There’s one thing we have that no one can take away.
Your first kiss, learning how to ride a bike, drive a car, your graduation. No matter what your memory of an event is, it belongs to you.
Your Memories Are Unique
Studies have shown that different people can experience the same event, but they remember completely different things.
I might recall how well the speaker was dressed and you might remember the irritating way they dropped the microphone as they fumbled their notes. That’s called selective attention and a lot of interesting studies have been performed to illustrate how it affects our memories.
Selective Attention Determines What We Remember
Our ability to focus on specific items affects how they are perceived. It will also affect what you remember about the event that occurred.
Studies have shown that we remember things differently because of how we consolidate them.
Context is Part of How We Consolidate Memories
When we are able to encode the context of an event, it affects how well we remember it.
One way to remember the location of an item is to think about the item and the moment we set the item down. That little nugget of context will help you remember you left your jacket in the car, rather than hanging it up.
Sleep contributes to memory consolidation. When we reprocess memories during sleep, we are forming and shaping them.
Losing Our Memory
One of the most tragic events I can imagine is memory loss. To come to the end of my life without being able to recall my experiences would be devastating.
It would feel like I hadn’t lived at all.
Researchers predict that Alzheimer's will become more prevalent as our population ages. That makes a lot of sense, but one wonders why.
There is no pharmaceutical cure for the disease. There are several clinical drug trials that have recently shown little benefit for patients. One drug was created to target amyloid protein, which is a marker for Alzheimer’s. The trial failed as the drug didn’t perform any better than a placebo.
How Researchers Changed Their Approach and Found a Cure
Memory loss results from a complex system gone awry. Our brains aren’t working correctly.
They decided a more holistic approach was worth a try. They proposed that a focus on specific lifestyle factors might help the brain recover.
They decided to support the brain by optimizing its surroundings. Better food, more rest, and more exercise were selected. Several of these factors are well-known longevity tools.
Take a Look at What You Eat
Participants in the study ate a mainly vegetarian diet with added supplements. They also followed a nightly 12–16 hour fast. Sugar and caffeine were reduced or eliminated entirely.
We’ve all heard it before. A diet of whole foods is recommended for mental and physical health. Eating fresh vegetables and fruits gives your body the nutrients it needs.
Better Sleep Protects Memories
Participants in the study were counseled to clean up their sleep habits. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day is important. Your body will learn new habits and welcome this new routine.
Insomnia, oversleeping, and mental health are interconnected. It can be very difficult to overcome bad habits. Reducing the amount of caffeine and sugar you eat will support better sleep.
Experiment with other holistic approaches such as meditation and yoga. And quit drinking alcohol. An alcohol-induced stupor is not healthy for sleep.
Make a sleep plan. A good night’s sleep triggers changes in your brain that can help solidify memories.
Reduce Stress in Your Life
It’s just not worth losing your mind over.
Learn deep breathing or other stress management techniques to help you calm your nervous system. Yoga and meditation are also tools that can calm your nervous system.
Exercise is one of the most important activities that will benefit your brain. It increases blood flow and creates endorphins. That triggers positive feelings and contributes to your overall well-being.
Your body supports your brain by focusing on fitness.
Why Do Lifestyle Changes Improve Alzheimer’s?
There are several metabolic measurements that are associated with Alzheimer’s and Dementia. They include inflammation and insulin resistance.
A healthy lifestyle reduces both inflammation and insulin resistance, which supports improvements in memory.
- Insulin resistance is when cells can’t use insulin effectively. Because they can’t absorb glucose (sugar), it builds up in the blood.
- Inflammation is the body’s immune system response to something that is irritating it. Neuroinflammation, or inflammation of the brain, is becoming more and more linked to Dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Any lifestyle change that supports reduced inflammation and reduced sugar levels in the blood is likely to improve your memory. Blue Zone changes support longevity as well.
Why Isn’t Everyone Doing It?
If we really want to support our brain health, why aren’t we all jumping on the lifestyle bandwagon? There are several factors.
- We’re inherently lazy.
- It’s easier to take a drug.
- Lifestyle changes take effort.
- We’re used to following our doctor’s advice. Our doctors are used to treating symptoms with medications.
- They say youth is wasted on the young. There’s some truth in that. The last thing you were thinking of in your twenties was your longevity.
The Good News
It’s possible to overcome these problems. It will take a shift in how we’ve been doing things up to now.
People need support to make these changes. They need to understand what is required. Then they need to learn about the specific changes required to improve their health.
Doctors need to learn how to use nutrition in the same way that they now use drugs.
Insurance companies need to make a shift toward paying for counseling and dieticians instead of medication.
These lifestyle changes are what we need now, to support people who have a chronic disease. When we tackle the underlying causes we will finally solve them.
If we can make these shifts in how we approach treatment for chronic diseases, we can improve the lives of many.
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