We've added a new tab Health and Wellness and hope that you find it useful and interesting. We think you may find the various articles and links helpful and that they encourage us all to live better and more meaningful lives.
This newest article, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal, is a useful reminder that as we move along in life, there will be things we may forget or not easily recall but it's not something to worry about.
If you have a favorite article/editorial you would like to share with the class please send me an email with a link or the actual article/editorial and I'll post it on our site. Email me at: email@example.com or send a message via our page.
We feel that this will also be another way for all of to stay connected.
Your Reunion Committee
Coming to Terms With Occasional Memory Loss
I no longer panic at the minor lapses. Instead, I see them as opportunities
The occasional memory lapse doesn’t have to be a harbinger of doom. PHOTO: JENS BONNKE
Updated Nov. 17, 2019 10:06 pm ET
For the past four years, two friends and I have met almost every week at a coffee shop to catch up on our lives. Occasionally during the course of our conversation, one of us can’t remember the name of a TV show she wants to recommend, a politician dominating the headlines or the precise word needed to complete a sentence. That inevitably leads us to panic, wondering if we are starting the dreaded downward slide into memory lapse.
Memory—the prospect of losing it—occupies our thoughts more than ever, and who can blame us?
People are living longer and healthier lives than at any time in history, and our advancing age is highlighted by a constant stream of articles about how to avoid memory loss. Remedies, most of them unproven, are ubiquitous: Do these brain puzzles, buy these products, take these jellyfish-derived supplements to help you remember all the bytes of stored data in your head. Then you, too, can avoid embarrassing moments of forgetfulness.
For many people, of course, memory loss is more than embarrassing; it’s a devastating disorder that can blot out a person’s past and make the present a constant danger. It can rob us of us.
But the occasional (or somewhat more than occasional) memory lapse doesn’t have to be a harbinger of doom. Instead, when I look more closely at my own experience of memory, I am reassured that moments of forgetfulness are opportunities to think about memory from a new perspective—one that allows me to both remember the best of the past and make room for what awaits.
Does it matter?
For example, if a friend is upset because she can’t recall the name of a town in France she visited five years ago, I ask: Does it matter? I picture our brains brimming over with decades of memories stuffed on top of each other, and then I imagine putting some less important memories aside (i.e., forgetting them) to open up space for more treasured moments.
It’s decluttering my memory bank, just as we declutter our homes, jettisoning possessions that don’t “spark joy.” Do I really need to own this fact? If not, I can move on, find another example to complete the thought, another town or book to recommend.
In my case, the keepers, the things I want to own, include fun memories—witnessing my college basketball team defeat its longtime rival after being down 33-9 at halftime, or playing crack-the-whip one magical Christmas Eve on a makeshift ice rink in a nearby park. There are poignant memories as well—the night I spent with a group of men and women at a senior center gamely swaying to music from “Swan Lake,” or the sight of my older son dressed in a Santa Claus suit dispensing presents to nursery-school kids piling into his lap.
Long vs. short
More broadly speaking, I know that my short-term memory typically has functioned differently than my long-term one. I can assimilate (and forget, relatively quickly) a lot of facts in a few hours and then use them to cram for a test or write an article on deadline. Long-term memory of facts is more challenging. The plotlines of a nonfiction book I read a year ago or the arguments made by a columnist a month ago are hard for me to remember, and it has nothing to do with aging. It has always been that way, so fretting about losing something I never had to begin with seems like a waste of time.
Overlaying this distinction is an aptitude for being able to recall, in vivid detail, emotional moments from my distant as well as recent past. I can experience all over again how I felt looking at the faces of a Madonna and Child depicted in a painting in a Jerusalem church, although the church’s name escapes me. I remember the joy of unexpected connections with strangers—a hotel clerk in New York City, a guide in Havana, a garage mechanic in northern California—more distinctly than the sights we saw or meals we ate. The same applies to people I meet in novels: I remember with revulsion the description of an abused slave girl in “Lincoln in the Bardo,” which I read two years ago, more clearly than I remember some of the book’s larger themes.
The search for these new emotional moments is why I continue to go to art exhibits and plow through books and articles in the media, much of whose content my mind will soon forget. When I read about someone in their 80s or 90s jumping out of a plane or climbing to the base camp of Mount Everest, I understand, more clearly than before, that they are creating new life-affirming memories that speak to their willingness to take risks as they age.
