Gena Kolata is a great writer, definitely front-page quality. However, the New York Times front-page article on Sunday August 29th didn't start with a basic message: most memory loss after age 60 is not Alzheimer's. The causes of this age-related memory loss actually are amenable to much prevention, with physical activity, diet, stress management, the 3 C's, and a couple of D's (not school grades, but ways I remember) etc. Keep reading and I’ll tell you (plus by reading this, you’ll help yourself prevent memory loss!)
First, let’s set the record straight about memory loss. More than 70% of memory loss after age 60 is actually due to vascular issues, toxins, or trauma. Furthermore, to say it is impossible to prevent memory loss after age 65 is analogous to suggesting you cannot prevent wear and tear on your car– it’s a myth! Here are our myth-busting tips to keep memories (Sorry, you’ll have to ask your mechanic for those about cars):
- Get tested. If you’re experiencing cognitive problems, it is important to see if you do in fact have Alzheimer’s. Additionally, as you age, the way you process medication differently and that can foster cognitive dysfunction . Ensure you aren’t poisoning yourself by taking prescribed medications or secretly ingesting heavy metals. Avoid eating tuna, swordfish and other fish that are high in mercury. Mercury and lead are toxins that poison nerve cells in fetuses (one of the major reasons why pregnant women have to avoid these fish like the plague!) and destroy memories in adults. Get inexpensive blood tests to see if your mercury (or lead), level is too high.
- Wear a helmet. A properly fitted helmet can prevent brain injury 90% of the time.
- Keep your arteries young. Vigorous physical exercise, Vitamin D3, a Mediterranean diet (avoiding the 5 food felons coupled with fruits and veggies and a thin waist), 2 baby aspirins a day, things that decrease inflammation like flossing, lack of cigarettes, 115/75 on your BP readings and a high HDL and low LDL cholesterol and low triglycerides all work as if draino was sent to your arteries. Those young arteries keep blood to your brain streaming and well oxygenated.
- Keep your brain growing. Vigorous physical exercise, plenty of DHA (from fish, plants, or supplements, 900 mg), Vitamin D3, and the 3 C’s (Curcumen, fighter of inflammation and neural plaque, Crosswords, gymnastics for your mind, and Connections) work like nerve growth factors to keep your memory relay station, your hippocampus, growing or repairing itself.
- Enjoy some sexy time and a lot of sleep. You've heard Mehmet and me say a bedroom should only be used for sleep and sex. Both seem independently important for memories. If you’ve been having trouble convincing your partner to get his C-reactive protein measured, here's another reason. Seems a low CRP keeps his sex life active - or at least it is the best predictor (next to both partners being alive) of a healthy sex life 5 years later in older couples. Lack of sex and sleep, and inflammation increase neurologic dysfunction. Need another reason to have fun in the sack? People, particularly older ladies and gents, who are sexually active, also have been found to be in better health and have better memory.
- Manage stress and love what you do. Your attitude has a lot to do with how smoothly your body runs. Have a positive attitude? Optimistic about the future? Feel like you have a purpose in life? These simple attitude changes plus stress management are game changers (like a Michael or Kobe, sorry not a LeBron, last second buzzer beater) for your memory and cognitive functioning.
So there most definitely are ways for you to keep your mind buzzing away like it should have 20 years ago!