How to Boost your Memory

Bea Boomer’s Vital Aging Project – Day 62– 5/27/15 

As a person from the middle years of the baby boomer generation (born in the fifties), I’m at an age where my memory is a concern.  I don’t want to lose it, and I want to keep my brain functioning well for as long as I can. At work or in social situations, I regularly hear people of my age, and even younger, complaining of memory problems. It doesn’t have to be that way – we have some power over it. We just need to take some simple steps, not only to improve our memory, but also to enhance our overall brain function.  

I know that at age 58, my memory is simply not trustworthy. Brain farts are a common occurrence. Too often, I resort to making lists and notes to remember things. Recent notes have included gentle reminders such as: take shower, go to work and make dinner.  Ok, I’m just kidding, my memory isn’t that bad.

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I’ve also gotten to the point of speaking to inanimate objects, such as the stove; as in, “I’ve shut off the stove.” This is so I won’t go crazy on my drive back to work, wondering if I turned the darn thing off.  I guess I won’t worry too much about this until I start having long conversations with my appliances.

My husband points out that since I’m always in a hurry, my memory is not the problem; it’s simply lack of concentration.  Memory experts would agree with that assertion. One way to combat that age-related forgetfulness is to take the time to focus on what it is you want to remember.  Distracted thinking leads to memory ‘burps.’

People who research this kind of stuff also point out that there are ways we can proactively address age-related memory issues. The actions I’ve taken, though they may sound silly, are actually good for my memory. 

Experts point out that making lists of important tasks helps keep them in your memory banks. Nowadays, you don’t need an old fashioned pen and paper list – cell phones provide reminder and note making applications.

Also, saying things out loud, such as repeating the name of a person after you’re introduced, helps store that information for later retrieval. 

A common sense way of keeping track of your reading glasses, keys or other commonly lost item is by simply putting them in the same spot every day. My husband is always preaching about this to me, and I have to admit that he seldom loses things.  

Another way to remember something like a person’s name is to create a picture in your mind based on the name. Which isn’t so tough if a person’s name is Harry Snow! Other names might be more difficult to create a mind visualization.

We can also make some lifestyle modifications to enhance our memory and other cognitive functions.  This includes regular exercise to increase blood and oxygen flow to the brain. Healthier eating and including antioxidant-rich foods to our diets is also important.  Playing strategic games, learning a new language, journaling, and taking an online college course can also help our brain functions.  Taking charge of our brain health is an important step for vital aging. 

When I did some research on the subject of memory, I found out what we all know to be true:  some memory loss is simply normal as we age.  It’s common for a person to occasionally lose their keys – what’s scary is forgetting what keys are used for, which can be a sign of dementia. People who have concerns about memory issues may want to address it with their doctors, to see if an underlying condition is causing it. If so, dealing with that condition will improve the memory concerns. 

For Further Reading:

Simple Techniques for Improving Memory 

Memory Boosters for Seniors: Vitamin b12 & Folic Acid

Improve your Memory with a Good Night’s Sleep

©Bea Boomers Wellness 2009 – 2015

Ed2Go – Online Learning Resource

Bea Boomer’s Vital Aging Project – Day 49 – 4/24/15

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 Bea’s Buzz for Friday: 

Henry Ford said it well:

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.  The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I believe that lifelong learning is a key to vital aging. For me, maintaining a sense of curiosity and wonder, along with cultivating a wealth of knowledge, is a great way to maintain a youthful outlook. 

I recently found an inexpensive online learning source – you may want to check it out if you want to keep those brain cells charged up.  The site is Ed2Go, and it offers a variety of courses in 12 categories (Accounting/Finance, College Readiness, Personal Development, Technology, Business, Writing and Publishing, and more). Ed2Go partners with over 2000 colleges and universities to offer continuing education for adult learners of all ages.

