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Forgot about Valentine’s Day? Here are Easy Ways to Sharpen that Memory

Just in case you forgot, Valentine’s Day is just about here. Do you have problems remembering to get a gift for that special someone? Always forgetting your anniversary date? Or Heaven forbid, did you already forget your date’s name? Sorry, no romance tips on this month’s blog, but I want to talk on memory and forgetfulness. When it comes to poor memory, Alzheimer’s disease comes to mind for most people. Alzheimer’s is an irreversible, progressive disease, and is the most common cause of dementia. In this disease, the brain essentially “shrinks.” Healthy brain cells lose their ability to function and communicate with each other and eventually die. So you not only have memory issues, but develop reasoning and social behavior problems.

According to the National Institute on Aging, these are the most common signs of Alzheimer’s disease: Getting lost, repeating questions, taking longer to complete normal daily activities, poor judgment, losing things or misplacing them in odd places, mood and personality changes.

Alzheimer’s is definitely on the rise, and it’s simply not because we’re living longer. Here are a few of my recommendations to decrease brain shrinkage and to improve your memory:

  1. Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids are healthy fats like fish oil that reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Fish oil also has anti-inflammatory properties, and chronic inflammation has been linked with Alzheimers. Acute inflammation is needed in the body’s healing process, but with excessive inflammation like in chronic diseases, “innocent bystander” cells in the brain get exposed and damaged by the inflammatory products.
  2. Antioxidants are lost under physical and mental stress. Stress simply ages us. An easy example is an apple slice. Add an antioxidant like lemon juice, and an apple slice doesn’t brown or age as fast. Glutathione is a strong antioxidant, and low levels have been linked to Alzheimer’s. It is the brain’s “master antioxidant” that basically supports other antioxidants, removes heavy metals, and neutralizes oxidative stress. Think of glutathione preventing the “rusting” of our cells.
  3. Gluten on the brain. Gluten is a major protein in all wheat products. Being “gluten-free” is not just a fashion trend as many think. Gluten sensitivity has been linked with cognitive decline and even Alzheimer’s due to its effects on diabetes, blood sugar and inflammation. A 2013 study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that higher glucose levels is a risk factor for dementia, even among those without diabetes. Did you eat any bread, pasta, cereal or baked goods today yet?
  4. Multitasking is bad on the brain. Our stress-filled, busy work and lifestyles require us to multitask. Multitasking basically leads to doing multiple tasks poorly. Being overwhelmed, can make us feel like we have ADD, or Attention Deficit Disorder. Try this exercise: Count out loud as fast as you can from 1-10, then the alphabet A-J. This should hopefully take about two seconds to do each of these. Now try this: alternate between the numbers and letters (e.g. 1-A, 2-B, 3-C, etc) and see how long it takes. Not as easy or fast, right? And that was only doing two tasks. Multitasking isn’t necessarily linked to Alzheimer’s, but it’s still helpful to optimize brain function, so do yourselves a favor, and learn to become a great “single-tasker.”
  5. Regular exercise is probably the #1 way to enhance memory. In a 2012 study in the journal Neurology, participants who did regular exercise had less brain shrinkage compared to those with little or no exercise just within a 3 year period. How much exercise do you do daily? Even a 20 minute walk can help!

It’s never too late to improve your memory. If you are concerned about changes in memory, behavior or mood in yourself or a family member, please make an appointment with us before you forget. And don’t forget about Valentine’s Day!

Michael Corsilles, ND, PA-C

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