Enjoy Your Menopause!

January 4, 2010

Baby Boomer Women, Menopause and Memory

Some of us joke about not being able to find or remember things during menopause but have you ever stopped to wonder if you could be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s or some other dementia? Do you worry that you are losing your memory, and don’t know what to do about it?

One mental health expert offers these 5 tips to help keep your brain and memory active as you age:

#1. Increase your Fitness

Every time you move your body and raise your heart rate, it increases blood flow to the brain and produces endorphins. Not only are endorphins 50 times more potent than any pain medication, but they also help you feel better. A happier and calmer mind produces lower amounts of the stress hormone, cortisol ( found in high quantities in Alzheimer’s disease). When your mind is quiet, you will retrieve information from your brain more easily. Your immune system is stronger, minimizing your risk of developing degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Doing a variety of activities – at least 30 minutes, 5-7 days a week – stimulates brain growth, reduces boredom and keeps injury rate down.

#2 Good Nutrition

Do you ever hear the expression…”you are what you eat’?

While researching natural remedies for my rising blood sugars and pressure, I discovered that low-glycemic carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, grains) are key. They reduce sugar crashes, and cravings throughout the day; stabilize moods; boosts energy, and takes away the ‘fuzzy’ mind at the end of a work day. To maintain a constant energy level, eat smaller meals and snacks 5 times a day.

The brain requires a balance of:

1. carbohydrates for energy;
2. good fats (omega 3- salmon, almonds, avocados) to nourish brain tissue (brain is 60% fat by solid weight);
3. protein (lean meats, soy, legumes, nuts) for balancing blood sugars, and building our neurotransmitters – serotonin and dopamine, for mood control. High fiber foods-grains and nuts – are also critical.

The debate over nutritional supplements is ongoing. More research is supporting the benefits of a good multivitamin/mineral to reduce oxidative stresses and to fill the gaps in our diet. Ginkgo biloba, which increases blood flow to the brain, has also been suggested.

Did you know that the brain is 80% water? By drinking 6-10 glasses of water throughout the day, you will feel less fatigue and ‘foggy’ brain moments. Limiting coffee (dehydrating) to 1-2 cups/day, and alcohol, which damages brain tissue, are a good idea.

#3 Brain Exercises

Our brain has a ‘plasticity’ switch – very active in children. When you learn new skills and tasks, it increases the activity in the hippocampus or memory areas. Adults have a tendency to develop routines – drive the same way to work, have tedious jobs, regular daily habits etc.

Turning on this plasticity switch is as easy as brushing your hair or teeth with non-dominant hand; playing a new sport; taking music lessons or using your creativity in a craft. Other ways to stimulate brain cells – puzzles (crosswords, Sudoku, jigsaw); doing simple math, such as mentally adding up your grocery bill while standing in a line-up, or counting backwards from 100 by 2; reading; playing cards; board games…the list is endless.

#4 Meditate, Yoga, Journal

Calming your mind allows you to live in the ‘present’ moment. There are no worries in this moment, allowing you to feel happier and seeing more of the beauty around you.

Meditating (10-20 minutes/day) is relaxing and clears the pathways for information to flow through your mind effortlessly.

Yoga teaches deep, diaphragmatic breathing – increasing oxygen supply to your body and improving lymph flow, which carries away toxins.

Gratitude journal (writing 5 things you are grateful for every day) helps to focus more on the ‘abundance’ in your life. According to the Universal Law of Attraction – whatever you predominantly think about, you will attract more of it.

#5 Have Fun – Laugh

More than once, I have heard that I am the average of the 5 people whom I spend the most time with. Everyone emits energy – some people are more positive than others. If you want to feel happier and energized, spend time with friends who are more optimistic, and fun to be with. It is refreshing to watch children play and laugh. Why do we have to give that up just because we are grown-ups?

Laughing releases endorphins…happy mind = healthy brain.

It is difficult not to continue writing more tips – such as sleeping 6-8 hours/night (I couldn’t resist adding another one) – but I will save those for another time. The number of baby boomers diagnosed with early onset (before age 65) Alzheimer’s and dementia is rising steadily every year. The good news…research and personal experience are showing that, regardless of our age, we can do something to raise the lid on our brain’s potential.

It takes 21 days to establish a habit. Why not start weaving some of these tips into your life today?

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