Is Memory Loss Just a Sad Reality of Aging?

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Until recently, it was believed that losing one's memory was just a fact of aging. Science now knows this not to be true. Diet and lifestyle changes can change how your brain functions as you age.

Is absent-mindedness, senility, dementia, and Alzheimer’s Disease just the norms of getting old? 

Is the best we can do to keep our brains functioning to do crossword puzzles, read, maybe learn a foreign language? 

Perhaps not!  Recent studies show that diet and lifestyle play a much bigger role in memory retention than ever thought possible.  In fact, it could well be that our total lifestyle determines how our brain functions and what cognitive abilities we retain as we age past our “prime.”

Point of fact: Americans typically have one of the highest rates of brain-toxifying diets in the world--highest in saturated fats, trans fat, chemical additives, and refined sugar. 

As science has shown, sugar can lead to glucose spikes and crashes, causing wildly fluctuating brain energy levels. 

Fatty meats, cream and whole milk, lard, shortening, and butter contain artery-clogging saturated fats that restrict blood flow to the brain and lead to poor cardiovascular health related to cognitive decline. 

Cookies, potato chips, doughnuts, fried chicken, candy, muffins, and French fries are infamous for containing excessively high levels of hydrogenated fats and trans fat; fats that interfere with the absorption of omega-3 fatty acids (those essential brain building blocks), while clogging the arteries to boot. 

Junk foods and processed foods commonly contain numerous preservatives, colorings, and other harmful additives now known to interfere with brain function. 

Carbonated beverages are often high in phosphorous, which interferes with absorption of the neurotransmitter-boosting mineral calcium. 

And last but not least, alcohol and caffeine are known to interfere with absorption of B vitamins, zinc, potassium, and iron–all essential neuronutrients. 

In short, the foods we commonly eat can drastically contribute to so-called “toxic brain.”  And the high cholesterol levels that result from such diets have also been shown to further increase age-related memory loss

The good news, however, is that science has shown that a change in diet, one replacing these brain-supporting chemicals, can not only improve brain activity, it can reverse the damage done by toxins.

For example: There are a number of foods that improve brain activity and promote an active mind.  Fruits and vegetables, especially spinach, blueberries and strawberries are bursting with antioxidants that protect the brain from “free radical” damage.  Nuts and seeds like walnuts, flax, and almonds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids as well as vitamin E and calcium. 

Grains like oats, millet, and brown rice protect the brain by supporting healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels–key elements associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease. 

Fish, as the old adage goes, is indeed “brain food.”  The omega-3 fatty acids in tuna, salmon, and mackerel (great sources of DHA) help support a healthy brain. 

In addition to unhealthy dietary habits, Americans are also among the most inactive and self-indulgent societies in the world. 

While diet is a major contributor to memory loss and our toxic brain condition, many of our lifestyle and environmental habits are known to inhibit brain activity. 

Smoking, for example, depletes neuronutrients and dumps major loads of toxins into our brains. 

Stress and hypertension, so common to most of our lives today, creates a massive obstacle to cognitive function: in short, stress shuts down brain cells.

Sedentary lifestyles (lacking brain stimulation) contribute greatly to cognitive decline and memory loss (especially when coupled with other toxic intake). 

Alcohol consumption (when taken to excess) leads to short-term memory loss as well as overall cognitive decline. 

And synthetic drugs (including cough suppressants, barbiturates, antidepressants, and MAO inhibitors) have all been directly linked to the symptoms of dementia and cognitive decline.  Eliminating these factors from your lifestyle can improve the brain's cognitive abilities exponentially.

For those Americans accustomed to instant gratification, overindulgence, and 21st Century stressors, making the dietary and lifestyle changes necessary to extend mental capabilities may seem like a lot of work with little reward.  (Okay, so, I’ll have a better memory when I’m old–so what?!)  But when you factor in thatAmerica leads the world in many life-threatening diseases including several forms of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and mental illness–all of which are improved my making such dietary and lifestyle changes–it really seems like no sacrifice at all.  And when a few other realities are factored into one’s health and lifestyle outlook, there can be a world of benefits far beyond the mental rewards alone.

For example: Never underestimate the benefits of simple exercise. 

Exercise boosts brain power and can void the brain of toxins, and can benefit the body in innumerable other ways including improving the circulatory, respiratory, immune, digestive, and other bodily systems. 

Also, as science has now proven, the brain is a use it or lose it organ.” 

Learning new things–whether doing crossword puzzles, reading, or learning a foreign language–builds new synapses (mental connections) and helps reinforce old ones--thus improving memory curcuits. 

And by increasing brain function, you can positively affect all the senses–sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. 

Additionally, dietary and lifestyle improvements will not only detoxify your brain and help you retain memory, they can systemically improve the way your body functions as a whole–improving attitude, vitality (energy levels), sexual ability, and the ability to deal with stress.

In short, by feeding the brain, you are in reality feeding the entire body which will pay off in numerous ways--including fending of memory loss.   So aren’t a few dietary and lifestyle changes in order?


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1 comment

Maria Cecilia de Guzman
Posted on Oct 7, 2010