Many of us think it would be nice if our brain were like a computer. Just load the programs in and all the information would be there whenever it was needed. The fact is, our brain is not at all like a computer; it is much better than any machine you can buy in stores. It is a self-organized, dynamic continuum, continually surging through conflicting information and shades of grey in a mental space far beyond the best of computers. Our thoughts are much more than a simple string of binary symbols. However, the use of some common computer terms is helpful (in a simple way) to understand some brain functions.
Dr. Wilder Penfield, a well-known Canadian neurosurgeon, discovered that all of our memories are recorded by the brain; our problem is that we don't practice retrieving this information and the memories are lost. We have to work on memory retrieval because it takes no effort to forget things. Another difference is that the brain is dynamic and alive, which requires optimal nutrition if we want it to work its best.
The brain also needs physical exercise and mental exercise if we wish to increase the power of memory. Many research studies have shown that mental activity keeps the brain healthy and increases the strength of your memory. These activities include learning new things, keeping active in social interaction, and doing puzzles or other games which stimulate thought.
As we age, it is normal to have changes in memory but, just as with every other organ of the body, the brain can have its capacity to function rapidly diminished through poor nutrition. We do have the option of adopting good health habits as outlined in this article and actually improving brain function and memory.
Two major physiological changes seen in the brain with age and associated memory loss are the following: first, there is a decrease in the ability of the nerves to exchange information between each other because of a decrease in neural synapse. A neural synapse is like a tiny spark which occurs between nerves when information is transferred. If the nutritional material is not present, then the spark will not occur or will be diminished. The second sign of an aging brain is a decrease in blood going to the brain and circulating through it, which is an action known as cerebrovascular disease.
The brain requires a large amount of energy to work properly as well as a good circulatory system to provide glucose, oxygen and nutrients. The brain also has a protective membrane called the blood-brain barrier which is designed to deny access to substances which may be harmful to the brain. If this blood-brain barrier and the arteries which supply the brain are blocked by a buildup of cholesterol and triglycerides, then the brain suffers. A good example of how sensitive the brain is to nutritional changes can be seen by looking at the symptoms of hypoglycemia, which is defined as a decreased amount of glucose available to the brain. The symptoms are as follows: fatigue, light headedness, headache, irritability, depression, anxiety, confusion, mental disturbance, and insomnia.
Adopting the above recommendations to improve the brain and thus memory is an important step, but there are certain things that you should avoid:
- The first is heavy use of alcohol because brain deterioration is well-documented in alcoholics.
- Secondly, avoid contact with aluminum and lead such as can be found in, respectively, aluminum cookware and paint. Lead has a long history of causing neural deterioration. Although the cause of Alzheimer's disease is not yet known, a common link in Alzheimer patients is a high level of aluminum found in the brain.
- Thirdly, low blood sugar levels such as those found in hypoglycemia cause starvation of the brain because it requires large amounts of energy from glucose in order to work. This starvation of the brain will lead to poor memory.
- The use of barbiturates and psychotropic drugs will also cause brain deterioration.
- People who suffer from either Diabetes Mellitus or Hypothyroidism should also take steps to prevent deterioration of memory through proper nutrition.
It is never too late to start living a healthy life.
Wishing you the best in health,
The Wolfe Clinic