Nelson’s Memory Nuggets

When I think about the body-brain connection, the spiritual Dem Bones comes to mind. Perhaps you are familiar with the lyrics for this tune about the connection of one bone to the next, starting with the toes and going all the way up to the head and then back down again. It ain’t just the bones that are connected; our entire internal system is connected, and that includes the brain!

According to Aaron Nelson, there are a number of reasons, in addition to those related to normal aging, that our memories become less optimal as we age.

  • poor sleeping due to habits or physical issues
  • hereditary factors 
  • hormones that act up
  • age-related illnesses
  • neurological illnesses
  • side-effects of cancer treatment
  • accidents to the head
  • exposure to excessive stress
  • taking certain medications or drugs
  • eating a nutritionally poor diet
  • excessive alcohol intake
  • inadequate exercise
  • insufficient intellectual stimulation
  • smoking

While some of these factors are beyond our control, many of them are manageable. For those that are manageable, making changes will likely improve both cognitive functioning as well as physical functioning. Nelson’s prescriptions sound like common sense, and most are suggestions that have been touted in the news at one point or another as facilitating improved health in a part of the body. Many of us are general practitioners of our own health, so it may behoove us to remember that our internal systems are interconnected, and delight that improved memory is now added to the list of benefits that can accrue from taking care of ourselves.

Here are Nelson’s Memory Nuggets:

Obtain regular exercise 

  • lowers the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s
  • increases brain plasticity
  • helps manage weight
  • helps manage stress

Put out the cigarettes

  • give your lungs and blood vessels a reprieve
  • unfog your memory and your cognitive functioning

Take vitamins

  • antioxidants fight against free radicals
  • antioxidants may protect against memory loss

Involve yourself with others

  • social stimulation improves mood
  • interacting with others provides cognitive stimulation

Maintain healthful nutrition

Aim for a good night’s sleep

  • six hours is minimum needed
  • helps cement new learning

Learn something new

  • engaging in novel challenges promotes memory and cognition
  • cognitive reserve applies to lifelong learning

Moderate alcohol intake

  • one to two drinks of red wine might help fend off dementia
  • excessive alcohol promotes memory loss

Engage in life

  • learn something new
  • engage in social interaction
  • stimulate your mind
  • feel worthwhile

Manage stress

  • high levels of stress make it difficult to attend to new information, thus impacting memory

Organize your thinking, organize your life

  • organization aids memory

Routinely take precautions to protect your brain

  • “Head trauma is a major cause of memory impairment in young people and a risk factor for later development of dementia.” (This direct from Nelson, who serves as the neuropsychology consultant to the Boston Bruins hockey team.)
  • wear helmets, mouth guards and seat belts

Yes you can! Maintain a positive attitude

  • All of the above are within your control to manage, and are worth managing for both your physical and mental health.

One thought on “Nelson’s Memory Nuggets

  1. Ken Allan

    Kia ora Laurie

    I like the list – the one or two glasses of red wine sounds right up my street 🙂 – that and a good night’s sleep.

    Your husband’s Shutterfly artwork arrived today. Thank you both for the gift of these wonderful art forms.

    My daughter Hannah was impressed. She is starting a course in sculpture at Auckland University next year and has an eye for form and shape.

    Best wishes on Christmas Eve

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