Memory Maintenance

Memory Maintenance

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Help your body naturally help itself prevent Alzheimer’s with these proven ways to boost communication between your neurons, and blood flow to the brain.

Your Blood Supply
While there’s a strong genetic component to memory problems, we need to address the arterial component of an aging brain. A lack of healthy blood flow to the brain is one of the main courses of forgetfulness.

Each side of the brain had a separate blood supply that looks like several big trees during winter. Between the twigs at the tips of the major branches are areas of brain that are dependent on blood from each of the surrounding trees. The area farthest from two blood-supply lines is the watershed area where we tend to have mini-strokes when atherosclerosis prunes the branches of the surrounding trees, or the tree trunks wither from poor maintenance.

Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs may help maintain memory by preserving tree architecture, while also reducing inflammation that ages the brain cells directly.

QUIZ: How healthy are you?

Your Neurochemicals
Nerve cells communicate with one another via neurotransmitters, chemicals that ferry info from neuron to neuron across the synapses between them. The most common neurotransmitter is called acetylcholine. When levels of this chemical falls (especially in the hippocampus) we develop cognitive impairment. Many Alzheimer’s treatments are aimed at increasing the amount of acetylcholine in the brain.

The other chemical that plays an important role in memory is “brain-derived neurotrophic factor” (BDNF), which works like Miracle-Gro for your brain. During infancy, BDNF helps develop nerves that help us learn. As we get older, things like inflammation and stress can decrease its levels.

You can do things to improve your BDNF levels: consuming the spice curcumin (a component of turmeric), doing exercise, restricting calories, being in love and taking a class of antidepressants called “selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. Not surprisingly, you can decrease BDNF by eating high levels of refined sugars and saturated fats—as well as not getting enough of the natural antidepressant tryptophan. (Spinach has twice as much as turkey!)

What’s the biological effect of this? Well, if you have serious memory-related issues, the gray matter in your brain shrivels faster. And the connections that are so important to maintaining memory get blocked, broken and detoured, so your memory is slowed, or sometimes lost.

Luckily, there are several ways to restore your power lines, regrow neural connections and preserve one of the most powerful things you can pass along to the generations that follow: your memory. And wisdom.