  • Do you know someone who may be interested in career training?  Programs include: Healthcare and Fitness, IT and Software Development, Media Design, Skilled Trades/Industrial, to name a few. 
  • Are you a writer?  Check out Ed2Go’s Writing and Publishing course options.
  • How about Personal Development courses?  You’ll find a wide variety of interesting choices.  

I’m currently taking a Brain Health course at Ed2Go. This course cost me $65 and consists of 6 weeks of lessons.  I’ll let you know what I thought of this class when I’ve completed it.  

For Further Reading:

Why Read? Why Not?

Why Take Online Courses? 

5 Things to Learn about Lifelong Learning

 

 

Brain Awareness Week (March 16 – 22)

 

Bea Boomer’s Wellness Project – Day 33 – 3/18/15

I recently saw the movie, Still Alice. In the movie, Julianne Moore plays Alice, a woman who struggles with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. In her case, it was familial; she carried the gene for AD. This neurological disease has also been linked to diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, along with other modifiable risk factors.  In a recent bulletin, the AARP pointed out that the cases and costs of AD continue to rise, with no end in sight.*

Since then, I’ve been thinking about my brain.  Or should I say, I’ve been thinking about my brain’s health. I’ve written posts about the aging brain in years past. In my blog, past articles  have taken a lighthearted approach. But in truth, losing my brain functions is one of those things I do take seriously, and is the thing I fear most about aging

Which brings me to Brain Awareness Week, a worldwide initiative which was started by the Dana Foundation 20 years ago. This foundation provides information about the brain to the public, and also helps advance brain health research in a variety of ways. This provides us with the opportunity to learn about the strides that scientists are making to protect our brain health. Brain Awareness Week is just the start; according to the Scientific American website, the Dana Foundation continues brain awareness activities year-round. 

How to get involved with Brain Awareness Week: Check out the Society for Neuroscience Brain Awareness Campaign.  

I’ve recently joined to become an advocate of Alzheimer’s research – please join me.  We can make a difference! You can become a chamption at ActionAlz

You can follow the Alzheimer’s Association on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/actionalz

I’ve found some interesting reading about the brain: 

  • This article from The Human Memory website, describes the three major parts of the brain. This website has some interesting reading and includes articles about the different types of memory, memory disorders, types of memory, etc. 
  • The Amen Clinic talks about super foods for the brain.
  • Brain Healthy Recipes from BrainHQ at the Posit Science website

Source: 

*Reid, T.R. Where’s the War on Alzheimer’s? AARP Bulletin.  January – February 2015.  

©Bea Boomers Wellness 2009-2015

Insomnia: Sleep Thief

 

 

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Bea’s Wellness Project – Day 22 – 2/23/15

You know as well as Bea does that a lack of sleep simply sucks. During perimenopause, along with all those other fun things such as night sweats and hot flashes, insomnia reared its ugly head and made her life very, very unpleasant. Now menopausal (yikes), Bea still suffers from sleepless nights and they wreak havoc on the daylight hours. 

This lack of sleep makes her grumpy, fuzzy-brained and isn’t too good for her looks. There’s nothing more annoying than have one of her bright-eyed co-workers starting a conversation with “Boy, you look tired!”  Especially if that statement is made every day.

Bea knows she isn’t suffering alone – According to the researchers who study this stuff, at least 40% of Americans don’t get the 7 hours of quality sleep they need to function well (Aschwanden). Many of these insomnia sufferers are women.  (Can we create a silk purse out of a sow’s ear?  Maybe we should all get together and start the Middle of the Night Club, since misery loves company). 

For those of you who suffer with insomnia like Bea does, you already know that lack of sleep can lead to crabbiness, inability to focus/concentrate, forgetfulness, lack of energy, just to name a few annoyances.

Chronic insomnia, unfortunately, ends up causing more than just minor disturbances in our lives.

  • Lack of sleep can cause problems with the functioning of our brains. It affects our brain’s plasticity, by weakening our brain’s ability to make connections between brain cells.  This decreases our learning ability.  (Evans & Burghardt)
  • Lack of sleep makes us more susceptible to viruses and infections by weakening our immune system (Evans & Burghardt)
  • In many studies, sleep deprivation has been linked to memory loss and even Alzheimer’s disease (Aschwanden)
  • Lack of sleep has been linked to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and even earlier death.  
  • One very recent study has even shown that it can make our brain smaller. Now THAT sounds weird. You can read more in this article from the CNN website.

Bea has been trying to find things that will help her sleep better.  In her next post (Wednesday, February 25th) she’ll let you know what she’s found out – by the way, ladies, do you have any “sleep better” suggestions?  What’s worked for you? 

For Further Reading:

Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep

Interested in visuals?

Check out this cool infographic to see what sleep deprivation does to our brain

Resources: 

Evans, S. PhD, & Burghardt, P., PhD. Brain Fit for Life A User’s Guide to Life Long Brain Health and Fitness. 2008. River Point Publications: Milan, MI

Aschwanden, Christie. Counting Sleep. Prevention Magazine November 2014. 

 

 

 

 

Multitasking: Bad for the Brain and More

Who doesn’t multitask nowadays? At work, we’re often forced to do so, because of company cutbacks that leaves increased workloads for fewer employees. In our “leisure” time, we’re on our laptops or Smartphones, simultaneously checking emails, our friends’ Facebook statuses, and tweeting our latest whereabouts. In the car, we do a variety of things along with driving: talking on the phone or texting, eating, putting on make-up, checking ourselves out in the rear view mirror or taking a selfie. We do everything in the car, it seems, except actually paying attention to the road.

 

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So what’s the problem with multitasking?

  • It’s not productive. Seriously. It’s not.
  • It creates a lack of focus, which may interfere with problem solving and creativity (Skerrett) Experts point out that people are not meant to be so scattered – we become less efficient at what we’re trying to accomplish. (Rosen)
  • It’s bad for our brains. In fact, Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD, author of Make Your Brain Smarter, goes as far as to say it’s toxic for our brains. Multitasking drains our brain’s energy and “dumbs it down.” Chapman has done the studies: they’ve shown that multitaskers make more errors and suffer from higher stress levels. Another researcher, psychologist David Meyer from the University of Michigan says that it contributes to short-term memory loss.

 

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  • It’s stressful. Long-term stress can cause health issues.
  • It lowers our IQ. Read more about the study that led to that conclusion here: Infomania Worse than Marijuana
  • Multitasking is bad for our social wellness. We have less empathy and compassion for others when we’re multitasking. Is there research to prove that statement? Nope. Just my opinion. Because when we’re talking on the phone while we’re with our kids on the playground, we’re ignoring them. When we’re on a date and both of us are talking or texting on our personal cell phones, we’re not connecting. When we’re walking through a store checking our Facebook wall, taking a selfie, or tweeting, we may not see someone who needs our help.

Many of us multitask to keep up with the new technologies that pop up every second nowadays. We want to stay on top of everything. But in reality, we’re missing what really counts. Giving our undivided attention to a task, thereby accomplishing it well. Giving our undivided attention to a friend or loved one, thereby letting them know we value them.

Sources

Chapman, Sandra, PhD. Make Your Brain Smarter, PhD Free Press New York: NY 2013. Print.

Rosen, Christine. The Myth of Multitasking. The New Atlantis. Number 20. Spring 2008. pp. 105-110.

Skerrett, Patrick, Executive Editor. Harvard Health Blog. Multitasking – a Medical and Mental Hazard. January 7, 2012.

 

 

 

 

Age-Related Memory Loss or Alzheimer’s?

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A few nights ago, Bea had a Girls’ Night Out scheduled with 4 of her girlfriends.  She strolled into the restaurant about 10 minutes befoe 6:00, noticed that no one else had arrived yet, and asked the hostess for a table for five, please.  Bea ordered a coffee with a shot of Bailey’s  and happily munched on the bread basket contents while she waited for her buddies.  And waited.  Watched the door, waited some more.

