THE GOOD NEWS IS, WE CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT, IF WE KNOW WHAT TO DO, AND THEN PRACTICE LIVING IT.
THE MEMORY SOLUTION
Remember What You Need to Do Every Day
One need not be a chamber to be haunted,
One need not be a house;
The brain has corridors surpassing
—Emily Dickinson, "Ghosts"
FROM DR. AMEN'S BOOK "CHANGE YOUR BRAIN CHANGE YOUR BODY"
John was sixty-five years old and had type 2 diabetes. The directions from his doctor were clear: Exercise, eat a healthy diet, and take your medicine. But he kept forgetting. He would regularly go out for doughnuts and coffee laden with cream and sugar. And he often forgot to take his medicine unless his wife handed it to him. Frustrated, his wife would chastise him, and he would promise to do better. The diabetes was stealing healthy blood flow to his brain, especially to his prefrontal cortex (impulse control and short-term memory) and the inside of his temporal lobes (where information gets into long-term memory). Even though John knew what to do, he often forgot and reverted back to his habitual behavior. And it cost him dearly. Over time, he lost his eyesight and had both legs amputated. His skin looked much older than he was, and he was significantly overweight.
A healthy body requires a good memory. You need to remember what to do every day to keep yourself healthy and not forget. This is different from willpower, where urges and cravings overtake your prefrontal cortex. Memory is being able to hold a plan in your mind so that you can consistently pursue your goals and make them happen. Memory requires focus to get the information into your brain and then, once inside, the information needs to get into the brain's long-term storage bins. Some people have a deterioration of memory as they age; some never had a very good memory. Either way, you can improve your memory if you improve the overall health of your brain and your body.
Considering Alzheimer's disease is expected to triple in the next twenty-five years, it is critical for all of us to think about and optimize our memory centers. I have seen this disorder ravage families, making everyone feel stressed and look older than they are. In this chapter, I will help you understand the different types of memory, specific memory problems, what to do about them, and how'to boost your overall memory.
TYPES OF MEMORY
Memory is a recording of one's experiences stored in the brain—be it an interesting conversation, a piece of information, a "memorable scene," or a notable event. There are three types of memories differentiated by the time lapse between the experience and the recall of that experience. Each type of memory activates different brain areas when one attempts to recall it.
Working memory resides in the frontal lobe and lasts less than a minute. This form of memory is commonly referred to as one's attention span and lasts up to one minute before being erased. Trying to memorize a dance step someone just showed you is an example of working memory.
Short-term memory resides on the inside of the temporal lobes in an area called the hippocampus and lasts a few minutes to a few weeks before being erased. When you try. to recall the dance step you learned in last week's dance class, these brain areas are activated. Not all of your moment-to-moment experiences activate short-term memory. Only those experiences that are novel, interesting, or that you intended to remember will sufficiently stimulate nerve cells in this area of the brain to record them.
Long-term memory can last a lifetime. Scientists are not yet certain which brain areas are directly involved in long-term memory, but likely they are scatr tered across many areas of the brain. When you try to recall the name of your first dance teacher when you were a child, you are accessing your long-term memory.
MEMORY BOOT CAMP
In order to have the best memory possible, you need to keep your brain and body healthy, work your memory on a regular basis, and treat any memory problems early.....
DON'T IGNORE MEMORY PROBLEMS
Memory problems are typically considered an issue for the elderly.- In my experience as both a child and adult psychiatrist, however, I have seen memory problems across the life span. They commonly appear in children with learning disorders, in teens and adults who smoke marijuana, in adults with depression and substance-abuse problems, and in the cognitive decline that occurs with aging and many forms of dementia. In assessing memory problems, it is important to consider
Medical causes, such as low thyroid or B12 deficiencies
Medications that interfere with memory, such as antianxiety medicines like Xanax or painkillers like OxyContin
Brain illnesses, such as depression or ADD
Early stages of Alzheimer's disease
Excessive stress—stress hormones have been found to kill cells in the hippocampus
Lack of sleep or sleep apnea
Postanesthesia—some people react negatively to general anesthesia and complain of subsequent memory problems
Environmental toxins, such as finishing furniture or painting your car in a closed garage
Drug and alcohol abuse
UNDERSTANDING AND TREATING MEMORY LOSS
The predominant cause of memory loss is a family of diseases called Alzheimer's disease and related disorders (ADRD), which includes but is not limited to Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia, Parkinson's disease, and frontal lobe dementia. In addition to ADRD, many other conditions cause memory loss. ........
DR AMEN HAS MUCH TO SAY AND TEACH IN HIS CHAPTER ON MEMORY IN HIS BOOK "CHANGE YOUR BRAIN CHANGE YOUR BODY." YOU SHOULD HAVE THIS BOOK IN YOUR HOME LIBRARY, FOR THE HEALTH OF NOT ONLY YOURSELF BUT YOUR ENTIRE FAMILY.
THINK OF MEMORY AS A MUSCLE THAT NEEDS TO BE EXERCISED REGULARLY, IF NOT DAILY. THERE ARE WAYS TO KEEP YOUR MIND AND MEMORY IN GOOD SHAPE, JUST AS THERE ARE WAYS TO KEEP YOUR BODY IN GOOD SHAPE.