Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,
Several times in the last week, I have walked into a room and totally forgotten why I went in there. I am a 52 year old female who has never had any memory problems before, at least I don't remember any, haha. I told my daughter about my "senior moments" and she says that it is normal to lose one's memory as one ages. At what age does one start to lose one's memory and how bad will it get?
Memory Loss Concerns
Dear Memory loss concerns,
While we often hear about older adults being forgetful and having "senior moments," it is not true that it is normal to lose memory as one ages.
Memory loss can occur for a variety of reasons. According to Dr. Robert J. Hedaya, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Georgetown University Hospital, memory loss indicates other problems resulting from some abnormal body process, which left untreated could develop into false or pseudo-dementia. Pseudo-dementia can be reversed if diagnosed early. Dr. Linda Petter, chief of the Department of Family Practice at St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way, WA, points out that anything that interferes with the blood supply to the brain can contribute to memory loss.
Drs. Hedaya and Petters list the following possible causes of memory loss:
1. Hormonal problems: insulin resistance, thyroid disorders, adrenal gland problems, deficiencies of estrogens and testosterone
2. Nutritional Deficiencies: Co-enzyme Q10, folic acid, B12, B6, B3, B1
3. Infections and Inflammation: Lyme disease, Bartonella, Mycoplasma
4. Medication Side Effects
5. Emotional problems: stress, anxiety and depression
6. High Blood Pressure
8. Cholesterol: build-up on the blood vessels that feed the brain
9. Smoking: can damage blood vessels
Dr. Hedaya gives the example of his 75 year old identical twin patients, Ruth and Stella, where each had different lifestyles and different physical conditions as a result. Ruth developed Alzheimer's from the age of 65; whereas Stella's mind was still sharp. Since the twins had identical genes, the difference in the twins was their lifestyle. Ruth ate poorly, smoked, and was overweight, but Stella, ate well, exercised, and did not smoke nor drink.
MEMORY - BRAIN BOOSTING TIPS
Our brain needs to be protected and stimulated in order to function at its optimal level. A simple way to boost memory is to have a healthy lifestyle. Below are 10 ways the Dr. Petter (www.docforall.com) and the AARP.org recommend to stimulate the brain and boost memory.
1. EAT HEALTHY:
a. Omega-3 Fatty Acids are associated with improving cognitive function (i.e., thinking, reasoning, remembering) and decrease inflammation. Foods rich in fatty acids are fish [Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee do NOT recommend fish; see How Not To Die], walnuts, almonds, and flaxseed. The AARP points out that farmed fish may contain metals that could contribute to cognitive impairment, so look for wild fish.
b. B vitamins help protect neurons (nerve cells) in the brain by breaking down homocystine, an amino acid known to be toxic to nerve cells. Foods rich in B vitamins include green leafy vegetables (kale, lettuce, spinach), beans and broccoli.
c. Vitamins A, C, and E are antioxidants that help prevent free radical damage, and can improve the flow of oxygen in the body. Foods rich in antioxidants are nuts (almonds), brightly colored fruits (blueberries, cantaloupe, apricots) and vegetables (broccoli, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, squash). The AARP states that oats scrub plaques from your brain arteries.
Drinking fresh fruit and vegetable juices 3 or more times per week significantly reduced Alzheimers risk compared with those who drank these juices less than once per wee (Dai, Borenstein, et. al. "Fruit and Vegetable Juices adn Alzheimer's Disease: The Kame Project," Am J Med. 2006 Sept: 119(9): 751-759).
Green Tea: Researchers Okello, Savelev, & Perry found that green tea could boost the memory of everyday drinkers. Their study found that green tea in particular obstructed the production of protein deposits in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease as well as inhibited the activity of enzymes associated with the development of Alzheimer’s Disease (Okello, et. al., "‘In vitro Anti-beta-secretase and dual anti-cholinesterase activities of Camellia sinensis L. (tea) relevant to treatment of dementia’," Phytotherapy Research, 18 624-627, 2004).
2. MODERATE EXERCISE: As you exercise your muscles you also exercise the brain. This improves you ability to process and remember information.
Researchers Geda & Roberts, et.al. studied levels of intensity of exercise and mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Light exercise and vigorous exercise were not associated with decreased risk of MCI. However, any frequency of moderate exercise was associated with a reduced odds of having MCI (Geda & Roberts, et. al., "Physical Exercise and Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Population-Based Study," Arch Neurol. 2010 Jan: 67(1): 80-86.)
Geda & Roberts, et. al. define the levels of exercise:
a. Light exercise was defined as bowling, leisurely walking, stretching, slow dancing, and golfing using a golf cart.
b. Moderate exercise was defined as brisk walking, hiking, aerobics, strength training, swimming, tennis doubles, yoga, martial arts, weight lifting, golfing without using a golf cart, and moderate use of exercise machines (eg, an exercise bike).
c. Vigorous exercise was defined as jogging, backpacking, bicycling uphill, tennis singles, racquetball, skiing, and intense or extended use of exercise machines.
3. SLEEP and NAPS: The average adult needs 7 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. Appropriate nightly sleep is needed for memory consolidation and for the brain to properly concentrate the following day. Consider talking a daily mid-day nap for 10 to 20 minutes. Brief resting can improve your short-term alertness.
4. BREAK YOUR ROUTINE: Do things with your non-dominant hand such as brushing your teeth or combing your hair; shower or dress with your eyes closed. This helps activate brain pathways that were not being used.
5. USE IT OR LOSE IT: Challenge your mind on a regular basis. Take a class in a new subject, even just auditing the class helps. Play "brain teaser" games like Sodoko, cross-word puzzles, or solitaire. Board games are associated with a lower risk of developing dementia. They activate strategic, spatial, and memory parts of the brain, and require you to socialize, which can help form new neural pathways. Read the news, travel, learn a musical instrument, learn a new language, try new video games, try a new hobby, redecorate, rearrange closets, all encourages new brain cell growth.
6. SOCIAL INTERACTION: Talking with someone else not only gets you out of your rut, but lack of social interaction can decrease brain-cell formation.
7. MANAGE YOUR STRESS: The stress hormone cortisone can damage part of the brain called the hippocampus, if your stress is prolonged and not relieved. Stress and anxiety also interferes with the ability to concentrate. Meditation, listening to music, and sleep can help reduce stress.
8. CONTROL ANGER: Quick temper? Instead of yelling, take a few minutes to cool down. The stress of chronic anger can actually shrink the memory centers in the brain.
9. Limit alcohol: A study by Tokuda, Izumi, & Zorumski found alcohol interferes with key receptors in the brain and memory formation (Tokuda K, Izumi Y, Zorumski CF. "Ethanol enhances neurosteroidogenesis in hippocampal pyramidal neurons by paradoxical NMDA receptor activation," The Journal of Neuroscience, vol. 31(27), pp. 9905-9909, July 6, 2011).
The AARP cautions only up to two glasses of red wine per week for women and three for men. If going to drink, then red wine is recommended over other forms of alcohol because it contains the antioxidant resveratrol, which may prevent free radicals from damaging brain cells.
10. Do not smoke: smoking can damage blood vessels.
For more information go to:
Dr. Robert Hedaya: www.psychologytoday.com/blog/health-matters/201101/memory-matters
Dr. Linda Petter: www.auburn-reporter.com/lifestyle/126732358.html