Around 6:10, she started wondering.  “Hmmm, where the heck are they?”  She thought to herself.  “How nervy, making me wait!”  She commented to the waiter, “Here I sit, with my invisible friends!”  He chuckled.  Bea chuckled.  Then decided it was time for action.

She called one friend, got her voicemail, left a message:  “Hey, did you leave yet?  I’m waiting here and no one’s shown up yet!”  Bea called a second friend, J,  and lo and behold, she answered the phone.  “What’s up, why are you still home? I’m sitting here at Sajo’s!”  J answered:  “We’re meeting tomorrow night!”

What the???  Holy crap.  Bea showed up on the wrong night for our GNO!  Now what?  Should she go home, or simply eat alone?  While she was waiting, she had perused the menu, and was craving salmon, not leftovers in her fridge.  The waiter would think she was nuts!

Then Bea’s phone rang, and it was her friend, M.  “I’m here alone,” Bea said, sounding pitiful.  “What are you doing?”  M. had just sat down to dinner with her hubby, but because she’s Bea’s best friend, she ditched him and drove to the restaurant to keep her company.

The two of them had a good laugh over Bea’s brain fart. But it also made Bea feel like she’s losing her marbles!  She still can’t believe she forgot what night she was supposed to meet her friends.  As she thought back on the last couple of months, Bea realized that over the past couple of months, she had been plagued by other little memory losses.

Does this kind of thing ever happen to you? Do you ever wonder if it’s just a blip on the old brain, or something more scary?

Bea has written prior posts about Alzheimer’s, but never answered the question about what types of memory lapses might indicate the possible onset of the disease. This information was easy to find, simply by going to the Alzheimer’s Association website at www.alz.org.  According to what she read, Bea can be assured that she is, in fact, simply having normal age-related memory lapses.

The site has an article that discusses the 10 early signs of this disease.  If you fear that you may displaying early signs, or a family member or friend might be, take a look at these early indicators:

  1.  Alzheimer’s may be rearing its head if a person starts forgetting things they’ve recently learned, or if they forget a very important date, or if they begin verifying information with others again and again.
  2. A person may start having a difficult time making plans or solvingproblems.  They may have difficulty concentrating and keeping track of routine things in their daily lives.
  3. Having a difficult time with completing routine tasks; for example, forgetting how to get to their local supermarket.
  4. Time or place confusion; when a person forgets what year it is. Another disturbing sign is if someone forgets where they are or how they got there.
  5. Vision problems that may affect a person’s ability to drive. These problems include “difficulty reading, judging distance, and determining color or contrast.” *
  6. Normal aging often has us trying to figure out a word that’s “on the tip of our tongue.” A person with early signs of Alzheimer’s may be unable to follow a normal conversation and may repeat themselves.  Additionally, their vocabulary may become hindered – they forget what certain items are called, and give them a substitute name.
  7. A person may misplace items, putting them in the wrong place.  For example, putting keys in the refrigerator.  After misplacing something, they are unable to retrace their steps to find it.
  8. A person may begin to make bad decisions and use poor judgment.  Personal grooming may be ignored.
  9. While it’s normal to occasionally want to bow out of social obligations, a person with Alzheimer’s may begin to regularly withdraw themselves from hobbies, social connections, and so forth.
  10. Finally, a disturbing sign is that a person’s personality may change negatively, and they may become moody.  A person who was outgoing and friendly may become suspicious of others, develop fearful or anxious behaviors.  When their level of routine comfort is disturbed, they may become upset.

The Alzheimer’s Association points out that it is very important to detect Alzheimer’s as early as possible.  Early treatment can help relieve symptoms and may delay the further worsening of symptoms.

