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

5 Cool Websites for Lifelong Learners

Bea Boomer’s Wellness Project – Day 25 – 2/27/15

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Bea’s Buzz for Friday:

How did we ever live without the Internet?  It’s a giant treasure trove of fun, cool, and interesting stuff! 

Recently, Bea was stumbling around on the StumbleUpon website, a place that collects this information, pages, websites, etc. from the Internet and puts it all in one place. When you sign up (free) you can pick categories of topics and stumble through them, picking out stuff that you like.  She found a list that included a variety of educational websites. Since she’s on a lifelong learning journey, so she explored some of these sites to see if they were worth sharing with you. 

Check ‘em out!

Open Culture – The Open Culture editorial staff finds educational content on the Internet and brings it all to one website.  At the Open Culture website, you can find:  630 audiobooks, 1100 online courses from leading worldwide universities, 300 language courses, 150 business courses, and tons more. All free.   There’s even educational resources for your kids!  Bea was amazed at the variety of awesome learning options.  

Want to learn a new language?  Check out the LiveMocha websiteThis site’s goal is to teach lifelong learners conversational fluency in the language they are learning.  LiveMocha explains the method it uses here.  The site offers offer 35 language options.

Unplug the TV – This site suggests that Instead of TV you should watch, and introduces a topic you can immediately click on to watch (such as, Why is the heart associated with love? or An Astronaut’s View of Earth).  If you don’t want to watch the one that’s being shown on the screen, you just click “I want to watch something else.”  Bea loves this concept, so she bookmarked this site.

If you can’t get to your local library, check out:

Bartleby – This site offers reference books, poetry, fiction and non-fiction, by classic authors.  Love quotes?  Bartleby offers a collection of books and dictionaries of quotations. 

Read Any Book  Bea registered (free) and started reading Catcher in the Rye online.  (She hasn’t read that one in years!) The home page of this website included “Top books” and “New books.”  When you scroll down to the bottom of the home page, each genre is listed, with the number of books included in each one. 

There’s so many more options out there – the sites listed above are just the tip of the iceberg.  You can learn about almost anything you imagine!  

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young. (Henry Ford)

 

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. (Gandhi)

 

Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect. (Samuel Johnson)

 

 

 

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

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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Taking Charge Of This Aging Thing

Ahh, Youth

When Bea was young, her body was like a raging furnace, burning off calories as fast as she could munch ’em down. She had energy to spare, at one time working two jobs (around 76 hours a week); then going out at night to party with her friends.

Sleep? Ha. She didn’t need it. And she didn’t give any thought, much less a worry, about the future of her muscles, bones, and brain cells. She was young, man, and that was gonna last forever (or, at least until she turned the big 3-0; yea, at one time,  Bea thought 30 was OLD.

Silly girl.

Argghhh. What Happened to Youth?

Suddenly, the “forever young” Bea turned 40.  What the heck happened to thirty, for gosh sakes?  And as her forties raced into her fifties, her body mysteriously began to change. Her once highly energized metabolism started dawdling. Her bone mass started shrinking. Her muscles got, well, a little flabby.  She needed more sleep, yet often woke up, tossing and turning, in the middle of the night.

Okay. We all know it’s inevitable. Our bodies age, and change. Sometimes that change ain’t pretty.

But we can make this aging thing easier to swallow, and empower ourselves at the same time. 

Here are some of Bea’s ideas:

(1) Take charge of your physical health.  

  • For Bea, that means going to the doc for all those annual tests, and being sure to ask questions about any health concerns.  It also means trying to keep those age-related conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and blood pressure at bay by eating a healthy diet (low fat, high fiber) and making exercise a regular habit.

(2) Hang onto those brain cells!

  • Dr. Paul Nussbaum, a clinical neuropsychologist and co-founder of the FitBrains website talks about 10 tips for a healthy brain in this article from Reader’s Digest.

(3) Boost muscle mass with strength training.

  • Strength training also helps build up our bone density and revs up our metabolism. According to this Forbe’s article, we should strength train at least twice a week.  Bea loves exercise DVDs that combine cardio and strength training, such as Chris Freytag’s Walk and Sculpt, and her Walking Cardio Shape-Up

(4) Eat your greens!  And your purples and reds, too. 

