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Memory Loss: Exercise and Lifestyle Changes Are Needed


Regular exercise

· It gets more oxygen to your brain. 
· It reduces the risk for disorders that lead to memory loss, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 
· It may enhance the effects of helpful brain chemicals and protect brain cells. 
Managing stress: 

· Cortisol, the stress hormone, can damage the brain if stress is unrelieved. 
· Stress makes it difficult to concentrate. 

Good sleep and enough of it: 
· Sleep is necessary for memory consolidation. 
· Sleep disorders like insomnia and sleep apnea leave you tired and unable to concentrate during the day. 

Not smoking 
· Smoking heightens the risk of blood disorders that can cause stroke and constrict arteries that deliver oxygen to the brain.

In addition to eating right, getting physical exercise and enough sleep, directly stimulating your mind can lead to a healthier and better functioning brain. The brain’s lifelong capacity for physical and functional change is known as “brain plasticity.” 

Just as physical exercise can make and keep your body stronger, mental exercise can make your brain work better and lower the risk of mental decline. Here are some ideas for brain exercises:
· Play games that involve strategy, like chess or bridge, and word games like Scrabble. 
· Work crossword and other word puzzles, or number puzzles like Sudoku. 
· Read newspapers, magazines, and books that challenge you. 
· Get in the habit of learning new things: games, recipes, driving routes. 
· Take a course in an unfamiliar subject. 
· Take on a project that involves design and planning: a new garden, a quilt, a koi pond. 

People who do not have social contact with family and friends are at higher risk for memory problems as well. Social interaction helps brain function because it often involves activity that challenges the mind, and it helps impede stress and depression.

Studies have shown that overweight middle-aged adults do not perform as well on memory tests as those with a lower body mass index (”BMI”), and indicate that elevated blood pressure and diabetes could act as a bridge between high BMI and poorer cognitive function. Thickening and hardening of the blood vessels supplying the brain can contribute to dementia, and diabetes may harm cognition by either leading to artery disease or through direct effects of insulin on brain cells.

Researchers have also found that cigarette smokers in their 40s and 50s had much lower scores on memory and concentration tests compared with non-smokers, and the scores were even lower for people who smoked the most cigarettes a day, showing a definite relationship between memory loss and increased smoking.

Note: Some statements in this article may not be approved by the FDA. This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as professional medical advice.

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Greg Cryns
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