips, their thighs, and their eyes, but none of that will matter if you don’t have your mind.”
Well I blame my dysfunctional estrogen levels for my scattiness, but who knows.
Worryingly, every 66 seconds another brain develops this tragic disease and two-thirds of the brains are female.
The National Institutes for health spend billions researching cancer, HIV and heart disease and much less on Alzheimer’s.
“Women suffer disproportionately in terms of pure numbers, and we need to understand how sex biology contributes” says Dena Dubal, MD, PhD, assistant professor of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco.
There hasn’t been enough gender-focused research done. I’m grateful that Shriver founded the nonprofit Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement (WAM) to raise funds to improve this.
Experts think there are direct links to depression, stress and inflammation that can be addressed in our 30s, 40s and 50s to ward off Alzheimer’s.
Other Connections that may Affect Alzheimer’s are:
- Untreated high blood pressure. Changing diet and regular exercise are vital.
- Certain reactions to medication
- Inadequate amounts of sleep
- Hormone imbalances – can affect mood and energy levels.
- High bad cholesterols may cause plaque in vessels that may restrict the blood flow to particular parts of the brain.
- Take care with sugar intake as Diabetes is linked to damaged walls in the circulatory system.
- High levels of blood sugar causes insulin resistance which is linked to Alzheimer’s
- Smoking – everyone knows that’s awful for so many reasons
- Generalized inflammation caused by unhealthy diets and lack of exercise, deficiency of Vitamin D and many other things
Scientists are now realizing that a healthier lifestyle can possibly decrease the presence of Alzheimer’s by about 30 per cent.
Preventative and Supportive Steps we can all take:
Regularly exercise in any way you enjoy reduces the plaque build-up in our brains says Richard Isaacson MD, director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian Hospital.
Physical exercise may improve the health of our hippocampus, one of our memory centers. It also stimulates the growth of new blood vessels and thus increases the nourishment to our brains. Working out boosts our levels of growth hormones and therefore most likely creates an overall healthier environment in our brains.
One study in Australian suggested that high intensity strength training two or three times a week for six months improves the general workings of our brain.
Dr. Mercola suggests that even simple squats and arm raises for a few minutes at a time carried out two or three times a day can improve our overall health, including our brain. Now that is a doable idea.
Set an alarm on your phone to motivate you to leave your desk and do single leg balances, squats and leg raises just for a few minutes. This helps to eradicate the problems with sitting for long periods.
Yoga, my friends is a fabulous stress buster and may help the brain in a few ways, says Helen Lavretsky, MD, professor in residence in the psychiatry department at UCLA. Stress hormones suppress the hippocampus volume and function, that affects our memory, and stress induced inflammation is linked to neuronal damage.
In a study by Lavretsky adults aged 55 plus, who attended an hour long yoga class per week and meditated 12 minutes per day for 12 weeks had less stress and their verbal memory increased. This Lavretsky says would help old and young people alike.
You can stretch out anywhere, walls, chairs and mantlepieces all make useful props for balancing too.
A healthy brain diet is an important first step to prevent the onset of this disease. Apparently our cranium desires and needs plants. Eating a Mediterranean style diet and munching on heart- improving vegetables and nuts in between meals for snacks is great. Cut down on animal products, sugar and bad fats. Healthy grass fed meats and grass-fed dairy are much better for us as the animals are fed their natural food source.
Leafy greens come out as the top food source to eat 6 servings a week are recommended and any vegetable at least one serving per day.
Nuts are encouraged 5 times per week and berries at least twice a week.
Fish once a week and chicken twice, are healthy choices. Omega 3s like DHA found in seafood help increase the brain’s cells’ communication with other neuronal cells.
A vitamin B complex and especially vitamin B12 found in chicken and fish is linked to better memory (if you’re a vegetarian take a food based supplement).
Cut out sugar as much as possible to have a healthy brain.
Remember that fruits have a lot of sugar. Perhaps have treats at the weekend, or after a hard day and be good the rest of the time. We are flawed humans after all.
One of my favorite pieces of advice is to indulge in a glass of red wine every day. Yay see life is fabulous!
The second amazing suggestion is drink green tea. Honor Whiteman writes in Medical News Today “the beverage can enhance our brain’s cognitive functions, particularly the working memory.” Green tea has so many health benefits it’s really worth the time getting to love, love, love that hot, comforting beverage.
Latest Research on How to Remember Stuff Better
Birthdays and anniversaries are an embarrassing problem in my life-bubble. Guess what? I forget them. Strangely enough I don’t forget my own birthday. Even my kids’ dates of birth are a struggle and my son was born on my sister’s birthday. I never feel completely confident that I’ve got my daughter’s date right and I was there that day. However, I was a tad overstretched in more areas than I’d like to divulge. What does that say about my mothering skills? Luckily my hubby is very organized and even puts his latest bowel movements on the schedule. Okay, I’m kidding, but you get the point.
Perhaps if there are direct consequences to me forgetting something then it might improve my memory. I try to keep times and dates in my head and not always look at the schedule and if I remember them I can have a cuppa green tea with a buddy as a reward.
Instead of letting my week flow quickly by with routine activities, I am beginning to schedule excursions to a local bakery and chat about pastry consistency or visit the library or local privately-owned book store and discuss creepy characters and fabulous life stories with the owner.
It’s been found that if I break my routine and do something a little special or different than normal with a friend I create a new memory. Thus I will use my mind and be social at the same time.
I need to work on being more social and avoid hiding under the bed for days at a time. I believe that being kind and helpful to others brings joy and a better working mind also.
Having a support network helps in so many ways. If friends encourage me to read more, or challenge me to memorize a poem or their cell numbers, these little non-stressful tasks can make me feel amazingly smart. I’m constantly challenged by the amazing women around me.
I’m so grateful for you!
As a busy modern peeps, I feel compelled to multi-task, however if I savor the present moment by stopping and staring into my beautiful child’s eyes and seeing their wonder, I’m guessing I’ll feel more alert and alive. That’s gonna clean out the cobwebs in anyone’s dusty hippocampus and probably freak out my kid. But hey they’ll know I care and that I’m listening. It means my kids are important to me.
I have a new, clear intention to put brain health in the forefront of my mind, to start improving my memories and prevent anymore from slipping away.
Live well and lead productive, happy lives!