Healthy ways to
protect your memory
By Heidi Smith Luedtke
IF YOU FREQUENTLY lose your keys and forget
where you parked your car, you may fear something
more than just a “senior moment.”
That’s unlikely. But memory lapses are a good
reminder that brain health is important. There are
many ways to protect your cognitive capabilities as
you age. “Research shows what’s good for your
heart is also good for your brain,” says Costco
member Frank LaFerla, director of the University
of California, Irvine Institute for Memory
Impairments and Neurological Disorders. Diet,
exercise, and intellectual and social activities can all
safeguard your smarts.
Doctors use the term “metabolic syndrome” to
describe a group of interrelated risk factors for heart
disease and diabetes, including body weight, belly
fat, blood lipid levels and insulin resistance, says
Costco member Clinton Wright, M.D., scientific
director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute at
the University of Miami. Being overweight slows
you down physically and mentally because it interferes with your body’s ability to use sugars, fats and
Blood sugar spikes can interfere with memory.
Research shows even moderate increases in blood
sugar reduce blood flow to a part of the brain
responsible for storing new memories. Doctors say
it’s best to restrict refined carbohydrates and sweeteners, but the occasional treat is OK. Slow the sugar
rush with healthy fats like nuts. Dietary fats help
stabilize blood sugar.
If you are significantly overweight, have a family
history of diabetes or had gestational diabetes during pregnancy, see your doctor for screening.
“Diabetes is a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s,” says
Take up violin if you already play piano.
Learn to speak another language.
If you’re a crossword puzzle pro,
switch to sudoku.
Use your non-dominant hand to write
or brush your teeth.
Play board games or computer/
video games that activate strategic,
spatial and memory skills.
Dance. Intricate choreography fine-tunes the body and the brain.—HSL
LEARNING new skills creates
connections in the brain that counter-
act cognitive decline, says Costco
member Frank LaFerla, director
of the University of California, Irvine
Institute for Memory Impairments
and Neurological Disorders. It’s
never too late to build brainpower
with these mental exercises.
LaFerla, and memory loss may occur years before
an individual is diagnosed with diabetes.
Be proactive. Monitor your blood pressure,
cholesterol, blood sugar and weight to make sure
they’re within a healthy range, especially if you’ve
received a wake-up call from your doctor. “These
conditions can be smoldering along, causing significant damage,” says Wright. Intervene early and
follow up regularly.
New brain cells are continually generated—even in
adults—through a process
called neurogenesis. Most
new cells are born in the
hippocampus, a structure
involved in learning and
memory. Studies show
exercise, learning and
enhance neurogenesis and
promote new-cell survival.
JUNE 2012 ;e Costco Connection 31
CONTINUED ON PAGE 32
If your diet needs a brain-boosting tuneup, try a
Mediterranean meal plan. “Monounsaturated oils—
found in olives, nuts and avocados—and dark leafy
greens offer high doses of vitamin E and folic acid,
two nutrients that reduce the risk of dementia,” says
Martha Clare Morris, director of nutrition and nutritional epidemiology at Rush University Medical