Memory: Solutions for “Senior’s Moments”
It’s important that as people age they find ways to keep both their bodies and minds sharp. In my years of medical practice, I have witnessed patients who experience the anxiety that comes when they recognize that their memory is failing. Whether they are forgetting where they put their keys more often, are having trouble finding words or they are in the early stages of age-related dementia, there are holistic strategies that can help lift brain fog naturally.
When working with a patient, my first task is to determine whether their lifestyle is conducive to good brain function or if it is a likely cause of their “senior’s moments.” The brain is an organ that needs to be taken care of in order to function optimally. Like the rest of the body, it needs quality nutrition, proper rest, exercise and stress management in order to perform well. Nutritional deficiencies, such as lack of vitamin B12, can occur with age, especially if prescription medications like metformin (diabetes) or nexium and other stomach acid blockers are taken. An iron deficiency reduces the oxygen supply to the brain. This form of anemia can be caused by taking aspirin, or by colon issues that cause bleeding.
Exercise has proven to be one of the key factors for preserving mental function. Studies show a significant reduction in rates of dementia in people who exercise three to five times a week. Research also supports the idea that cardiovascular health in general improves oxygen and blood flow to all organs, including the brain. Another study from the Journal of Neurology found that exercise helped minimize arterial plaque buildup, and that this was linked to improved performances on memory and mental acuity tests.
The old adage, “use it or lose it” applies to memory. Mental stimulation is to the brain, what exercise is to the muscles. Engaging in social interactions, intellectual pursuits, and mental games can protect the memory. It’s never too late to learn a new instrument, figure out how to use a computer, or challenge yourself to learn some conversational Spanish.
I also assess my patients for anxiety and chronic pain, both of which have been linked to memory loss. One natural medicine derived from Green Tea called Theanine has been shown to improve mental clarity and reduce anxiety. If chronic pain is present, laser therapy is an effective treatment for arthritis, back and muscle pain.
In my clinic, I also do a thorough medical evaluation to see if there are physical reasons for the memory loss. A full thyroid panel can sometimes illuminate low thyroid function, which can also make patients feel tired, chilly and gain weight easily. Fascinating research links imbalances in the bacterial lining or microbiome of the intestine to brain function. Taking antibiotics or acid blocking medications can disturb the crucial balance in the intestinal microbiome and result in learning and mood issues. Correcting this imbalance with the help of a naturopathic physician can improve health on many levels, including the mood and mind function. For some people, food allergies can cause a brain fog due to an opiate like effect on the brain.
Finally, the factors that put people at risk for cardiovascular disease also put them at risk for dementia. Diabetes is now considered to be a major player in the development of age related dementia. Naturopathic physicians have expertise in helping diabetics achieve stable blood sugars with less mediation. High blood pressure must be addressed with lifestyle changes – not just medications – in order to significantly reduce its side effects. High homocysteine (over 7.0) levels have been found to double the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, according to scientists at Boston University. This inheritable risk factor is easily tested for and treated with natural medicines, yet is rarely done by conventional physicians.
I am often asked if there is a natural medicine to protect the brain from aging and memory loss. Gingko hasn’t been shown to have a preventive effect, however, studies have shown it to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. Fish oil has anti-inflammatory effects that are positive for brain function. You may have read that chocolate has flavinoids that are good for the brain. Well, only its raw form actually contains the medicinal properties, so sadly you’ll have to try raw cacao nibs to get the protective effect.
Phosphatidyl serine is the newest superstar in the natural memory aid arena. The Journal of the American Academy of Neurology published a study in which it was stated that phosphatidyl serine was a promising candidate for treating memory loss later in life.
A combination of living a healthy lifestyle, having a thorough medical evaluation by your naturopathic or conventional doctor, and utilizing natural medicines will surely help keep those “senior’s moments” at bay.