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Elderly Driver

Driving Safely and Confidently


Factors That Affect Our Memory – Part 1

Are you headed for Dementia?

Driving depends on a sound memory, so anything that affects our memory, both negative and positive deserves our attention. Recently I read an article in Science Daily, entitled Think you have Alzheimer’s? You just might be right, study says”

New research by scientists at the University of Kentucky’s Sanders-Brown Center on Aging suggests that people who notice their Sanders-Brown Center on Agingmemory is slipping may be on to something.  The research…appears to confirm that self-reported memory complaints are strong predictors of clinical memory impairment later in life.  During the study, 56 percent of the participants reported changes in their memory, at an average age of 82. The study found that participants who reported changes in their memory were nearly three times more likely to develop memory and thinking problems. About one in six participants developed dementia during the study, and 80 percent of those first reported memory changes….these findings add to a growing body of evidence that self-reported memory complaints can be predictive of cognitive impairment later in life, there isn’t cause for immediate alarm if you can’t remember where you left your keys. “Certainly, someone with memory issues should report it to their doctor so they can be followed.”

  While it is certainly prudent to suggest to anyone experiencing problems with memory that he or she should report it to their doctor, I couldn’t help but feel apprehensive about how the physician might normally proceed at this revelation from a patient. I thought that this kind of finding could easily lead elderly drivers into a wave of panic.

After all, aren’t there many factors that could cause memory loss? Shouldn’t they be taken into account? It was then that I found an article I had in my files about the many factors that could result in memory loss.


 Consider the Other Factors That Cause Memory Loss

It seems to me that before an elderly driver gets overly concerned about their succumbing to creeping alzheimer’s, he or she should consider other factors that may be impairing memory. Here is the article, from Mercola.com. The first eight factors are negative and could be contributors to your sudden spate of memory loss. The other 3 factors are positive ones that may contribute to maintaining a sound memory.


11 Surprising Factors That Mess With Your Memory

By Dr. Mercola

Fear of losing your mind is a pervasive, fear. Among Americans, the notion of losing mental capacity evokes twice as much fear as losing physical ability, and 60 percent of US adults say they are very or somewhat worried about memory loss.1   The good news is that your brain is a dynamic organ, constantly adapting and changing, for better or for worse. Many daily activities such as, lack of sleep can seriously interfere  with your memory the next day.  On the other hand, a healthy lifestyle will support your brain health and even encourage your brain to grow new neurons, a process known as neurogenesis or neuroplasticity.

Your brain’s hippocampus, i.e. the memory center, is especially able to grow new cells and it’s now known that your hippocampus regenerates throughout your entire lifetime (even into your 90s), provided you give it the tools to do so.  Many of the most powerful interventions for memory are also the simplest. So if you’d like to boost your memory, and protect it against negative changes, keep reading. The 11 factors that follow, as reported by TIME,2 all have the potential to mess with your memory (some in a good way and others a bad way).

11 Surprising Factors That Affect Your Memory

Negative Factors

  1. Thyroid Problems Although your thyroid doesn’t have a specific role in your brain, memory problems are a hallmark characteristic of thyroid disease. High or low thyroid levels (hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism) may lead to difficulty with memory and concentration. If you suspect you have thyroid trouble, please read thesenatural protocols for addressing thyroid dysfunction.
  1. Menopause Hot flashes and insomnia are common during menopause, and both can impair your sleep and contribute to memory loss. This is temporary and should improve when your menopause symptoms subside (try thesesimple solutions for stopping hot flashes).
  1. Lack of Sleep The process of brain growth, or neuroplasticity, is believed to underlie your brain’s capacity to control behavior, including learning and memory. However, sleep and sleep loss modify the expression of several genes and gene products that may be important for synaptic plasticity.

Furthermore, certain forms of long-term potentiation, a neural process associated with the laying down of learning and memory, can be elicited in sleep, suggesting synaptic connections are strengthened while you slumber.  Among adults, a mid-day nap has even been found to dramatically boost and restore brainpower.3 Most adults need about eight hours of sleep a night; if you wake up feeling fatigued or fall asleep easily during the day, you probably need more sleep. You can find 33 tips to help you get the shut-eye you need here.

  1. Anxiety and Depression

Increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol brought on by anxiety and depression causes your brain cells to lose synapses (which connect brain cells). This, in turn, makes it more difficult to form and retrieve memories. Allen Towfigh, MD, medical director of New York Neurology & Sleep Medicine, told TIME:4

“We don’t understand the exact link, but strong evidence indicates depression, anxiety, and bipolar disease disrupts the neural circuitry involved in developing and retrieving memories…

The severity of the memory loss often mirrors the severity of the mood disorder—severe depression brings about equally severe memory loss.”

  1. Certain Medications Many prescription drugs interfere with your memory function. This includes anxiety medications (Xanax, Valium, and Ativan), which hinder your brain’s ability to transfer short-term memories to long-term “storage.” Others include tricyclic antidepressants, statin drugs, beta-blockers, narcotic painkillers, incontinence drugs, sleep aids, and antihistamines (such as Benadryl).
  1. Smoking Smoking impairs the blood supply to your brain, leading to memory lapses. Studies also show that smokers have a more rapid decline in brain function, including memory, than non-smokers, while smoking leads to the accumulation of abnormal proteins in your brain that interfere with processing and relaying information.5
  1. Stress An animal study revealed that higher levels of stress hormones canspeed up short-term memory loss in older adults.6 The findings indicate that how your body responds to stress may be a factor that influences how your brain ages over time. Previous research has also linked chronic stress with working memory impairment.7   My favorite tool for stress management is Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). It’s an energy psychology tool that can help reprogram your body’s reactions to everyday stress, thereby reducing your chances of developing adverse health effects.
  1. A Higher “Infectious Burden” People exposed to more germs, such as the cold sore virus (herpes simplex type 1), scored 25 percent lower on cognitive tests than those with a lower “infectious burden.”8Researchers concluded that past infections may contribute to cognitive impairment, perhaps due to damage to your blood vessels.

Positive Factors

  1. Green Tea If you want to boost your memory, drink more high-quality green tea. In a study of 12 healthy volunteers, those who received a beverage containing 27.5 grams of green tea extract showed increased connectivity between the parietal and frontal cortex of the brain compared to those who drank a non-green tea beverage.9 The increased activity was correlated with improved performance on working memory tasks, and the researchers believe the results suggest green tea may be useful for treating cognitive impairments, including dementia.

[To be  continued]

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