senior moment

  1. The myth of the 'senior moment'

    The "senior moment" -- it's one of the most common stereotypes in movies and on television. But the "senior moment" used so often for cheap laughs isn't nearly as "common" as you've been led to believe.

    In fact, most seniors barely experience any significant form of cognitive decline over the years.

    If you're a senior yourself, you already knew that -- and you're probably more than a little annoyed by those constant portrayals of doddering oldsters who can't remember what they had for breakfast.

    Which is why you likely won't be surprised to hear about a recent study that found that two-thirds of all seniors experience very little cognitive decline in their golden years.

    For ten years, researchers tracked 1,049 nuns, priests, and monks between the ages of 56 and 102 who were dementia-free at the start of the study and gave them annual cognitive tests.

    They found that only a third of the volunteers suffered either a moderate or rapid cognitive decline, with the rest experiencing declines so small that one of the authors of the study said it wasn't much of a change at all.

    But while the study published in the journal Age and Aging proves that you can remain sharp even as the years go by, too many doctors still assume that a failing memory is a normal part of growing old.

    So when older patients complain that they can't quite remember as well as they used to, docs often just shrug it off.

    "You're just getting older," they say. "Nothing to worry about."

    That's just patronizing and insulting -- because a failing memory could be something to worry about after all. Docs who can't or won't take it seriously aren't worth remembering anyway.

    In many cases, the little slips written off as senior moments – and even some cases of dementia itself -- are actually the warning signs of completely fixable problems, including sleep disorders, nutritional deficiencies, and drug side effects.

    A good naturopathic physician can help get it all straightened out in no time.

    And if -- like most seniors -- you haven't experienced any memory problems, there are steps you can take right now to help keep it that way.

    A number of studies have found that moderate drinkers have a lower risk for dementia, including one that found a drink or two a day can slash the risk of Alzheimer's disease by 40 percent. (Read about it here.)

    Other studies have found that sleep, B vitamins, coffee, and the pigment astaxanthin can all help protect the brain and lower your risk of cognitive decline, dementia, and Alzheimer's disease.

    I'll have more on another study based on the same group of priests and nuns tomorrow -- one that blows another aging stereotype right out of the water.

    Stay tuned.

  2. Magnesium for your memory

    You don't need to be a senior citizen to have a senior moment... we've all had our own bouts with the memory mistress.

    But if you want less of them, there are a few things you can do to keep yourself sharp and savvy.

    For starters, make sure you're getting enough magnesium. One new study out of China published in the journal Neuron found that magnesium improved memory in rats. And a study in 2004 found that magnesium could reverse that infamous middle-age memory loss.

    As you get older, you're more likely to suffer from a deficiency in this brain-boosting mineral. So to make sure you're getting enough, be sure to eat plenty of nuts, especially almonds, as well as beans, artichokes, spinach, pumpkin seeds and buckwheat flour. Or you could pick up a supplement--they're cheap and easy to find.

    Like all good health, maintaining a good memory isn't only about what you take--it's also about what you do. We know that sleep is crucial to retaining knowledge, but now researchers think there's something you can do while you're awake as well: Nothing.

    They call it "active rest," but you and I might call it "zoning out."

    Researchers asked 16 subjects to identify the connections between two sets of pictures--like a beach ball and a surfer dude. Then, they told the participants to take a break.

    It wasn't an ideal break, because during that time the researchers used MRIs to peek into their brains. But they found that this wakeful rest caused the two areas of the brain associated with long-term memory storage to light up.

    Those with the most activity in that part of the brain during rest did the best on memory tests afterwards, according to the study, which was also published in Neuron.

    It was a small study, but feel free to use it as an excuse for a little downtime at the office. If anyone asks, be sure to tell them your brain is hard at work.

    For more great brain boosters, visit the Health Sciences Institute's website. Use the keyword "memory" to search the online library--you'll find a lot of fantastic free advice.

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