Reflection March 19, 2017
Forgetfulness and the Brain (Part Two)
Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth
This is a continuation of the information I presented in last week’s copy of the Advance (available on our web site: www.morganparkbaptistchurch.org.
This Advance article involves some of the material from my presentations at our church on March 8. I will also be presenting this lecture at Smith Village on Thursday, April 6, at 10:30 am for anyone would could not attend the lectures at MPBC.
Everyone suffers memory loss as we age. This happens because the dendrites on our brain cells begin to “prune back” after we hit the age of 28. There is also an age-related decline in the neurotransmitters that make memory happen.
The physician at the all-day workshop I attended also mentioned other ways our memory can be impaired:
1) Visual impairments - if we do not see well - this will impact our memory formation and our memory recall.
2) Medical issues - the brain needs large amounts of oxygen to function well. Any medical condition that affects circulation will impact our brain, and, therefore, our memories. Thyroid imbalances will affect our brains. High cholesterol levels - affecting blood flow - will impact the brain. High blood pressure affects the brain’s functions. TIA’s (slight strokes) seriously impact our memories. Diabetes has a significant impact on brain health and memories. Diabetes causes insulin resistance which robs our brain cells of needed glucose/sugar. Diabetes lowers the hormone leptin - which is associated with a four-times higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease. So keep diabetes in check!
3) Fatigue and sleep disturbances have a significant impact on memory formation and memory recall. If one has a sleep disturbance, consult a physician to see if there is an underlying medical condition (such as sleep apnea) disrupting one’s sleep.
4) Physical and mental inactivity affects our brains - “use it or lose it!”
5) Medications - such as sedatives, tranquilizers, antihistamines and some antidepressants negatively affect the brain’s ability to form long-lasting memories.
6) Weight issues - heavier people have smaller brains. People who are obese have brains that are 8% smaller than average - and have brains that appear 16 years older than the obese person’s true age. Even being overweight causes a 6% smaller brain size and an 8 year older appearance.
Here are 10 strategies to reduce the aging brain’s lessening memory ability:
1) Get regular exercise. Regular exercise (at least 20 minutes per day) helps the hippocampus grow. The hippocampus is the part of our brains essential for converting a short-term memory into a long-term memory. The hippocampus declines in size 1% per year after the age of 45.
2) Reduce stress - chronic stress is closely associated with atrophy (shrinkage) of the frontal lobe and hippocampus. Long-term stress hormones, especially cortisol, hurts our brains. Cortisol also affects weight-gain. One needs to develop good strategies for stress-reduction, such as meditation, yoga, walks in the open-air and the like. People who meditate regularly have less shrinkage of the brain’s grey and white matter.
3) Maintain heart health - anything that adversely affects circulation hurts the brain.
4) Eat a healthy diet and maintain normal weight. The presenter suggested consuming 5 tablespoons of olive oil or 2 handfuls of nuts per day. We should all probably supplement with 1,000 IU’s of Vitamin D3 per day. Vitamin D is a hormone that is critical to many bodily functions and is notoriously low in many, many people. I gave information on how to get Vitamin D levels tested for $25. (Call me at 708-557-0400 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on this Chicago-based $25 testing). Also everyone should take fish oil daily to increase their levels of Omega 3’s.
5) Stay socially active and mentally engaged - those who mentor young people stay sharper for longer than those who do not do so. Avoid more than one-hour of television per day! Get involved in local events and activities (such as those found often at our beloved church). Stay connected with others and ponder life’s meaning!
6) Get adequate sleep - those who get seven to eight hours of sleep per day have larger brains!
7) Do a memory self-assessment - I passed out copies of the SAGE Test at the lectures. This test can be found on-line - and gives an overall assessment of one’s memory.
8) Stay well-hydrated - many older people lose their sense of thirst as they age. Dehydration is a very dangerous condition - and can lead to heart attacks and strokes. When one’s hydration levels lower - one’s blood thickens - and NOTHING GOOD can come from thicker blood!
9) Have healthy gums - floss every night! This will cut down on the body’s inflammation - which hurts the brain and everything else!
10) Organize better! Those who have organized lives (and living quarters) do better at memory formation and recall than those who live in clutter and in disorganization.
The risk of some form of dementia (there are 50 kinds of dementias - Alzheimer’s is the most well-known) doubles every 5 years after the age of 65. 50% of those who are over the age of 85 have some type of dementia. But we can lower these odds by staying active and engaged with our world!
Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor
11024 S. Bell Avenue
Chicago, IL 60643