DR. WENDY CUNNINGHAM: Memory complaints and dementia

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As we grow older, we tend to worry more about lapses in memory and what it could mean. However, memory loss is not a natural process of aging. Our brains are capable of making new brain cells at any age.

Most of the time there is a physical reason for these memory lapses. For example, there could be a nutritional deficiency or abnormal thyroid function. In older adults, dehydration could be the cause. Excessive alcohol consumption creates brain toxicity and increases the risk of such conditions as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Also, smoking can cause vascular disorders that can limit oxygen to the brain. Research suggests that leaving the root cause of memory loss untreated for a long period of time may lead to a more serious diagnosis of dementia.

In October 2015, Neurology published a study showing that women who complain of poor memory may be at an increased risk for dementia later in life. The researchers found that older women who had memory complaints at the start of the data collection period had a 70 percent greater risk of being diagnosed with a memory and thinking disorder nearly twenty years later. Furthermore, women who reported memory problems at the midpoint of the study were 90 percent more likely to be diagnosed with a cognitive impairment over the following decade. The findings provide further evidence that memory complaints should receive closer attention, as they may be an early sign of more severe memory and thinking problems later in life.

It should not come as a surprise that a healthy lifestyle is the best way to protect your cognitive function. Regular physical exercise decreases the risk of memory loss and encourages the production of new brain cells. Proper nutrition should focus on lots of vegetables and healthy fats. Foods containing Omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, sardines, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, etc.) protect the brain. Supplements providing omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants can be very helpful, as well as herbs like Ginkgo and Bacopa. If the memory issues are related to stress and tension, Withania and Korean Ginseng can also be useful.

Proper sleep is necessary for all aspects involving cognitive function. Sleep deprivation leads to poor memory, poor concentration and impaired decision-making. Managing stress is crucial for brain health. Stress dramatically increases the ability of toxins to pass through the blood-brain barrier. Also, prolonged stress results in high cortisol levels in the body which results in impaired memory.

Exercising the brain is also important. Activities such as reading, doing puzzles, and playing strategic games such as chess lower the risk of mental decline. Studies have shown that playing a musical instrument or learning a foreign language can be particularly beneficial.

For more information, contact Dr. Wendy at haydenhealth@gmail.com. Cunningham Chiropractic proudly offers Standard Process and MediHerb products.

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