Friday, June 19, 2015

We Are Our Memory

As we age, changes in memory occur. Acquisition, storage and retrieval of information takes place in the memory process. Although many individuals focus on past memory, our memory really includes not only the past, but the present, and especially the future. So one definition of memory is related to a past experience that has an effect on current or future behavior. Our memory is about our brain storing selected events so we can better figure out how to handle what is going to happen, rather than just remembering what did happen in the past- the  brain’s concern is essentially  the past and  about coping with the future. In other words, remembering is a st of mental processes that allow us to 1. Remember and share past events 2. Function efficiently and intelligently in the present and 3. Predict and prepare for the future. In essence, memory affects nearly everything we think, plan, or do. Or, another way of putting it-we are our memories.

They’re different stages of memory, such as sensory memory; working memory and long-term memory.  Sensory memory is often information that’s not attended to. While in both working and long-term memory, forgetting takes place. It is believed that forgetting is caused by decay and interference. But it is not clear if we actually forget anything or just more difficult to access certain items from memory due to interference. In essence, having forgotten something may simply be being unable to retrieve it.

As we age, memory decline or the ability to encode information efficiently takes place. Other significant issues or causes of a declining memory include: 1. Visual impairment. 2. Medical condition such as cardiac, thyroid, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and respiratory infections. 3. Fatigue and sleep disturbance. 4. Physical and mental inactivity and 5.  Medications like sedatives, tranquilizers, antihistamines, sleep medications and some antidepressants.

A recent study at the Massachusetts General Hospital found that heavier people have smaller brains; and most of the atrophy found were in areas involved in cognitive functions such as memory, attention, planning and decision-making. In fact, obese subjects had brains that were 8% smaller than average, and looked 16 years older. Overweight subject’s brains were 6% smaller and looked eight years older. Midsection obesity, promotes insulin resistance and diabetes that robs the neurons of glucose, leading to cell injury and death.  The hormone leptin is also reduced, which is associated with a four times higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Obesity is also associated with vascular damage to the brain from high blood pressure, and elevated LDL cholesterol, which impedes oxygen and nutrients to neurons.

Now for the good news. Strenuous exercise has been shown to protect areas related to memory loss. Despite being overweight, a group of 120 sedentary adults in their 60s found that one year of moderate exercise [walking on a track for 40 minutes at three times a week] was associated with a 2% growth in their hippocampus. The hippocampus encodes factual declarative long-term memories and typically declines about 1% a year after age 45 -this was equivalent to reversing two years of age-related brain atrophy.  Another study found that 638 older results who participated in regular physical activity showed less brain atrophy, than those who exercised minimally.

So for those who can still remember, it’s time to begin and stay with some form of aerobic exercise. Remembering to do it is the first step and actually doing it is the second step. For a start, or a new beginning participate in steps one and two. Simply getting up from your chair and going to the kitchen is not aerobic exercise nor is driving and parking very close to a particular store for shopping. Hopefully your brain is still large enough to figure out what needs to be accomplished in order to protect your brain and your memory.

This information, hopefully remembered, was found in INR seminars.

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