health and wellness

Memory loss and how to mitigate its effects

Posted:  Wednesday, January 24, 2018 - 3:00pm
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We need our memory to find our way to and from the store, to and from work, and to and from home. We need our memory to keep appointments, pay bills, problem solve and manage other daily obligations. We need our memory to be a self-confident, independent, functional and productive person.

Many of us have taken this process of having a good memory for granted.  Without memory, life becomes an unsettling place, full of the unknown. Feelings of anxiety begin to creep in. We are experiencing uneasiness and uncertainty in our thoughts. We are aware that something is not right, and we feel that we are losing control of our life.

Forgetting where we put our keys, parked our car or remembering people’s names is a common inconvenience. This can be due to being in a hurry, multitasking or thinking about where we are supposed to be in the next hour. Our focus and concentration are not in the present moment.  

When you cannot remember how to get to the store, or notice that you are having trouble problem solving, or having difficulty in completing familiar tasks at home or work, or finding that you are unable to recall specific events from the past month, week or the day before, you should be concerned about your memory. 

With any change in our memory, we automatically think that we have the beginning of Alzheimer’s Disease.  And this may not be true.

In those experiencing some memory loss or occasional forgetfulness, 40 percent may develop Alzheimer’s Disease in five years.

After 40 years of age, there tends to be a decline in memory. One major reason for age associated memory impairment, is lack of mental stimulation. Without mental and physical challenges, the mind as well as the body become sluggish and inactive. 

With mild cognitive impairment, many of us will rely on rituals and routines to help us remember what we were doing or planning to do. We will search for clues hoping this will return our lapsed memory. 

These rituals and routines create predictable events and are necessary for a person with cognitive impairment. Rituals and routines help us feel secure and in control of our lives. Rituals and routines also help keep us moving forward with daily chores. A person experiencing memory loss or forgetfulness will tend to use rituals to cover-up their deficit.

Memory impairment may be due to one or more of the following:

  • medications
  • chronic stress
  • depression
  • hypothyroidism
  • vitamin B12, B1 or Vitamin D deficiency  
  • uncontrolled diabetes
  • alcohol abuse or drug abuse
  • autoimmune diseases
  • head trauma 

Meet with your primary care physician to discuss the changes in your memory and find out if there is a medical reason. 

Besides seeing your physician, I have listed recommendations to help mitigate early memory loss. 

  • Get control of your stress. Chronic stress causes memory deficits and the body to age quickly. 
  • Challenge your mind. Do something that is different or uncomfortable for you. Drive another route to the store or to work. Play challenging games and try new activities. 
  • Be physically active. Physical activity provides mental stimulation. Try a new sport. Stimulate your senses and create new experiences.  
  • Eat a Mediterranean diet. This diet has been shown to reduce Alzheimer’s Disease by 24 percent. It is rich in olive oil, salmon, nuts, red wine and plant-based foods.  
  • Add coconut oil to your diet. It promotes brain health. Add it to smoothies, coffee, oatmeal and use it for cooking. 
  • Get enough sleep and wake up refreshed. Find out how many hours you need to keep you mentally and physically engaged every day. Everyone’s sleep needs are different. 
  • Start writing or journaling. This activity helps with memory recall and creativity. 
  • Meditate. This is a practice of focusing, leading you to be mindful of the present moment and to learn the skill of not letting outside circumstances disturb you. 
  • Avoid gluten and sugar. These two components can cause chronic inflammation of the body and brain.
  • Stay hydrated. Dehydration can cause mental and physical fatigue.

All the above have been reported to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.

We can work towards keeping our memory intact.

It is never too late to design our lives towards keeping ourselves mentally and physically healthy and continue to be independent and productive as we age. 

 

Roe Chiacchio RN, CPT, CDP, can be reached at roechiacchio@gmail.com