Some of my own recent memory creation revolves around postretirement initiatives that have brought new challenges into my life (getting involved in a women’s collective-giving organization) and new experiences. One of the lasting memories from a trip to Portugal last summer with my husband was joining in with the super-pumped crowd in front of a large outdoor TV screen (in a town whose name escapes me) watching Belgium defeat Brazil in the World Cup quarterfinals (which I remembered as the semifinals until I fact-checked it). Memories can spring from events or connections that take place anytime. They are a work in progress, not a finite resource that we fear will come to an end as we age.
Finally, I am aware that I can help my memory to be selective, especially when it focuses on what’s good about difficult times in our past. My mother was unhappy during the last third of her life, and consequently I experienced her more as a needy child than as an adult. But letters I wrote to her when she was a young mother and I was at summer camp paint a different picture, the memory of which I can call up anytime. In those letters I told her what a wonderful mother she was and how much I adored her. That was true back then, which makes it true right now.
It takes a sense of purpose to choose which memories to keep close—of people we have loved, strangers we have connected with, characters in a novel whose lives evoke so beautifully the most turbulent chapters in our history. As I get older, that sense of purpose grows stronger.
So, no, the inability to recall a word or a name shouldn’t send us into a panic. Instead, a little introspection can bring us to the most important of all places: the present, where we can continue to create new memories for the years ahead.
======================================================================================================================The Link Between Diet, Exercise and Alzheimer’s
A new study finds that lifestyle changes can improve cognition
Stephen Chambers eats multiple servings of strawberries or blueberries, which are high in antioxidants, every week as part of changes he’s made to his diet since going to the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic in New York. PHOTO: BRYAN ANSELM FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Updated Oct. 30, 2019 10:31 am ET
In his 40s and a self-described fitness nut, Stephen Chambers doesn’t seem like someone who would be worrying about Alzheimer’s.
But when his father was diagnosed with the disease about five years ago, he went to the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic in New York to see what he could do.
Though he had no noticeable memory issues, cognitive testing showed less than ideal levels in certain areas. His neurologist told him there were a number of lifestyle changes that might help his cognition and possibly reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Mr. Chambers, a 48-year-old physical therapist in Jersey City, N.J., modified his sleep, diet and exercise routines. Eighteen months later, his performance on a battery of cognitive tests improved, particularly in areas like processing speed and executive function, such as decision-making and planning.
“I feel a certain sense of comfort in knowing that there are factors that I can control that can contribute to the decreased risk of me getting Alzheimer’s,” says Mr. Chambers.
Mr. Chambers includes more high-intensity interval training in his workouts. PHOTO: BRYAN ANSELM FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Mr. Chambers is among 154 patients in a study, published Wednesday in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, that doctors say shows encouraging results. Among healthy patients, people who made changes in nutrition and exercise showed cognitive improvements on average. People who were already experiencing some memory problems also showed cognitive improvement—if they followed at least 60% of the recommended changes.
It’s unclear whether the lifestyle changes can actually help prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease, or simply improve cognition.
“This is a therapeutic approach that was shown to not only maintain, but improve cognition in people with the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s,” says Richard Isaacson, a neurologist and first author on the study.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
Do you know anyone who has been affected by Alzheimer’s? What has their experience been? Join the conversation below.
While researchers struggle to develop a drug to treat or cure Alzheimer’s, some doctors are recommending lifestyle changes. Dr. Isaacson began developing personalized prevention plans for patients of all ages in 2013 when he started the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian, of which he is now director.
Alzheimer’s disease starts in the brain some 20 to 30 years before symptoms emerge, so intervening early through personalized medicine and lifestyle changes can make a difference, says Dr. Isaacson.
For the study, Dr. Isaacson and co-researchers enrolled 154 patients, who ranged in age from 25 to 86, in two groups. There was a small group of 35 patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), often a precursor to dementia, and a larger group of 119 patients who had no symptoms of memory loss, though some had less-than-ideal performance on cognitive tests.
Based on a battery of blood, genetic and cognitive tests, as well as measurements of their body fat and muscle mass, patients received a couple of dozen personalized recommendations ranging from eating specific types of fish and berries, to taking certain vitamins, and tailored exercise plans.
Eighteen months later, they took a series of very sensitive cognitive tests which may detect cognitive decline before memory problems outwardly appear, says Dr. Isaacson. The majority of both groups of patients showed statistically significant improvements when compared with their baseline, as well as compared with historical control groups.
