Tag Archives: memory

Now what was I coming into this room for???(musings on keeping your memory sharp)

What I am doing here? who is this???(compliments of "Menopaws"

What I am doing here? who is this???(compliments of “Menopaws”)

I would bet that most of you have experienced at least one moment of wondering why the heck you wandered into a room…..and then just stood there looking around in hopes that some sort of message would magically appear reminding you of your purpose. I cannot tell you how many times that has happened to me but I can say it has happened far too often.  I am also going to assume that most of you are concerned with memory loss and the possibility of dementia and/or Alzheimers as you age.  As many of us are destined to live longer lives, it becomes more likely that our minds will age along with our bodies: a scary thought indeed. Ah, but there are many strategies available to us in our quest to keep our minds and memories sharp as we age. Gracefuly aging in all aspects of our lives is the key to living a higher quality and quantity of life.

So let’s review some of the strategies that we have at our disposal to keep our minds sharp and our memories intact as we do begin to age.  I heard a wonderful piece this morning on NPR that talks about some of the latest research re: memory and the best ways to make sure that we stretch and grow new neuronal connections as we get older, which will enhance our ability to keep learning, stay vibrant and store new memories as well.

http://www.npr.org/2014/05/05/309006780/learning-a-new-skill-works-best-to-keep-your-brain-sharp?ft=1&f=3

Learning a new skill can help your brain be sharper and improve your memory

Learning a new skill can help your brain be sharper and improve your memory

In addition, getting regular exercise is another pillar of memory strength. I have always loved to work out in some form or another(running in my 20’s and 30’s, walking regularly since then, swimming, pretending to play golf(seriously that is one fun but frustrating sport!), hiking, and skiing.  I took up tennis almost 2 years ago and it has been a blast. There is quite a learning curve involved and I am definitely still climbing up that curve but it has forced me to think while I build new muscle memory. There have been some studies that promote this kind of thinking while exercising as one of the better ways to build memory, but any aerobic and active type of exercise enhances the brain’s potential for learning and storing new information. The most important thing is to just get out there and get active. Here is a link to the importance  between exercise and brain health:

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/regular-exercise-changes-brain-improve-memory-thinking-skills-201404097110

Exercise is not only great for your body: it is also essential for your brain and memory…find something you love to do….another essential of balance

Exercise is not only great for your body: it is also essential for your brain and memory…find something you love to do….another essential of balance

Vitamin D also plays a role in brain health and cognitive strength. According to Dr. Oz, “Scientists hypothesize that improved cognition may be linked to the sun’s effect on the body’s internal clock; exposure to daylight(natural vitamin D) may boost the production of the neurotransmitter seritonin, which in turn spurs growth of the hippocampus, that part of the brain crucial to forming and storing memories.” He recommends( as do I) that every day we should go outside and spend between 15-20 minutes  before applying sunscreen so that our bodies can make Vitamin D ourselves. In general, we still do need to take additional vitamin D: more on that in a future blogpost. Bottomline, make sure you get outside every day possible as this will help both your brain and your mood.

Adequate sleep also clearly has an effect on our memory. Most of us(myself included, far too: often, mea culpa) get far too little of this precious activity most days.  In general, 7-8 hours of sleep is recommended to help our bodies and our brain to restore and rejuvenate. Think of sleep as time to recharge your battery. I imagine you have the same reaction that I do when I see that dreaded message on my cell phone: “less than 20% battery” and I have left my cord at home: panic! I usually feel the same way towards the end of a busy work day when I stayed up and out too late the night before and I am dragging, just not as sharp as usual. Note to self: get more sleep.

A baby seal taking a 'catnip' on the beach: ah, the bliss of a deep sleep…..

A baby seal taking a ‘catnip’ on the beach: ah, the bliss of a deep sleep…..

One more memory/brain potential robber: STRESS!!! We have touched on this in previous blogposts but briefly, when we are under stress(prolonged, frequent, unrelenting stress), cortisol is released to help our body fight “the attacker”, real or perceived.  Unfortunately, this adaptive response often leads to a maladaptive state, leaving our mind and body depleted. The result: poorer learning capability and difficulty storing new memories. Studies of inner city children, faced with the stresses of poverty, crime, poor nutrition and inadequate social support, have shown over and over how difficult it is to try to learn in school when under chronic stress. The same concept applies to all of us, whatever our stresses may be.  So managing your stress is something each of us must learn to do.  Think exercise, meditation, eating whole foods, making time for yourself, your family, your friends, take regular vacations, prayer…more work is not usually the answer…

Meditation, exercise, quiet time…all ways to manage your stress.  Be sure to find time each day for activities like these.

Meditation, exercise, quiet time…all ways to manage your stress. Be sure to find time each day for activities like these.

