Do you frequently misplace your keys or phone?
Are you forgetting appointments?
Do you often wonder why you entered a room?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be experiencing memory loss.
If your memory problems have become a serious concern, it might be time to seek out professional help. Unfortunately, many healthcare professionals perpetuate a myth about memory loss.
Memory Loss Myth
When you visit your primary care physician or local neurologist, they’ll typically ask you a few questions, give you some short tests, and order an MRI. Based on your results, these medical professionals will often tell you this myth about memory loss: “Everyone has memory problems with age. It’s normal.”
Despite what many healthcare practitioners would have you believe, losing your memory in your 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, or even 80s isn’t normal. It’s a sign of trouble.
Many things can lead to memory loss. Here are just a few…
Factors that May Cause Memory Loss
According to a recent study published by Royal Society Open Science, consuming the Western-style or standard American diet (SAD) diet for just one week may decrease learning and increase the desire to munch on junk food. For this trial, volunteers spent one week splurging on high-fat foods and sweet treats with high amounts of added sugar. The SAD diet led to worse performance on memory tests and an increased desire to overeat junk food after they’d finished consuming a meal.
The researchers suggest that the SAD diet – consisting of high-glycemic foods like waffles and high-fat fare like milkshakes – can rapidly impair function in the region of the brain called the hippocampus.
One of the brain’s major memory centers, the hippocampus is also involved in appetite regulation. Dysfunction in this area is associated with memory issues and troubles with appetite control.
This study is just the latest to confirm the strong relationship between what you put in your mouth and the moment-by-moment functioning of your brain. Its findings suggest a vicious cycle where eating junk food impairs hippocampal function and appetite control, which leads to craving more junk food, and so on. It helps explain why the SAD diet is contributing to widespread weight problems in America where approximately 70% of the population is overweight, and 40% fall into the obese category.
New research in the journal Neurology reveals that taking a certain class of drugs called anticholinergics has been linked to problems with thinking and memory. There are about 100 types of anticholinergics, which are commonly used to treat high blood pressure, overactive bladder, motion sickness, and even the common cold.
Unfortunately, anticholinergics aren’t the only medications that have been associated with memory problems. Many commonly used prescription and over-the-counter drugs are linked to memory loss, as well. These include:
- Anti-anxiety drugs (Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin)
- Cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins)
- Antidepressants (Prozac, Celexa, Lexapro)
- Diabetes drugs (Glucophage, Metformin)
- Opioid painkillers (Oxycontin, Vicodin)
- Sleep aids (Ambien, Lunesta)
- General anesthesia
Toxic exposures can come from many sources other than medications, most notably self-inflicted “lifestyle” toxins (smoking, including cannabis and vaping; amphetamines; ecstasy and other recreational drugs; and alcohol), pesticides and herbicides in foods, medical treatments such as chemotherapy, and environmental exposures to carbon monoxide or mold. It can be difficult to know if you’re being affected by one of these toxins unless you know specifically what to look for.
Toxic exposure can damage the brain and result in decreased neurological function including memory loss, sudden personality changes, and difficulty concentrating. It’s important to realize that toxic exposure and its effects on the internal structure of your brain may trigger both short- and long-term effects.
A growing body of research has shown that periodontal (gum) problems are a risk factor for serious cognitive and memory issues. Gum challenges are associated with an unhealthy inflammatory balance, which has been linked to an increased risk for long-term memory problems.
A study found that people who keep their teeth and gums healthy with regular dental health behaviors may have a lower risk of developing memory issues later in life. Researchers at the University of California followed nearly 5,500 elderly people over an 18-year-period and found that those who reported brushing their teeth less than once a day were up to 65 percent more likely to develop serious memory problems than those who brushed daily.
Researchers from the University of Illinois and Northwestern University in Chicago tested 68 women, ages 44 to 62, who had at least 35 hot flashes per week. Those women who reported struggles with memory, negative emotions, and more troublesome hot flashes were the ones who did the worst on tests that measured memory. Intense menopause can translate to intense memory issues.
The menopausal brain can be subjected to enormous hormonal changes, and memory can be a casualty. Such perimenopausal memory loss can be due to decreases in progesterone, which can affect sleep patterns and increase anxiousness.
It also can be due to a decrease in DHEA, a precursor hormone to estrogen and testosterone that’s highly protective in the brain, particularly its major learning and memory centers. Healthy memory depends on healthy hormonal balance, and a good endocrinologist may be able to help by prescribing bioidentical hormones.
Since the brain is a muscle, it’s important to exercise it every day. In fact, keeping your brain fit is a great way to support cognition and memory throughout your life.
If you’re looking to improve your brain fitness, here are 5 helpful and fun ways to protect your memory and improve your mental well-being…
5 Ways to Help Prevent Memory Loss
- Brain Games
Brain games can be helpful for preserving memory and other cognitive functions, especially for older adults. Spending a minimum of 15 minutes a day on games – such as crossword puzzles, chess, sudoku, and jigsaw puzzles – may help improve concentration. There are various online sites where you can do mental exercises to improve your cognitive skills.
No matter your age, mental exercise can have an overall positive effect on your brain. Cognitive skills tend to dip after graduation from school/college and after retirement from work, so don’t stop challenging your brain daily!
- Physical Activity
Physical activity increases blood flow to your whole body, including your brain. Exercise delivers extra oxygen and other nutrients to your brain cells. Walking can help clear your mind, improve your mood, and burn some calories all at the same time.
Aerobic activity – sweating for at least 30 minutes 4 to 5 times a week – also can increase BDNF, a “growth factor” that promotes nerve cell maturation and overall brain efficiency. Both blood flow and BDNF are major brain influences to help keep your memory sharp.
- New Learning
Brain researchers have discovered that the “use it or lose it” principle applies to the brain’s trillions of connections (synapses). These tend to increase in number when the brain is being challenged to learn. When the brain stops learning, the synapses can decrease and memory can start fading, so be intentional about learning new things.
Set aside sometime each day to learn something new. Take a class, learn a new language or musical instrument, try square-dancing, chess, tai chi, yoga, or sculpture. Einstein said if someone spends 15 minutes a day learning something new, they’ll be an expert in a year!
- Memory Aids
Memory aids are a great way to boost your brain while developing a system to remember things. When memorizing a list, associate each item with the most humorous or ridiculous image you can think of to help you recall it later. No one sees the image in your mind, so be creative and have fun with it.
To help you remember names, repeat a person’s name once or twice in conversation. Visualize the name as a picture (perhaps on the person’s forehead) and use their name when saying good-bye.
- Strong Connections
Social connections can significantly affect your brain, mood, memory, and overall well-being. Building and maintaining healthy relationships may help you feel understood and cared for. When you care for others and feel cared for, your brain releases oxytocin, the “bonding” hormone, which can counteract some of the negative effects of stress.
The health habits of the people you spend time with can have a dramatic impact on your own health. Surround yourself with people who are happy, upbeat, kind, and who challenge you to be the best version of yourself.
Memory loss isn’t inevitable. If you’re experiencing memory problems, early intervention may be the key to long-term prevention. Now is always the best time to get serious about brain health.
One of the best ways to prevent premature memory loss is with proper nutrition, especially using highly purified nutraceutical ingredients that are specifically designed to keep your mind sharp and efficient.
Since your memory is what allows you to treasure and revisit the most special moments in your life, be sure to protect and fortify your brain with the nutritional, positive lifestyle, and fitness strategies that can help strengthen it.
At BrainMD, we’re dedicated to providing the highest purity nutrients to improve your physical health and overall well-being. For more information about our full list of brain healthy supplements, please visit us at BrainMD.
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