Mr. Chambers takes two daily servings of supplements and vitamins, which include fish oil and vitamin B12.
Most surprising, says Dr. Isaacson, is that the MCI patients who followed at least 60% of their recommendations showed cognitive improvement. However, MCI patients who followed less than 60% of the recommendations experienced cognitive declines similar to the control groups, he notes.
In the larger group of patients, everyone—including those who didn’t follow a large percentage of recommendations—performed better on the cognitive tests compared with their baseline and control groups 18 months later. On average, younger people showed more improvement on the cognitive tests compared with people over 60, says Dr. Isaacson. Patients in both groups had a family history of Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers monitored cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels because they are linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. And the study tracked patients’ body fat and muscle mass; studies show the memory center of the brain, called the hippocampus, gets smaller as belly size gets larger, says Dr. Isaacson. Patients were assigned exercises based on their body metrics. Other recommendations included targeting stress reduction through activities like meditation, and encouraging brain stimulation by learning a new instrument or foreign language.
Marwan Sabbagh, director of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, says the results are promising. “The people who had the targeted intervention and who were high in their adherence did very, very well over the span of 18 months, showing that these strategies work, and I think that’s a very encouraging result,” says Dr. Sabbagh of the study. “That is where the trend is going.”
Ronald Petersen, director of the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center in Rochester, Minn., called the study encouraging but cautioned that lifestyle changes aren’t a magic bullet. “Does that mean we’re going to prevent Alzheimer’s disease?” he says. “No.” But measures that might help delay the onset are significant. “If we can postpone the onset or slow the progression of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease, that’s very important,” he says.
Mr. Chambers says he now eats blueberries or strawberries, which are high in antioxidants, at least two to three times a week. He eats more of certain kinds of fish to get more Omega 3 fatty acids, which can decrease inflammation and improve cardiovascular and brain health. And he adds powdered cocoa flavanols to his morning coffee because studies show they can combat insulin resistance and promote cognitive function.
He also listens to more music, particularly classical music, and tweaked his workouts to include more high-intensity interval training. The biggest change, he says, was a concerted effort to get more and better sleep by meditating and cutting back on screens before bedtime. “I took a lot of steps to really try to be consistent and to prioritize sleeping more and improve the quality of my sleep,” he says. “Once that changed, we really started to see improvements in all areas.” He is no longer prediabetic and his blood pressure and cholesterol levels have improved.
Diana Gabriel, 74 years old, says five years ago she couldn’t remember where she ate the night before. Since making changes to her diet and exercise routines she says her memory has improved significantly.
Diana Gabriel, a 74-year-old artist and fashionista in Manhattan, says five years ago she couldn’t remember what restaurant she went to the night before. After hearing Dr. Isaacson speak, she went to see him at his clinic.
Within a year she says she noticed major improvements in her memory—improvements which were validated through cognitive tests.
Changes she has made, she says, include intermittent fasting—or not eating for 12 hours overnight, which is linked to lower insulin resistance. She cut out most carbohydrates from her diet and also eats wild fish. She started taking about eight different types of vitamins and supplements and she does weight lifting twice a week with a personal trainer to gain muscle mass. “It’s working,” she says. “I’m getting biceps.”
“I can tell you yesterday I went for training and then I went to a jewelry workshop and I went for wine with my friend and we met an interesting guy at the bar with the Newport Jazz Festival,” she says. “I remember yesterday. For a year or almost two, I could not. My memory is not perfect. But this has really given me a new lease on life.”
Here are some of the lifestyle changes that Dr. Richard Isaacson, director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork Presbyterian, says might help improve your cognitive abilities, depending on your body type and medical profile. Patients should consult a doctor before taking any steps.
*Eat a half-cup of blueberries and strawberries two to three times a week.
*Eat two to three servings per week of wild fish, which are high in Omega-3 fatty acids.
*Add powdered cocoa flavanols to coffee, smoothies or skim milk.
*Practice good sleep hygiene: Sleep at least 7.5 hours a day, avoid caffeinated drinks after 1 p.m., go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, and avoid electronics, texting and email 30-45 minutes before bed.
*Exercise at least three times a week with a mix of aerobic and resistance/weight training.
*Have one tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil daily.
*Cut back on sugar and carbohydrates and look for whole grains and foods with high amounts of fiber.
*Play a musical instrument.
*Learn something new, such as a foreign language.
*Minimize stress through activities like meditation.
Write to Sumathi Reddy at firstname.lastname@example.org