Thursday, September 25, 2008

Preventing Memory Loss - It's Easier than you Think

Most people who have a loved one with memory loss from Alzheimer's or another disease affecting the brain have a fear running through the back of their minds:

"Will I lose my ability to remember and reason? Will I get Alzheimer's disease, too?"

We do know that many forms of Alzheimer's disease have a genetic component, but we also know another thing that is a little more of a secret:

You can take steps NOW to prevent your own memory loss. These simple steps are incredibly effective, and easy to incorporate into your daily life, starting right now.

Don't believe me? Consider this information, taken from the long-running Nun Study in Minnesota, where an entire group of nuns have committed to participating in a study of aging and memory loss, including autopsy after death. Among the nuns are women whose brains, upon autopsy, looked like typical Alzheimer's brains but whose functioning was essential normal throughout their lives. Their secret? They diligently incorporated some of the very steps you can take today.

  1. Exercise. No doubt about it: exercise will preserve good health and improve poor or marginal health. Many instances of memory loss are caused by small strokes in the brain. Best prevention for stroke? Exercise. It doesn't have to be in the gym; it doesn't need to be intense. It just needs to be regular and of long enough intensity and duration to make your heart work a little harder and cause just a little glow of sweat. Good rule of thumb? 30 minutes every single day of vigorous walking, dancing, swimming or whatever you enjoy doing.
  2. Eat Right. Again, nothing you're not hearing from many sources today. But something most of us could improve on. Two food choices can make a significant difference in your brain health: variety and color. Try for as broad a variety as possible in your meals, especially in the fruit and vegetable department, and go for foods that are intensely colored: beets, berries and peppers, for example. Make those two changes and you've done quite a lot for your future brain health.
  3. Keep learning. Read the paper and news magazines. Listen to talk shows that are on the opposite spectrum as your usual way of thinking. Then find someone to talk to about what you're learning, hearing and thinking. If that's too argumentative for you, join a class. Learn to play the piano, speak Spanish, or cook vegetarian. Free or inexpensive classes for adults abound in this country. Consider volunteering in student tutoring or teach a class yourself. Keep learning and keep your brain active and healthy.
  4. Nourish friendships and stay socially involved. Staying socially active is important for overall life happiness as well as brain health. That doesn't mean you need to have a circle of 50 friends; a few close friends who make you laugh and enjoy life are just as effective. But don't lose touch, and do reach out to make new friends from time to time.
Four easy things that you're probably already doing in one form or another. But focusing on these four vital areas can help you preserve your brain health as long as possible.

No comments: