You can’t Be Serious – ‘Did I tell you the one about …?’

Popeye was spot on about spinach, because it has been found to be full of lutein, which protects the brain from degeneration.
Popeye was spot on about spinach, because it has been found to be full of lutein, which protects the brain from degeneration.

I cannot remember if I have told you this before, so I’ll tell you again anyway. The passage of time has a natural degeneration in the brain that means that we reach a stage where we cannot remember things like we used to. All I am prepared to say about this condition and me, is that the editor has to keep a close eye in order to prevent me sending in the same article every week.

But happily I have read somewhere (darned if I can remember where) that the consumption of certain foods will slow the process of memory loss. We will come back to those recommended foods in a moment … hopefully!

Stress is one of the brain’s worst enemies: If not dealt with, it will eventually destroy brain cells and damage the region of the brain involved in the formation of new memories; and to a lesser extent, the retrieval of old ones. Improving your memory depends on having a healthy brain. This same rule applies to the student studying for an exam, the working professional, or the old newspaper columnist with grey hair trying to enhance the grey matter.

We have a lot of brain cells; millions in fact, and if we accept that stress destroys a portion of them, as does alcohol abuse and chemicals purposely and inadvertently taken into the body, we have to utilise whatever remains to its capacity.

So, how can we hope to improve whatever bit of frazzled brain we have left, I hear you holler. A friend of mine gave me a present of vitamin ‘B’ tablets, with the accompanying advice that they improve the brain and memory. Holy God, I hadn’t realised I was that obvious – and I would have taken offence only I had forgotten something – which I can’t remember now: and I don’t know where I left the tablets.

Treating your body well can enhance your ability to recall information. Physical exercise increases oxygen to the brain and reduce the risk of disorders that lead to memory loss – such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Being active also has a positive effect on the body, manufacturing chemicals to protect brain cells. Not getting enough shut-eye will affect your memory as well, because when you are deprived of sleep your brain does not operate at full capacity.

Creativity and critical thinking skills are first to be compromised. Sleep is critical to learning, because research shows that sleep is necessary for memory consolidation and the key memory-enhancing activity occurs during the deepest stages of sleep.

A bit of good news for those of us with damaged brain cells is that it is all a cod that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. The human brain has an astonishing ability to adapt and change, even well into old age.

‘Laughter is the best medicine’ we have often been told, and it really is one of the best medicines for the brain. Unlike emotional responses, which are limited to specific areas of the brain, laughter involves multiple regions across the whole brain. Listening to jokes and working out punch lines activates areas of the brain vital to learning and creativity. So – this spate of Covid WhatsApp ‘funnies’ are not a waste of timer after all!

Humans are social animals and we do not thrive in isolation. I am coming to a bit of good news, folks, so please pay attention.

Research shows that having meaningful relationships (that means with sex, for those of you with total memory loss) are vital not only to emotional health, but brain health as well. A study at the Harvard School of Public Health found that people with the most active social lives (suspect more of the above included here) had the slowest rate of memory decline. Now that you get the picture, what should you eat when out on all these post-lockdown dinner dates? Here we get back to those beneficial brain foods I referred to at the top of the piece.

I have often heard that fish is good for the brain and this is certainly true. Fish contains fatty acids which helps the nervous systems, provides iodine and thereby enhances the intellectual capacity.

Popeye was spot on about spinach, because it has been found to be full of lutein, which protects the brain from degeneration. It is also rich in folate, a vitamin that increases the speed of information processing and improves mental performance.

Celery also has components which reduce the negative effects of aging, as well as helping to reduce the release of molecules that cause inflammation of the brain resulting in memory loss. Blueberries prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia because they contain a pigment plant called anthocyanin.

That apple a day really can keep the doctor away – not to mention keeping memory loss at bay. The humble apple contains high levels of quercetin, an antioxidant that protects the brain from neurodegenerative disorders. It is present in the pulp, but actually in higher concentrations in the skin – so don’t peel that apple before eating.

Now you know why I finish each column with a “Don’t Forget!”

Don’t Forget

Nothing improves your memory more than trying to forget