Just the other day a girlfriend said to me, ” How can you be so intelligent yet such an airhead?” I wonder – does one have anything to do with the other? According to research and me there is no connection between intelligence and forgetfulness!
Granted, I’m notorious for losing my keys, locking them in my car, dashing into the store while my car is running and leaving the door wide-open, losing my car, leaving my purse behind, losing my dog- seemingly losing my mind! Loved ones try to minimize my embarrassment and comfort me by saying, “Oh Al, you’re just preoccupied, distracted, not paying attention, doing to much or working too hard.” Okay, maybe some or all of this is true – at times. But don’t expect me to swallow the same bill of goods when it comes to my brain completely malfunctioning if I forget my last name. The same way my cell phone just freezes for minutes at a time.
Mortified, terrified and stupid is how I feel when suddenly, mid-sentence, during an important meeting or class, my mind just goes blank. Poof! It’s all gone! Where did it go? Words, thoughts, ideas, even feelings – everything vanished! Shear panic grabs me, beads of sweat dripping down my back, palms clammy, my heart starts pounding. And OMG, to make matters worse, a full blown hot flash! You want to discuss embarrassed? This moment calls for some deep slow breathing.
Ain’t mid-life just grand?
I have written before about the benefits of eating certain foods, exercising daily, getting enough sleep, and managing stress to keep our brains sharp. But I forget things, we all forget things! So, if you have forgotten — I will remind you.
Let’s call it a “right of passage” of the mature mind. Starting as young as 30 strange but normal changes can occur in our brain. The brain actually shrinks with age, neural connections slow down, and fewer nerve cells are created, experts explain. Memory loss does not affect everyone, nor is it inevitable. There are things we can do to improve our ability to think, create and recall. Based on research here are six important and easy lifestyle habits we mid-lifers can embrace to help bolster our brain power.
1. Consume foods high in Omega 3 Fatty Acids – Walnuts, almonds, ground flaxseed and fatty fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel are loaded with healthy brain enhancing omega 3 fatty acids! Research suggests that Omega 3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation in the brain. By keeping brain cells from swelling, it appears that memory loss is reduced in the majority of study groups. Shoot for a minimum of three servings a week.
2. Get enough sleep - Sleep soundly 7 or 8 hours a night. If snoring, body aches, weird noises, stress or a busy minds keeps you awake – be proactive and do something about it!Â Forget sleeping pills which only serve to impair brain function further.
3. Stay well-hydrated - Drink water and eat juicy fruits often. Even the slightest bit of dehydration can cause fatigue and confusion. Stay ahead of the hydration game by starting your day off with a glass of water first thing in the morning. This really helps me!
4. Drink green tea – coffee is good too - Drink green tea for polyphenols and it’s anti inflammatory properties. Â Coffee is a stimulant. Studies Â show that caffeine may rev up areas of the brain related to short term memory. Â Careful though with afternoon caffeine as it may keep you awake at night – lack of sleep does not do a memory good!
5. Eat Turmeric - This spice gets lots of praise for it’s anti-inflammatory properties. Â Turmeric is generally a staple ingredient in curry powder.
6. Manage stress and laugh often - Chronic stress produces cortisol which causes inflammation in the brain and can drive a person crazy which definitely impairs our ability to think and reason clearly. Laughter relieves stress and produces endorphins in the brain. A natural mood enhancer.
7. Control your vices - We need every single brain cell possible! Chill on the alcohol, OTC medications and don’t smoke! Need I explain? Basically if it isn’t good for your body it isn’t good for your brain!
8. Stay physically active for the rest of your life - Move everyday. Exercise brings oxygenated blood to the brain ( more healthy brain cells) and produces endorphins – a natural mood enhancer!
Experts say that being forgetful here and there in mid-life is no big deal and we shouldn’t obsess over the issue. This will only make matters worse. Forgetting where we parked our car is one thing. Forgetting we have a car is another. The latter may warrant a visit to the doctor. (This makes good sense to me.)
I remember my grandmother would look me square in the eye and call me every name but my own until finally, hoping to end her agonizing efforts to properly name me, I would yell. “Allison! Grandma! My name is Allison.” I believe she was a mid-lifer at the time.