Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Memory

I am reading two books, and both of them are about improving the memory. 

I keep forgetting to read them. 

This would be slightly humorous if it weren't true. Brain fog strikes again. 

The first, Carved in Sand - When Attention Fails and Memory Fades in Midlife, by Cathryn Jakobson Ramin, seems to have some good information but is not keeping my attention. (Pun not intended.) I will keep trying with this book, and I'll keep you posted. 

The second, The Memory Bible - An Innovative Strategy for Keeping Your Brain Young, by Gary Small, M.D. is a quicker and more interesting read. 

Dr. Small, director of the UCLA Center on Aging, does a really good job of putting a positive spin on unsavory study results regarding the age link to memory problems. An example: He says, "Scientists have found the incidence of Alzheimer's doubles every 5 years. At that rate, 100% of us would get Alzheimer's by age 110 if we lived that long." 

The positive spin: Dr. Small cites another study in which mature lab animals were studied. Half were allowed to live in a mentally stimulating and exciting environment. The other half was exposed to dull, standard-issue laboratory living environments. The researchers found that those animals exposed to mentally stimulating environments had higher numbers of neurons in the memory areas of the brain as well as better learning abilities than the experimental animals in the less interesting settings. 

"If these findings hold true for humans, they point to continued mental activity throughout life as a strong preventative for future cognitive decline."

The book goes on to elaborate on the most productive mental activities and lifestyles to ensure a healthy brain, and in doing so, avoiding Alzheimer's disease and other memory affecting disorders. His suggestions include several memory tips and exercises, and also guidelines for modifying the daily diet. 

I found his dietary suggestions and their rationale fascinating. 

"Scientists have shown that one of the omeaga-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenic acid, or DHA, which comes from fish oil, actually increases acetylcholine, the brain messenger critical to normal memory function but lost in Alheimer's disease. People with insufficient DHA in their diets or low levels in the blood will experience learning difficulties and cognitive decline. These can and do improve when dietary DHA is high. Research indicates that omega - 3 fatty acid capsules may improve memory difficulties and other symptoms in patients with Alzheimer's disease. "

Another interesting study conducted by the Honolulu Heart Program studied caffeine's effects. This study followed 8,000 people over thirty years. It concluded that coffee drinkers had a five times lower risk of developing Parkinson's disease than those who did not drink coffee. Dr. Small also states that systemic studies show that in the short term, caffeine can improve learning and recall abilities. 

Aside from dietary fats and caffeine suggestions, the book outlines other elements of a healthy brain diet: 

Eat a low-fat diet
Stay aware of overall caloric intake
Avoid stress eating and late-night snacks
Toss away your yo-yo diet plan
Avoid processed foods and high-glycemic-index carbs
Eat foods rich in omega-3 fats.
Avoid omega-6 fats
For a daily antioxidant boost, eat fruits and vegetables
Drink tea, and try frozen or fresh blueberries for snacks 

There are many more strategies and tips included in this very interesting book. ALWAYS remember, as with all information quoted in this blog, that this information is not intended to replace medical advice. Never begin an exercise or dietary supplement regime without consulting your doctor. 

1 comment:

Life101 said...

I really appreciate all the information and resources you have made available on your blog. My doctors thinks i have PSS. I'm having alot of difficulty with brian fog and fatigue, dry mouth. Joint discomfort, dry eyes and numbness on right side periodically. Not on meds currently, take Gabapentin as needed. The brain fog/fatigue is affecting my performance at work :(

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