(5) Take care of your emotional health. 

  •  We all get the blues occasionally, but if you’re down in the dumps for more than a couple of weeks, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.  If you’re worried and anxious all the time, find an empathetic listener! Always stressed?  Check out these stress management tips. Nurture yourself; you deserve it!

These are just a few ideas – I’m sure you have more!  What kind of things are you doing for your health, and your sanity, as you age?  I’d love to hear from you.

Your Brain (and Health) On Music

Bea has loved the song Europa by the guitarist extraordinaire Carlos Santana ever since she first heard it on his Moonflower album.  In 1976, she went to a concert at one of those long-gone concert venues in the Motor City (now known as “The D”) and sat in awe as she watched Carlos perform that song – the music going right through to her core.  It was simply one of those moments she’ll never forget.

Fast forward to Bea’s family room, January 2011.  This room has become Mr. Boomer’s concert venue of choice.  Recently, Mr. B. attempted to play Europa on his Les Paul electric guitar. All. Day. Long. Okay, so now Bea is just sick to death of her favorite tune and hopes she never hears it again.

Rock on, Mr. B.

In the past year, after a long hiatus, Mr. Boomer has really gotten into playing his guitar.  Bea envies and admires his ability to play “by ear,” something the Boomer daughter has inherited.  Mrs. B. has no musical ability – she likes to sing, but she ain’t fooling herself, she’s no American Idol.  What she lacks in talent, however, she makes up for in chutzpah (read: she sings loudly).

The hubby has also gotten together with friends from his workplace to “jam” together, and he jokes about taking his new group “Social Insecurity,” on the road.  (Great name, hmmm?  He made that one up himself).

Despite the fact that he’s ruined Bea’s favorite song for her, she thinks Mr. B. is really onto something with this guitar playing.  He’s enhancing his social wellness, by getting together with “the guys.”  Music also can reduce his job-related or wife-related stress, and even keep those brain cells alive and kicking.  In fact, according to the eMed Expert website, playing music can even make him smarter!

For Further Reading: 

Creative Aging – A Pro-Aging Resource

What is getting old all about? Is it something to be feared? Many of us seem to think so. We try to hide our faces’ character and life lines (aka, wrinkles) with Botox® and face lifts. We worship youth, and fail to appreciate the wisdom that comes with age.

Aging does have its pitfalls, of course. There are age-related illnesses and conditions, memory lapses, failing hearing and eyesight . . . But some of these things can be prevented, or at least delayed, by taking active charge of our physical and mental health. And by concentrating on the negative, we simply blind ourselves to the beauty and possibilities of pro-active aging – aging with grace and dignity.

So I’m not buying into the “aging is awful” myth. And the Creative Aging website, one of many pro-aging sites out there on the Web, isn’t buying into it either!

The National Center for Creative Aging has a mission: Helping people gain an understanding of how creativity and healthy aging work together.

To do this, Creative Aging developed three initiatives that bring arts programs to older people:

  • Civic Engagement, involving volunteering and other social wellness activities
  • Health and Wellness, using creativity to develop the mind and body
  • Lifelong Learning, to engage the mind and keep it active

Being involved in our communities, and developing our minds through creative expression and lifelong learning helps us be pro-active and lead purposeful lives.  A recent study indicates that having a purpose may lead to a longer life; even if it doesn’t, I’m willing to bet that it leads to a more enjoyable and meaningful life. 

The Capture your Creativity link, found under NCCA’s Resource section, is a guide for those of us who want to find a program to develop our creativity.  This resource also includes a “Best Practice Programs,” organizations that  focus on NCCA’s three initiatives. 

NCCA has partnered with Martek Biosciences (a company involved in brain health research) in the “Beautiful Minds” campaign – which is simply about older adults who are keeping their minds beautiful and healthy through positive action. 

You can meet some awesome people at the Beautiful Minds website – people who are embracing age, not living in fear of it.  I’d like to follow in their footsteps as I continue on my life’s journey. 

How about you?  What are you doing in your life to age with vigor and purpose?  Do you have a creative outlet that keeps your mind in gear? 

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