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

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. 

 

 

 

 

The Mediterranean Diet for Vital Aging

Bea’s Wellness Project – Day 8– 1/21/15

You are what you eat, they say.  Ahh, the infamous “they,” who know all and make sure they let the rest of us know it!  In Bea’s case, she must resemble a 12-grain bagel with cream cheese on the side – since she has that for breakfast almost every day, along with a cuppa famous Tim Horton’s coffee.  (She’s gotten better about breakfast lately – she adds some protein along with berries or some other kind of fruit.  Anyway, “they,” along with a lot of health experts out there, highly recommend the Mediterranean diet.

Eating that way can reduce our risk of Alzheimer’s, and it’s a great way to enhance our heart health.  The food variety in the Mediterranean diet helps fight off **free radicals** with antioxidants and phytochemicals contained in plant-based foods, as well as the omega-3 fatty acids contained in fish.

  • Enjoy lean poultry, fish, (wild salmon, haddock, tuna, perch, snapper) and beans
  • Use vinegar and olive oil as salad dressing – choose herbs, rather than salt, to flavor it. Replace butter with olive oil.
  • Munch on (raw) nuts in moderation – nuts are a prime source of antioxidants. A 10-year study of over 85,000 women ages 35 – 59 concluded that eating nuts lowered their risk of heart disease, because they help lower bad cholesterol.*
  • Learn to love green, leafy vegetables, cruciferous veggies, sweet potatoes, and whole-grains
  • Stay hydrated with water. Drink green tea for its antioxidant properties.
  • Nosh on a wide variety of fruits, especially berries of all kinds: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, black berries.
  • Add avocado to salads, or on a sandwich instead of cheese.  Avocados have high amounts of the monounsaturated fat, oleic acid, also found in olive oil.*
  • Enjoy a glass of red wine with dinner. It contains resveratrol, which can be heart healthy. (Don’t like red wine?  Try red or purple grape juice or just eat grapes).

Enjoy further reading:

Mediterranean diet: A heart-healthy eating plan

How to Follow the Mediterranean Diet

Source:

*VanTine, Julia, & Doherty, Bridget. Growing Younger – Breakthrough Age-Defying Secrets. Rodale Press.

**Question of the day:**  What the heck are free radicals, anyway?  Find out by reading Bea’s post on Friday, January 23. 

 

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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Baby Boomers and Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is devastating not only to the person who suffers from it, but also for the family members who have to watch their loved one’s mind deteriorate, day by day. 

 As the first baby boomers turn 65 this year, more and more of them face the likelihood of developing this disease.  Simply take a look at this Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures Report for the sad statistics. 

Interested in learning more? The Alzheimer’s Association  has recently released a report, Generation Alzheimer’s: The Defining Disease of the Baby Boomers. You can get that report sent to your email inbox by signing up here.

Please, share the latest news about Alzheimer’s Disease by sharing this link with your friends and family:

http://alz-news.org

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