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

Dysthymia: Persistent Depressive Disorder

Bea Boomer’s Vital Aging Project – Day 57– 5/13/15

I had no idea what to write about today ~ for some reason, I couldn’t sleep last night.  As I tossed and turned, I tried to come up with ideas for today’s post ~ my thoughts meandered around the labyrinth of my brain and kept coming to dead ends.  After getting home from work today at 5:15 p.m., I realized that the Healthy Aging course I registed for at Ed2go starts today, which means that I have no time to come up with a last minute idea! 

So instead, I’m re-posting an article I wrote for the Ezine Articles website about Dysthymia (Persistent Depressive Disorder). My co-worker, Fred (name changed to protect the innocent) would accuse me of “phoning it in” tonight; but sometimes, that’s just the way it goes. . . . 

Dysthymia Symptoms

Jenny, a 35 year old wife and mother, has little energy to play with her two young children.  She sleeps restlessly at night, and often feels the need to take a nap during the day.  She has difficulty in making even the most minor decisions, and finds it hard to concentrate.  Jenny often feels her family would be better off without her.  For short periods of time, she’s able to pull herself out of her mood, and she’ll feel like her “old self” again.  But these periods don’t last. 

This wife and mom is suffering from the common symptoms of dysthymia, also known as persistent depressive disorder.  Other symptoms include feelings of sadness almost every day, poor appetite or overeating, low self-esteem, and loss of enjoyment in formerly fun activities.  While the symptoms aren’t as severe as those of major depression, they last longer.  Dysthymia symptoms last at least two years. 

Causes of Dysthymia

The causes behind any form of depression can be complex.  People suffering from dysthymia usually have a family background of depression. Brain chemical imbalances can be another cause. Sometimes childhood trauma that causes chronic stress can lead to dysthymia in a teenager or young adult.  Additionally, some medical conditions can be linked to dysthymia.  These include neurological conditions, hypothyroidism, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia.* For elderly people, dysthymia may arise due to the challenging life changes they face as they age.  This may include chronic illnesses or physical disability, brain function decline, or the loss of a spouse.  

Diagnosis and Treatment

People who have dysthymia often don’t obtain treatment – the symptoms often develop slowly and then become integrated into a person’s life, causing them to believe it’s just a part of who they are. This is especially true for those people who develop this disorder early in their lives.  However, it’s important that persistent depression is treated. People who have dysthymia are at a higher risk of developing major depression. Experts have termed this condition “double depression.”*

If a person has been suffering from a depressed mood over the period of two years and has some of the other symptoms described above, a visit to their family doctor will help.  The person will need to provide their doctor with both the physical and mental ailments that have been plaguing them. If the doctor suspects persistent depressive disorder, he or she may start with a physical examination.  This is done because dysthymia may be caused by an underlying medical condition.  Laboratory and blood tests may also be given to provide further insight.  Finally, the doctor may conduct a psychological examination.

Treatment for dysthymia involves anti-depressants, psychotherapy, or a combination of both.  There are a few types of anti-depressants that are prescribed for this type of depression; however, the most common type used are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).  Experts point out that SSRIs tend to work well for most people and have more bearable side effects than other types of anti-depressants. These drugs don’t work overnight; it may take several weeks for them to make a difference in the affected person’s life.

Psychotherapy involves talking to a mental health professional.  This can give the person some insight about the condition, as well as their own emotions, thoughts and behaviour.  A good mental health professional can help teach the person how to deal with stress, negative thought patterns, and self-defeating behaviors. Psychotherapy can provide a person with the everyday skills they need to battle their persistent depression.  They can also suggest support groups, if needed. 

Jenny doesn’t have to live the rest of her life suffering with the “grays” of dysthymia that greatly limit her happiness and well-being.  If she takes that first step by visiting her doctor and describing her symptoms, there are treatments available to help her fight back against persistent depressive disorder and take back her life. 

Sources Cited List

*Swartz, Karen, MD. The Johns Hopkins White Papers. Depression and Anxiety. 2014. Remedy Health Media: New York, NY.  Print. 

 

 

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

 

 

7 Mini Health Habits

Bea Boomer’s Vital Aging Project – Day 44 – 4/13/15 

Woman lying in bed sleeping

Get a good sleep to enhance your memory banks and other brain functions.

Woman relaxing on a sofa

Want to enhance your sleep? Turn off the television or computer before bedtime and relax with soothing music or meditation CDs. 

Eat a handful of almonds a day to help reduce your cholesterol.  

Senior Woman With Adult Daughter Relaxing On Sofa At Home

A laugh a day keeps the doctor away. Well, maybe not, but laughter is a great prescription for emotional and physical health.  

Wear sunscreen to avoid looking like an alligator purse as you age and to protect yourself from skin cancer.

Senior Woman Power Walking In The Park

Find time to take a daily walk. Too cold or rainy or hot to walk outside? Try a fitness walk in front of your television.  Brisk walking for 30 minutes a day is good for your heart, and can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. 

Drink green tea for a great anti-oxidant boost. This beverage helps protect our cardiovascular and immune systems. Green tea may even help protect us against several types of cancers. 

How about you, readers?  What actions do you take to enhance your health and wellness? 