I haven’t touched on everything that can impact your memory but these are some of the more powerful things that you can work on.  Obviously eating whole foods diet and balancing your hormones are both essential for brain health as well. Hopefully that goes without saying if you have been reading our blog for awhile.

As always, we welcome your comments, thoughts and ideas . Stay tuned as Candace and I are getting ready to do some webinars together starting in July. We will provide the links for these so that you can log in and listen.

To building  great memories…..and remembering them, LOL.

 

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Filed under Essentials, Hormone Imbalance, Kyle Bell McAvoy, Whole Eating, Women's Health & Happiness, Women's Work/Life Balance

News flash!!! Small changes really DO matter(especially in your diet)

Here at Menopausibilities we are always combing the news for simple ways to improve our lives. So many diet fads come and go, it can make one’s head spin! I am always very skeptical when a ‘new diet’ comes along with over-the-top promises to help you lose weight rapidly in a ‘safe and effective manner’.  If it sounds too good to be true, it is when it comes to dieting and weight loss.  There is a lot of money to be made in the weight loss industry and I have heard stories of many women who have plunked down between $2000 and $3000 for a program at a weight loss center, a naturopathic or allopathic physician’s office. Unfortunately, people do often lose substantial amounts of weight, only to eventually gain most, if not all and then some, of it back.

Quick weight loss programs often lead to quick regain results

Quick weight loss programs often lead to quick regain results

The good news is that are many sane, effective, delicious and sustainable ways to lose weight and keep it off. The Mediterranean diet is one that has been around for centuries and has been in the news for over 20 years. Every so often another study or story appears in the media extolling its virtues so I think it is extremely relevant and important to share this latest story on NPR showcasing yet more benefits of eating this way. Not only does eating a diet rich in fish, nuts, veggies, fruits, olive oil(and even moderate amounts of vino) help you reach and maintain your ideal weight, but now research is showing that women who eat this way starting in their 50s’ are 40% less likely to develop physical or memory problems or chronic diseases in later decades. Imagine what could happen if you ate this way most of your life!

Here is a link to the entire story:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/11/05/242994376/for-mind-body-study-finds-mediterranean-diet-boosts-both

Fall foliage along the Seine: eat a diet like the folks who live along the Mediterranean for long-lasting benefits

Fall foliage along the Seine: eat a diet like the folks who live along the Mediterranean for long-lasting benefits

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Confessions of a tea lover

Well, it’s official: fall is here again and I for one am happy it has arrived. Although I love summer with its carefree rhythm, warm days, easy fashion and simple fresh foods, I am always more than ready when the days begin to shorten, the nights cool off for perfect sleeping weather, I get to pull out my favorite boots and corduroys(like old friends) and pore through my many cookbooks looking for hearty recipes to serve to family and friends.

Fall is also the season to bring out the tea kettle and sip on many varieties of tea throughout the day. Personally, I tend to drink hot tea all year round but I find it particularly appealing once the days and nights begin to cool.  I like to keep a wide assortment of teas in my cupboard at home, as well as in my office at work.

Some of my favorite teas: the choices are endless

Some of my favorite teas: the choices are endless

As a small child, my mother introduced me to the joys of a great cuppa, although in our family we could choose from orange pekoe tea with either milk and sugar or with fresh lemon and honey. I didn’t venture into ‘herbal teas’ until the early 1970’s  when companies like Celestial Seasonings made a wide variety of yummy and nutritious teas. Once I discovered my first ‘health food store’ back on Long Island in 1973, I was in tea and food heaven!

I have passed on the tradition of tea drinking to my own children, who both also love to drink a hot cup of tea on a cold morning or  evening(or afternoon for that matter).  The most wonderful thing about tea is not only does it taste yummy, but now we are discovering how great it is for our health.

As many of  you may already know, all different colors of tea are good for you: green, black and herbal but probably the one that has gotten the most attention is green tea. We now know that green tea is rich in EGCG(epigallocatechin-3-gallate): this is a compound that blocks a particular enzyme needed in the digestion of starchy foods.  If you drink the recommended amount of green tea( 1 and ½ cups) while eating a meal or snack high in starches, your blood sugar will only increase by 50% of its normal rise. This is very important in terms of helping to prevent insulin resistance, which is a precursor to developing Type II Diabetes.

In addition, studies have shown that drinking 3 + cups of green tea per week for 6 months(not even per day, although other studies have shown even greater benefits if you do drink more!), women will have a 14% reduction in developing cancers of the digestive system.  2 cups of green tea/day helps to shrink your waist and causes a reduction in overall fat and weight.

And if that’s not enough to get you to drink green tea on a regular basis, EGCG stimulates the growth of neurons in the part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is involved in our memory.  I know that all of us worry about our weight, our risk of cancer and diabetes, and also the loss of memory, particularly as we age.

