Honey have you seen my car keys? I know I walked into this room for a reason? Her name was?

Are you one of those individuals who have gone through this forgetting ritual, but finding it happening a little more often?  Well you are not alone. Millions of Americans, young or old, suffer from very benign bouts of forgetfulness. These episodes are unrelated to any particular medically related deficits, but some are, so if there is any concern then seeking the assistance of your medical profession is recommended.

Although it is true that memory loss and forgetfulness does correlate to increased brain age; according to researcher Paul Laurienti, MD, Ph.D of Wake Forest University School of Medicine “we know that even older brains can grow new and stronger connections.” Like weight training for bigger, stronger and more responsive muscles, consistent and sustained mental and physical workouts can also yield stronger and more salient brain connections, improving our mental cognition and boosting our brain power. Your brain might just get a little bigger too. There is an area deep in your brain that is shaped somewhat like a seahorse called the Hippocampus. This area is responsible for a few functions including regulation of memory and emotion. Unfortunately, without sips of water from the fountain of youth, this area shrinks, loosing volume as we age, hence causing a decline in memory function. Researcher Kirk Erickson and his colleagues found that aerobic exercise increased the hippocampus volume by 2%, reversing the age related volume loss by 1-2 years. Simply amazing! Physical exercise can make your brain bigger…who would have known! The benefits of exercise are countless: reduction of body fat (know your Body Mass Index BMI), prevention of heart disease, stroke, obesity and many other ailments. 30 minutes of exercise a few times a week may help you remember where you left those keys.

Several other strategies have been implicated in boosting brain power, decreasing memory decline and maintaining mental alertness. Try a few of these simple tips and try them often, you’re bound to see great results:

  • Playing memory card games with your children and grandchildren- but try to let them win at least once…maybe twice. The jury is still out on whether computerized “Brain Games” work to enhance overall cognition.
  • Completing Crossword Puzzles (NY Times Puzzles  are pretty good and free), or Suduko puzzles. Start out with the easiest and work your way up the brain power ladder.
  • Consume Omega -3-Fatty Acids (Salmon, Mackerel , Sardines or Fish Oil Pills). Norwegian researchers found older individuals who ate fish once per week performed better on mental test. Consume plenty of fruits and veggies, which have lots of brain boosting antioxidants. Greens containing Folic Acid and B Vitamins, which improve memory. Food for thought!
  • Sleep!! Adults need at least 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Researchers found that individuals who slept longer not only prolonged their life spans, but also had significant impacted on memory, cognitive functioning, rates of cardiovascular disease and obesity. Sleep does the body good, literally.

Overall eating right, being physically and socially active, sleeping and participating in mentally challenging activities have an impact on one’s ability to maintain and improve their memory and cognition. Do not be afraid to take on a new task, play a new game, go for that longer walk or get to be a little earlier. Be mindful of your mind, it sure does matter and is a very terrible thing to waste.

Wendell C. John, FNP-C

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