Memory loss and poor concentration
It was once assumed that brainpower automatically decreased with age, but research now shows this simply isn’t true. Your brain is able to acquire new skills and sore information well into old age.
In other words you can have an agile mind and can increase your knowledge and intelligence well into menopause and beyond.
Supply and Demand
Just as with your bones and muscles, the strength of your brain is all about supply and demand. If you make demands on your brain cells, they’ll keep on strengthening your neural networks. This means they’ll go on creating pathways that make information evermore readily accessible, in turn improving your ability to retain and recall information.
We do have to work harder on our memory and concentration as we go through menopause, though. Your brain contains estrogen receptors. When these are stimulated with estrogen, they’re thought to help maintain cognitive function. Estrogen levels fall during menopause and remain low in the postmenopausal periods. It’s easy to assume that this means your brain function will fall into decline and that this is an inevitable, irreversible process. However, research now proves that if you keep your brain active, there’s no inevitability about a decline in brain function at all.
As well as constant use, a healthy brain needs a good supply of blood to bring it lots of oxygen. This means your circulation needs to be in good order. Chilblains or very cold hands and feet are an indicator that your circulation isn’t as good as it could be, and that means that the circulation to your brain isn’t so good, either.
If your memory loss is related entirely to your age, your doctor is likely to offer you nothing more than advice on how to restore your brain power by using your brain more. Occasionally, you may be offered HRT, but be aware that this carries significant potential side-effects. If you start to notice that changes in memory are affecting how you function each day, it would be a good idea to see your doctor. If you can’t remember how to get to a familiar place or can’t follow the steps in a recipe, you need to have a check up.
Food nourishes your brain as well as your body, what you eat and drink affects your mental performance, as well as your physical. If you don’t’ eat properly, your brain won’t be getting the nutrients it needs to function efficiently. Whatever your age, a poor diet causes foggy thinking, forgetfulness, and poor concentration.
Your brain is a greedy organ and requires a constant supply of oxygen, energy, and glucose. As a first step, try to follow the guidelines for a healthy, balanced diet. In particular, ensure your diet is rich in fiber by eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day and stocking up on whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
Of all nutrients, your brain needs glucose more than any other, but the supply of glucose throughout the day must be a steady one. This means making sure you eat plenty of unrefined carbohydrates, such as wholegrain bread, rice, and pasta, and vegetables and that you avoid eating highly refined products, such as those made with white flour and lots of sugar. You can choose to refer to glycemic index (GI) lists, if you like, but I prefer to advocate one simple rule: The more fresh and unprocessed a food is, the more likely it is to have a steadying effect on your blood sugar.
Make sure you eat every few hours because, if you skip meals, there’ll be too little glucose in your blood stream, and you’ll feel sluggish and find it hard to remember or concentrate properly. You can even feel lightheaded or dizzy. Aim for five or six nutritious and balanced meals and snacks a day and make sure that each one of them contains a little high-quality protein – a sprinkling of nuts and seeds, for example.
Eating breakfast is a brain-boosting essential. Your brain never rests – even when you’re asleep – so a good, healthy breakfast is the best way to replenish your energy after a night’s sleep and help you stay alert all morning.
Protein provides the building blocks for essential amino acids, such as tryptophan, which the brain uses to make neurotransmitters, including serotonin (often called the “feel-good” chemical, because it has pain-relieving properties). In addition, protein foods help control the release of sugar or glucose into the blood-stream. To ensure you get a full range of essential amino acids, include a wide range of high-quality protein in your diet in the form of nuts, seeds, oily fish, soy products, peas, beans, lentils, quinoa, eggs, and (in moderation)dairy products.
The amount and type of fat you eat is important for brain function, too. You need to reduce saturated fat in your diet because saturated fat, which is found mainly in animal products, clogs up your arteries, impeding the all-important circulation to your brain. You also need to avoid hydrogenated fats because they can harden brain cells, preventing the neural pathways, which boost your information storage and recall, from a=making healthy connections.
All that said, your rain is 70 percent fat and needs certain types of fat to function optimally. These necessary fats (which nourish all the cells in your nervous system, not only those in your brain) are essential fats.
Foods rich in essential fats contain actual components of brain-cell membranes. They include oily fish (sardines, mackerel, and so on), nuts and seeds (particularly walnuts and almonds), and some leafy green vegetables (such as kale and cabbage).
And finally …
Increase your intake of phytoestrogens, which are found in soy products and lentils, because studies show that eating a phytoestrogen-rich diet can result in significant improvements in both short- and long-term memory. And remember that water is crucial for a healthy brain. If you don’t’ drink enough, you’re liable to suffer from dehydration and accompanying headaches and poor concentration. The solution is simple: Make sure you drink six to eight glasses of water a day – more on hot days or if you’re exercising and sweating a lot. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink because thirst is a sign that you’re already dehydrated. As for caffeine, one or two cups of coffee a day seems to have a simulating effect on the brain, but any more than that and you’ll decrease blood flow to your brain.
Vitamins and Supplements
• Boron As well as taking antioxidant supplements, you should make sure that your daily multi-vitamins and minerals supplements include boron. Studies show that boron is important for healthy brain function, particularly for concentration and short-term memory function.
• Omega-3 Fatty Acids Supplement with a good quality fish oil (1,000mg, daily), containing at least 700mg EPA and 500mg DHA; or with flax seed oil (1,000mg, daily).
Ginkgo Biloba This herb comes from one of the world’s longest-living tress. It is without exception the “memory herb”. I have seen it help sharpen focus and improve memory in women of all ages. The herb helps keep blood vessels flexible, improving blood flow to the brain, and so its supplies of oxygen and glucose. Ongoing research is currently attempting to determine if supplementing with ginkgo can delay or alleviate dementia. Take 400mg ginkgo biloba in capsule form daily, or 1 tsp. tincture in a little water, twice daily.
Other Natural Treatments
Acupuncture To improve memory and concentration, an acupuncturist will usually concentrate on the heart-channel meridian, as well as other meridians specific to your overall general health.
Full-body aromatherapy massage A full-body massage with a qualified aromatherapist, especially with the stimulating essential oil o=rosemary, can boost circulation so that your brain gets a good supply of oxy-genated blood. If you’re using rosemary essential oil in a massage at home, make sure you dilute it in a carrier oil such as sweet almond using a dilution of 15 drops of rosemary oil to 6 tsp. of carrier.
Moderate your alcohol The odd glass of wine or two a week won’t hurt, and may actually boost your brain power, but too much alcohol can destroy brain cells, so try to limit your intake.
No smoking Nicotine causes your blood vessels to constrict, hampering blood flow to your brain. Avoid smoking and passive smoking alike.
Keep fit Regular exercise can boost circulation to the brain and also release mood-enhancing endorphins into your body, making you feel more alert.
Sleep well Quality sleep is crucial for a healthy brain and nervous system – but not too much sleep! You should be aiming for between six and eight hours a night. Any more or less than that can lead to poor concentration, fatigue, and memory loss.