Taking Care of your Brain
Live a Healthy Lifestyle:
Your body and your brain require a healthy, balanced diet for peak performance. Be sure that you are supplying your body with the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. If you don’t know what foods to eat for this purpose, there are many books on the market dedicated to healthy eating. Include exercise in your healthy lifestyle. Exercise increases your metabolism and enhances your body’s absorption of nutrients.
Limit alcohol and eat healthy:
Another component of a healthy lifestyle is minimizing your intake of alcohol and drugs. It’s also important to limit your consumption of salt, sugar, fat, and other empty calories. Increase your water intake. Adequate hydration helps balance sodium levels, increases mental alertness, andto remember. improves digestion, kidney function, and absorption of nutrients and medications. It is recommended that you drink six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day.
Get quality sleep:
Getting adequate sleep is also an important aspect of a good memory. Like memory, sleep is a process, and a chronic breakdown in any part of that process results in an impaired memory.
Sleep cycles through five stages (some models use six stages, including wakefulness). The first stage is drowsiness, followed by stage 2, which is a period of light sleep. Stages 3 and 4 are considered deep sleep states. The fifth stage of sleep is called REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, and it is characterized by physiological changes. There is rapid movement of the eyes, and heart rate and respiration are accelerated. It is also theorized thatmemories are consolidated during this stage of sleep. This theory suggests that we relive memories in our dreams and thus create a record of events in our mind. Regardless of the validity of this theory, it is known that a lack of sleep impairs our cognitive abilities. If you have difficulty falling asleep or wake frequently during the night, you may want to discuss a sleep study with your physician.
Menopause and perimenopause:
Fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone can impair your memory. Symptoms of perimenopause and menopause may include the following in addition to cessation of the menstrual cycle: hot flashes, irritability, memory loss, loss of bone density (osteoporosis), increased cholesterol, and risk of heart disease and colon cancer. Regardless of the cause of menopause (hysterectomy or the natural aging process), always consult your doctor for treatment of these symptoms. Estrogen replacement therapy can relieve these symptoms, including impaired memory function.
Impaired cognitive functioning and visuospatial memory can result from testosterone (androgen) deficiency. Furthermore, prostate cancer, which affects one in five men in the United States, can negatively affect memory. Note that the treatment of these medical conditions, as well as the conditions themselves, can cause memory impairments.
There is a seemingly endless list of medical conditions and medications (see “The Memory Doctor” chapter 7) that can impair memory functioning. Some of the more common conditions that affect memory functioning include heart conditions, hormone imbalances, cancer, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, kidney problems, vitamin and mineral deficiencies (particularly vitamin B12), degenerative eye conditions, and changes in vision and hearing. If you have any of these conditions, it is essential for you to visit a physician regularly for checkups.
There are may environmental factors that Can impair memory functioning. For example,although highly unusual, it is possible that the exhaust fumes from your car may be impairing your memory; left unresolved, this can lead to permanent memory complications. If your memory difficulties come and go, or worsen after driving, and include headaches and nausea, you may want to have your car checked for an exhaust leak.
It’s also possible that your home furnace may have a carbon monoxide leak. Memory loss from this type of exposure is more prevalent in the colder months, when the furnace is in use. You might want to purchase a carbon monoxide detector or hire a professional to check your furnace and gas lines for leaks. Exposure to toxins can also result in cognitive impairments. Excessive molds and mildew have been known to cause cognitive impairment. Alcohol is the most common neurotoxin. Other toxins include paint, glues, fuels, oils, cleaners, and so forth.Toxic exposures usually result in other acute physical symptoms, such as vomiting, headaches, and skin abrasions. Always wear protective gear (e.g., masks, gloves, coveralls), and work in a ventilated area when you are exposed to these types of toxins.
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