Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tips for a Sharper Brain and Better Memory

While most of us will not completely lose our memory to Alzheimer's Disease or another form of dementia, there may be times when nearly all of us feel as though our thinking is a bit fuzzy or we cannot remember as well as we used to.  At the same time, we are constantly amazed by some of our peers who seem to stay "sharp as a tack."  Is there anything the rest of us can do to have a sharper brain and clear memory?  According to a number of leading experts, the answer is "Yes."

The Connection Between Your Heart and Brain


Our brain is dependent on the nutrients which our heart sends its way.  According to Dr. Hannah Gardener in the Department of Neurology at the University of Miami, the stronger our heart, the less cognitive decline we will experience.  She suggests that everyone strives to meet as many of the goals on this list as possible:

Stop Smoking
Have a BMI of under 25
Be physically active at least 150 minutes a week
Have a total cholesterol under 200 mg/dL
Have a healthy blood pressure under 120/80 mmHg
Have a healthy blood sugar under 100 mg/dL
Eat a diet rich in fruits, veggies and whole gains; low in sodium and sweets

Even if you cannot achieve all of the above goals perfectly, the closer you come, the better off your brain will be.

Follow the MIND Diet


This blog has discussed the MIND diet before.  It is short for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.  MIND is much easier to remember.  Below is a brief summary of the diet, although anyone who wants to follow it would be smart to get a more detailed book on the subject.

DO EAT

6 servings of salad a week
7 servings of other vegetables a week
2 servings of berries a week
5 servings of nuts a week
3 servings of whole grains a day
1 serving of fish (not fried) every week
3 servings of beans a week
2 servings of poultry a week
Use extra-virgin olive oil instead of butter
Optional: 1 glass of wine a day

LIMIT THESE FOODS

Butter - no more than one tablespoon a day
Cheese - no more than one serving a week
Red meat - no more than four servings a week
Fried foods - less than one serving a week
Sweets and pastries - no more than five servings a week

Exercise Your Brain


Research has shown that people who regularly give their bodies and brains a work-out are able to postpone the signs of cognitive decline.  Here are some of the things everyone should do:

Get exercise - walk, cycle, swim and lift light weights - 150 minutes a week
Play games - chess, board games, puzzles, etc.
Meditate - spend your "down time" meditating a few minutes every day
Explore Your Artistic Side - sing, act, draw, paint or play an instrument
Read - in particular, read books as well as newspapers or magazines

Other Health and Lifestyle Changes


In addition to the above recommendations, research has shown a link between socializing with others and having a higher level of cognition.  On the other hand, people who are lonely tend to have poorer brain health.  Stay in touch with family and friends.  Join a club.  If you are religious, get involved in a place of worship.  Sign up to take classes.  The more time you spend interacting with other people and learning new things, the more likely you will be able to postpone dementia.

In addition, see your doctor regularly and treat any other problems you may have, including emotional ones.  People who have depression in middle age are at a higher risk for cognitive decline in later life.  People who have sleep problems also see more rapid mental decline as they age.  Talk to your doctor about any health issues you are experiencing and get them treated.  

Medications and Dementia


If you believe that you or a loved one is experiencing signs of dementia, see your doctor as soon as possible.  Researchers are continually discovering new medications which seem to slow down the progression of Alzheimer's Disease and other forms of dementia.  The sooner these drugs are started, the more successful they are.

In addition, it is possible your brain fogginess or symptoms of dementia could actually be a side effect of a medication you are currently taking.  If you suspect this could be your situation, talk to your doctor about changes which could be made to your prescriptions to minimize this problem.


If you are interested in learning more about how to maintain your health as you age, financial planning, Medicare, Social Security, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

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Photo credit:  morguefile.com

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