A Blog devoted to progressive politics, environmental issues, LGBT issues, social justice, workers' rights, womens' rights, and, most importantly, Cats.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Health - Memory Loss

As we get older, we notice our mental functioning changes. It seems harder to commit friends' names, addresses, phone numbers, and other small details to memory, and harder to retrieve information that was committed, on demand. Other changes include a "reset to zero" of memory at any time and as a result of any stimulus. For example, you might walk into a room with a specific intent, to retrieve a book or locate an object, but once there, and faced with some other stimulus (like a bookshelf needing dusting, or papers to put in the recycling bin), and the memory resets to zero so that you no longer remember what your purpose was in entering the room.

Sometimes this can take on ridiculous overtones, as when one enters a room, engages in a task unrelated to the original purpose of entering the room, leaves the room for some other location, thinking "I'm sure I forgot something," and upon entering the other location, remembers, "Oh, yeah, I went to the bedroom to get the new shirt," returns to the room, and promptly forgets once again why one is there. Repeat two or three times, and your frustration level is right over the top.

What can you do to prevent this type of mental dysfunction, short of having a new brain installed?

Several things that are good for you generally are also good in preserving memory, or at least slowing memory loss:
  • Exercise
  • Moderate daily exercise, meaning 20-30 minutes at least three times a week if not every single day, of walking, swimming, aerobics, or anything else that gets your body and blood and other associated fluids moving, is good for your mind and brain.
  • Diet
  • A diet high in fresh fruit and vegetables, and fiber from whole grains and legumes, and low in nutrition-free calories and saturated fats, will keep your body and your mind in good shape.

    A diet high in saturated fats and nutrition-free calories (sugar, soda, candy, fast-food) is undeniably linked with hypertension and diabetes. These conditions are linked to memory problems. Also, the higher your blood pressure, the greater your likelihood of a stroke, which can permanently and irreversibly impair mental function.

  • Monounsaturated fats
  • Fats like olive oil have an important protective benefit for the brain.
  • Antioxidants
  • in the diet also help the aging brain.
  • Nutritional supplements
  • are also necessary after a certain age. Of these, the most important for memory function are Vitamins B6 and B12.

    You might be taking a B-complex daily, and consider that sufficient. However, recent studies are showing that the older you are, the more difficulty you have absorbing Vitamin B12, which plays a crucial role in memory and nerve function.

    Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) deficiency is common among people over age 65. A study of healthy men, aged 70 to 79 years, showed that supplementation with pyridoxine for 3 months improved memory performance, especially long-term memory (unable to find a cite at present). However, deficiency of this important vitamin may begin much earlier, especially if your gastric system is not in good working order. You should not take more than 2 mg of Vitamin B6 per day unless under the supervision of a physician. However, you should inform your physician of all nutritional supplements you take, and the amounts, including the nutritional value of your diet.

    Vitamin B12 can improve cognitive function in elderly people who have been diagnosed with a B12 deficiency. Cognitive impairment is an important manifestation of vitamin B12 deficiency. Cognitive decline due to low levels of vitamin B12 is a greater problem in elderly individuals since cobalamin deficiency increases with advancing age. Supplementation with vitamin B12 showed improvements in cognitive function among elderly people with vitamin B12 deficiency and cognitive decline, even in people without obvious signs of B12 deficiency.

    I take a high dose of B12 combined with the RDA for B6 in a no-shot pill that dissolves on the tongue.

  • Other nutrients (nutraceuticals?) shown to improve memory:
    • Lecithin;
    • zinc;
    • iron;
    • ginseng.
Fish oil, preferably derived from fatty fish like sardines, salmon, mackerel, etc., in their natural state, is also excellent for the heart and brain. I'm a little leery of fish oil capsules which make you burp fish for hours and are much likelier to go rancid when not associated with a fresh, fresh filet of fish.

The latest issue of Science News has an article on the beneficial effects of turmeric, which is the spice that gives the yellow colour to curry powder. I haven't read the study, but the spousal equivalent assures me that it was tested in curry powder form, and prevents the buildup of plaque in the brain. I don't use commercial curry powder ever since I learned to make my own, but I will investigate further. I highly recommend the use of turmeric, which has many health benefits (that I will research and cite in due time). It is used to impart a golden colour and a slightly astringent flavour to foods.

Use it sparingly on any animal product - fish, eggs, meat - or in vegetables. I will post recipes in due time.

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At 11:09 PM, Blogger Ms. Manitoba said...

Thanks, PolCat!

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At 10:23 AM, Blogger Sandy-LA 90034 said...

Thanks, PoliticalCat - I really enjoy reading these posts about health-related issues. My cognitive functions seem to be slowing down and I need every bit of help I can get!


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