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

Music for Vital Aging

The Bea Boomer’s Wellness Project – Day 30 – 3/11/15

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In my recent post, May I have this Dance, I mentioned that I’d been listening to a new radio station, Alt Nation.  My twenty-something daughter introduced me to that station after I subscribed to Sirius radio. As a Detroiter, I’ve always leaned toward Motown music, the sixties and of course, classic rock from the seventies.  But recently, I’ve been wanting to introduce some new music to my brain.  My musical tastes are in a time warp, and I need to shake it up a little!

The old songs we listen to have a way of evoking long-forgotten memories, good times, old friends and loved ones. The song “Isn’t Life Strange,” from Blues album, Seventh Sojourn, always makes me think about my brother, who died unexpectedly in April of 2000. Other songs bring back memories of great (and not so great) times of my angst-ridden teenage years.   

Would you want to live without music? I sure wouldn’t. Imagine a movie without music in the background, developing the mood of that particular scene. Imagine seeing a bride walking down the aisle without hearing that familiar tune that defines a wedding. Not having lullabies to sing your child to sleep, nor songs that make us want to get up and dance with abandon. . . . Life would definitely be strange!

For me, there’s no denying that music is a part of vital aging – just because it brings pleasure to our lives.  

There’s also some scientific evidence that shows it benefits our emotional wellness and our brains.  A DocShop TV video helps visualize the ways that music benefits our health, no matter what our age.  For example, listening to music can lower our blood pressure.  

Other research talks about how music can boost our mood.  (Not that I needed any research to realize that) I just discovered a new song, My Typeby a group called Saint Motel, and it makes me want to move in a way that vaguely resembles dancing.  I have my daughter to thank for that, since if it wasn’t for her, I’d be listening to the same old, same old tunes! 

 For Further Reading:

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. 

 

 

 

 

5 Reasons to Try Meditation for Vital Aging

Bea Boomer’s Wellness Project – Day 20 – 2/18/15

 Asian woman meditating.

(1) Meditation may help us sleep better. At least 40% of Americans don’t get enough of the quality sleep they need to function well (Aschwanden).  Many of these insomnia sufferers are women.  Our insomnia is caused by hormonal changes we face in our lives, such as pregnancy and perimenopause.  Bea is one of those women, and she’s ready to try meditation to get her zzzzzz’s back! 

(2) Meditation relieves stress, and can help those of us who suffer from anxiety and depression. 

(3) Meditation provides other mental health benefits:  an increase in happiness, self-acceptance and awareness, concentration, focus and more – as found in this article from The Art of Living

(4) Meditation can lower blood pressure, boost the immune system and even increase energy levels, just to name a few physical health benefits.  

(5) Meditation may help strengthen our aging brain by slowing down the loss of gray matter, as described in this article from the UCLA newsroom.

Source:

Aschwanden, Christie. (Nov 2014). Counting Sleep. Prevention Magazine.

For Further Reading: 

Want to try Guided Meditation?  Bea downloaded a guided meditation album onto her Ipod, but there are free options online as well:  

 UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center 

If you search YouTube, “guided meditations,” you’ll also find some good options.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.medicaldaily.com/mental-health-benefits-meditation-itll-alter-your-brains-grey-matter-and-improve-319298

Long Term Benefits of Aerobic Exercise

Bea Boomer’s Wellness Project – Day 14 – 2/4/15

In Bea’s previous post, she talked about the short term benefits of aerobic exercise.

The long term benefits of this form of exercise are just as important, and affect our longevity in several ways.

  • Aerobic exercise, along with other fitness options, are a boon for our brain health.  Who in the heck wants their brain cells to rust as they age?  Bea sure doesn’t.  A recent study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience documented the effects of exercise on memory and other cognitive functions.  This is only one study, of course; but there are plenty more out there in Googleland that provide additional evidence of the power of aerobic activity on our brains.  
  • Aerobic exercise helps us fight off age-related disease and conditions that make aging not-so-fun! There’s a great deal of scientific evidence linking aerobic exericise to the prevention of heart diseases, certain cancers, Type II diabetes, and stroke. 
  • Aerobic exercise can helps us increase our endurance, flexibility and balance, all of which help fight off frailty as we age.  

Wonderful winter aerobic exercise option:

 

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For further reading:

Here’s what the CDC has to say about physical activity:  Physical Activity and Health 

Short Term Aerobic Exercise Helps you Stay Mentally Sharp 

Bea’s Wellness Beat: Running 

80 Percent of American Adults don’t get Recommended Exercise 

 

Training your Brain for Vital Longevity

Bea’s Wellness Project – Day 12– 1/30/15

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In their book, Brain Fit for Life, authors (and neuroscientists) Simon Evans and Paul Burghardt point out that our brain is always active and changing, even as we age.  Our brain’s ability to change is known as neuroplasticity. What’s great about this is that we can continue to help our brain develop, even as we get older. 

In their book, Evans and Burghardt talk about the four cornerstones of brain fitness. Mental activity is one of these cornerstones. 

After doing some googling, Bea found some interesting ways to boost our brain cells:

50 Ways to Boost your Brain Power 

Bea’s also a promoter of lifelong learning – learn something new that challenges those brain cells: a musical instrument, an online class (Ed2go has some fun, reasonably priced options); listen to virtual lectures at websites such as Coursera.  You can also foster your creative juices by taking a drawing, painting, pottery or writing course.  

Bea listed some fun choices in her post, 7 Free Online Learning Resources

Source:

Evans, S., PhD, and Burghardt, P., Phd. Brain Fit for Life. Riverpointe Publications: Milan, MI. 2008.