* Alzheimer’s Association. 10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s

For further reading:

10 Ways to Boost Your Brain Power

 

 

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Have GPS, Will Travel

 

Don’t even bother, Mr. B.

 

Bea’s husband is “navigationally challenged.”  A fancy way of saying he gets lost simply trying to drive through our neighborhood.  So he bought a GPS, and now he can drive to our local McDonald’s without a problem.  Bea warned him that he’s “dumbing himself down” by using that GPS (who, by the way, has an annoying voice) but, being a typical man, he never listens to his wife.

It actually appears that getting lost is a genetic trait in his family. A few of his siblings can’t find their way around town, either. Who’da thunk that DNA, along with giving a person blue eyes, brown hair, and skinny legs, would also pass along a “just get lost” gene?

Luckily for Mr. Boomer, if the GPS has a nervous breakdown from trying to direct him all the time, both Mrs. B. and the Boomer offspring, Ms. B., have a great sense of direction.  (Especially when it comes to finding shopping malls and their favorite Mexican restaurants – Go figure).

Bea can actually read a paper map! *Gasp.* And daughter Boomer only has to drive somewhere once, and she can get back to that spot blindfolded.  I kid you not.

WebMD says it’s all in our brains.  Navigational skills, that is. It’s got something to do with our hippocampus, the memory part of our brains. Some of us simply have better recognition and spatial memory in that old hippocampus of ours.  Read more in WebMD’s article,  Why Do You Always Get Lost? .

The article also says that we can improve our sense of direction; Mr. Boomer may have to look into that . . .

 

For Further Reading:

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Don’t Know Much About: Lewy Body Dementia

Recently, I read a moving article in “O,” Oprah’s magazine.  The author, Beth Macy, told the story of Lynn Forbish, a former copy-desk chief for a Virginia newspaper, who had developed Lewy Body Dementia

Lynn Forbish asked Macy to write the story, so people would become more aware of this “thing,” as she referred to the disorder, after momentarily forgetting its name. Beth Macy described the younger, feistier version of Ms. Forbish – a woman who could, and did, terrorize journalists at the newspaper with her sharp tongue and biting wit.

What is Lewy Body Dementia?
Though I read at the Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA) website that it’s a common form of dementia, almost as common as Alzheimer’s, I had never heard of this condition prior to reading Beth Macy’s article. 

According to the LBDA, this progressive brain disease has symptoms that are common to both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, so it’s under-diagnosed; many doctors aren’t familiar with it.  As described by the Family Caregiver Alliance, “lewy bodies,” named after Frederich Heinrich Lewy, M.D., are “abnormal protein structures” located in the nerve cells of an affected patient’s brain.

Symptoms, Treatment, Support

HelpGuide describes the symptoms of LBD, which include hallucinations, a decline in mental abilities, difficulty with day-to-day tasks, and sleep issues, as well as changes in some bodily functions. This HelpGuide article also talks about diagnosis and treatment of this disease, and provides tips for caregivers whose loved one suffers from LBD.

The LBDA is an excellent source of support and resources for family members and caregivers. This association also offers an email newsletter, the Lewy Body Digest, providing the latest information in treatments and research.

Lynn Forbish’s Story:
Beth Macy’s story about Lynn Forbish from the Roanoke Times newspaper:

The above article was written in 2007 – Lynn Forbish died in 2010, according to Ms. Macy’s article in O magazine.  

Further Resources:
(1) Mayo Clinic, Lewy Body Dementia

(2) National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NINDS Dementia With Lewy Bodies Information Page
(3) Johns Hopkins Medicine offers a free Guide to Understanding Dementia

Don’t Know Much About: Alzheimer’s Disease

November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and over 5 million people in our country suffer from this disease, a number that continues to grow. I’m sure that some of you readers out there have a relative with this heartbreaking condition, or know someone whose family member is affected by it.