Some people complain that green tea can be a bit bitter so I encourage you to find a type that you like. I agree that sometimes I have found it a bit difficult to get down, but I love a blend that has jasmine and green tea as well as those that have some mint blended in, or are combined with chai tea spices. Tazo makes a lovely blend called “Zen”, so aptly named, as it gives you a warm mellow feeling. And green tea has a much lower content of caffeine that black tea does so it shouldn’t make you feel jittery or have difficulty falling asleep.

There is something about the tradition of brewing and sipping on tea.....a cross cultural experience with far-reaching health benefits

There is something about the tradition of brewing and sipping on tea…..a cross cultural experience with far-reaching health benefits

So get your kettle, some of your favorite mugs and tea out and warm up your insides while treating yourself to some amazing health benefits.  It’s a lovely way to usher in the ‘contemplative season’, a time to reflect back over the last year and nestle in while dreaming of the months and year ahead.

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Filed under Kyle Bell McAvoy, Whole Eating, Women's Health & Happiness

Exercise is NOT a dirty word(Just ask my Portland to Coast team!)

I love my work. I get to spend time with thousands of women every year in my role as a health care provider and as a result, I meet some amazing individuals. My office is in ‘the Pearl’ in NW Portland, which is an area similar to Soho in NYC:  shops, restaurants, bookstores(Powells Books is the largest bookstore in the U.S.and is a mere 3 blocks from my office), businesses and high density living quarters.  It is a vibrant neighborhood filled with pedestrians, cyclists, dogs on leashes, people hustling back and forth: for work, to shop, or to meet a friend over coffee or happy hour.

Our beautiful city of Portland: this is one vibrant town

Our beautiful city of Portland: this is one vibrant town

I hear many stories everyday and some common threads that emerge are all too often frustration with weight(too much, especially that dreaded ‘muffin top’), stress and feeling tired/overwhelmed. In my role as a provider, I try to elicit details of a person’s diet, stress management techniques and exercise routine. Most importantly, I have learned NOT to make assumptions: many people still don’t know how to eat ‘cleanly’ or how to incorporate exercise into daily living. Not surprisingly, women who eat well and exercise regularly tend to look and feel better/younger and handle life’s stressors with more grace.

So often I hear “I don’t have time to exercise” “I get bored” “I have bad knees” ” I just hate how I look: I can’t imagine putting on a bathing suit/workout clothes”. But then again, these are often the same women who are at their wit’s end with weight and fatigue issues.

The solution is obvious: Exercise! but the path back can be difficult for many.  But I love this kind of challenge: helping people find what works for them to get them back to feeling good, balanced, energized, alive…So many people hear the word ‘exercise’ and they want to run, but not outside, but to the couch. It can be a bit daunting for someone who has never been very active or for others who have adopted a sedentary lifestyle.

But it doesn’t have to be insurmountable. Start small. Set some goals. Let me give you some REALISTIC suggestions:

~Get a fitness app for your smart phone: there are some great ones out there. One that I use all the time is ‘endomondo’: this is a sports tracker with a GPS that makes fitness fun, helping you to measure your progress over time: I used it to train for Portland to Coast and it helped me to walk my fastest mile ever! Some others are ‘adidas-mi coach’, ‘couch to 5 k'(one of my co-workers is using that one: helping her to walk/jog and get moving!), ‘nike-fit’ …the choice is endless. Pick something that works for your lifestyle: they really make exercise fun!

~Find a group or a friend and start working towards a goal together. Last year I formed our PTC team and some of the women had NEVER participated in any kind of formal exercise or events. Guess what? they loved it and came back this year stronger and fitter than ever.

The morning after PTC with 3 of my amazing teammates: feeling strong, healthy and proud

The morning after PTC with 3 of my amazing teammates: feeling strong, healthy and proud

~Try something new or revisit something you loved as a child. Take a dance class, try stand up paddling, yoga, pilates, barre work, sea kayaking: there are no limits to the opportunities out there.

Trust me: exercise is the one thing that if you do it with any sort of regularity and dedication, it will give back to you in many ways: You will feel stronger, calmer, more flexible, confident, fit, leaner, and happy. And your memory will improve, as well as your cardiovascular health and hormonal balance.

So what’s stopping you? As always, we would love to hear what you are doing as part of your personal balance plan.

Happy trails…..

Cruising to the end of my second leg of 7.78 miles: what a gorgeous route and fun time we had

Cruising to the end of my second leg of 7.78 miles: what a gorgeous route and fun time we had

Oh and P.S.: last year was our first year as a walking team and we came in at around the top 40% , which we felt pretty good about. THIS year we finished in the top 28% overall…not bad for a bunch of women walking and having a fantastic time while doing it!

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