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Dona L. Irvin

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Clear Away Brain Fog
By Sherrie Strausfogel

Reprinted with permission from GreatLife Magazine. February 2005

Do you find yourself becoming more and more forgetful as you get older? Do names and numbers slip your mind? Do you find yourself going into a room and forgetting what you went in there for? A decline in cognitive functioning, including memory, can begin as early as the mid-30s and is greatly affected by genetics, stress, exercise and lifestyle. However, it has also been proven that the more active you are mentally, the better your mind works. Just like physical training, exercising your memory will keep your mind functioning at its peak.

Tools to keep your mind sharp. Dharma Singh Khalsa, M. D., specialist in antiaging medicine and president and medical director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention foundation International, in Tucson, Arizona, says, “Aging-associated memory impairment, or the loss of cognitive function with age, as well as mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease, can all be prevented. This is because the brain is a flesh-and-blood organ, just like the heart, and like the heart, it performs best when provided with oxygen, blood flow, nutrients, exercise and stress reduction”.

Khalsa Has created The Better Memory Kit (Hay House, 2004), a practical guide to preventing and reversing memory loss, including Alzheimer’s disease. It is the result of more than a decade of the doctor’s research and clinical experience, and is based on an integrative program featuring his four pillars of a better memory: a 20% “right fat”diet, stress relief with memory-enhancing meditations; special physical, mental and mind/body exercises to boost memory; and pharmaceutical medicines (under physician’s care) proven to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s by six years.

“Clinically, we have seen my program work for many people who were in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease”, says Khalsa. “It helped them maintain—and in many cases reverse—some of the symptoms, so scientific evidence backs me in saying that it is definitely possible to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Good brain health is important for anyone at any age. People under age 30 want to maximize their mental function as well as present memory loss from occurring. However, the baby boomers are paying the most attention to their memory and the health of their brain, as they are the most rapidly increasing age group at the greatest risk of developing memory loss.

“Baby boomers are realizing that because there are so many of us and we lead such an intensely stressful lifestyle in this day of technology, it is important to take care of ourselves”, says Khalsa. “The good news is that as our hormones go down, our wisdom goes up,” he says of menopausal-age women and men. He suggests finding balance in your life to keep younger and healthier as you age. This involves a lifestyle approach that includes nutrition, supplements, exercise and stress management.

“There has been research done on the importance of eating the “right fats”, rather than eliminating all fats from the diet”, says Khalsa.. “Research has found that countries with the highest fat and calorie intake are associated with the highest instances of Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, cancer and other chronic diseases. Trans-fat, found in most processed foods is bad fat”. Conversely, omega-3-fats (good fats found in salmon, and other cold-water fish) may protect against memory loss.

Khalsa says three foods that can boost brain health are salmon, blueberries and spinach. The fatty acids in salmon—eicosapentaeoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)—are thought to maintain the fluidity of nerve cell membranes and support healthy functioning of cells in the brain. Population studies in the Netherlands and in the United States have reported that people who said they eat fish one or more times weekly were 60% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease in subsequent years.

The antioxidants in blueberries have shown promise in protecting brain cells from degenerating. Spinach is an antioxidant powerhouse, bursting with beta-carotene, vitamin C and folic acid, which keep blood vessels supple and help transport nerve impulses more efficiently.

Dr. Khalsa’s favorite brain boosters. Several natural remedies have been scientifically shown to improve memory loss linked to aging, which can lead to improved cognitive functioning and a sharper mind. Khala suggests that everyone take a high-potency multivitamin with at least 50 mg of B vitamins. He also recommends 2,000 mg of vitamin C and at least 400 IU of Vitamin E (2,000 IU of Vitamin E for anyone with Alzheimer’s disease). Antioxidants like vitamin C and E are thought to help protect neurons in our brain, partly by keeping blood vessels supple and open, ensuring the flow of nutrients to the brain, and they may also protect cells from damage by disarming free radicals.

“The most natural thing a person can do is manage their stress”, notes Khala. “It is essential to do some stress release or relaxation techniques, such as meditation, prayer, yoga, or listening to music, to lower cortisol. This will improve every parameter of a person’s health, including memory”.

Physical exercise is also good for the brain. Studies have shown that easy physical exeercise, such as brisk walking for 30 minutes a day, can slow the development of Alzheimer’s disease, especially in women. Mental exercise can delay Alzheimer’s, and if you combine it with physical exercise, it has a synergistic effect. “ The good news is that it’s never too late to begin building getter memory,” says Khalsa.

Everyday ways to exercise your mind
  • Repetition is the mother of retention.
  • Associate the date or event with some catchy phrase or image. Our brain is excellent at associative recall.
  • Learn just one new thing each day. Find something interesting to keep you motivated.
  • Keep up on current events. Exercise legend Jack LaLanne was quoted on his 90th birthday as saying, “One of the ways to live until you are 90 is to keep your mind active. I read everything from the Bible to the Enquirer.”
  • Take a few deep breaths. One way to clear your brain is to breathe. When you are doing intense mental work, your breathing tends to be shallow. This diminishes the supply to your brain and causes fuzzy thoughts.
  • Clear up your thoughts by chewing. Does it seem that the longer you sit at your desk, the more your brain slows down? Researchers have found that chewing helps keep up blood supply to your brain when you are physically idle, so chomp on gum, celery, or other raw vegetables.

Reprinted with permission from GreatLife Magazine. February 2005

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