My friend’s mother suffered from Alzheimer’s for several years before she died, robbing her of her memories and stealing her away, little by little, from her family.  During the time that her mom was in a nursing home, my friend gave me a calendar – each month portrayed the artwork of a man who suffered from Alzheimer’s.  As the months progressed, the quality of the artwork clearly deteriorated.  The calendar provided a sobering picture of how this disease can affect people’s abilities.

While I knew that age and a family history of the disease are two of the risk factors, I only recently discovered that African-Americans and Latinos are at a higher risk for Alzheimer’s than Caucasians, and often don’t get diagnosed until the symptoms have advanced. Early diagnosis can help people get the medical care they need, and enhance their quality of life. So for these groups of people in particular, raising awareness is vital.

We can learn more about this disease from websites such as the Alzheimer’s Association.  The site provides some basic facts about this progressive brain disease here.   The Alzheimer’s Association has a goal:  To rid our lives of this devastating disease, and to help people who are affected by it by raising people’s awareness of the disease, advancing research, and fundraising. Some of the links within the site include:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease – what it is, risk factors, warning signs, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
  • Living with Alzheimer’s – care providers, financial matters, legal issues, and so on.
  • We Can Help – Local chapters, care finder, 24/7 helpline, support groups, and more.

I don’t know about you, but my mind is one thing that I’d like to keep strong and healthy for as long as I can during my lifetime.  The HelpGuide website points out ways that we can keep our minds strong and prevent or delay Alzheimer’s: 

  • Exercise regularly – fitness is good for both body and mind
  • Eat a diet that’s brain-healthy
  • An active mind is a healthy mind, so keep on learning
  • Don’t skimp on sleep
  • Learn to relax and deal with stress
  • Protect your brain For more specific steps relating to these strategies, check out this article by HelpGuide experts.  By the way, please hug a family caregiver this month!  They are the true heroes of our societyFurther Reading:
    WebMD has an Alzheimer’s Disease Health Center, which is another good resource for learning about this disease.

    The Everyday Health website has some informative articles, including one that talks about how to communicate with someone who has the disease. and an article that asks the question: “Can lifestyle changes help prevent Alzheimer’s?”

    The Alzheimer’s Association talks about the 10 warning signs of this disease.

    This article from USA Today talks more about the role of race and culture in Alzheimer’s disease.

Face Life’s Challenges with HelpGuide

Need a top-notch resource to help you, a family member, or a friend face life’s daily challenges?  HelpGuide, a non-profit website established in 1999, is your answer. 

The loss of their daughter led Robert and Jeanne Segal’s life led them to start HelpGuide. Rather than be defeated by Morgan’s suicide, they decided to help others by providing unbiased, expert knowledge about  mental health issues, aging, family and relationships, and more.  You can read more about the Segals and their team of experts here.

I read “How to stop worrying” with interest, since I inherited my mom’s “worrywart” gene and over the years, have had to learn how to relax and take care of myself emotionally. 

Quick stress relief” talks about how to recognize stress and your body’s response to it, as well as how to relieve stress in simple yet effective ways.

I was relieved to discover that my occasional memory lapses are simply a part of aging, not Alzheimer’s, and that I can actually help keep those memory cells alive. Give me wrinkles, let my body sag, Lord, but please don’t let me lose my mind!

  • If you’re a parent, you may want to check out the childhood challenges link – which has articles about autism, learning disabilities, ADHD, and more. 
  • Coping with a death of a loved one or the break-up of your marriage?  Take a look at the topics under the grief and loss link.
  • If you’re a caregiver, the caregiving and support  topics can help you choose senior housing for your loved one and  cope with caretaker burnout or end-of-life care.

This is just a small sample of the types of guidance you’ll find at HelpGuide. 

Life can be tough – most of the time, there are no “Hollywood endings,” and life certainly doesn’t follow a script.  It’s good to have a place to go to get the knowledge and expert advice you need to cope with life’s challenges.  HelpGuide is one of those places.