Memory and Focus

Many people have problems with memory and focus as they age.  Whether the problems are the beginning stages of dementia or just a lack of focus, the following exercise can help to ensure that aging has less power to rob you of precious memories.  In addition, this exercise provides a possible solution for insomnia.

1.  Focus on the events of the day in order from arising in the morning until you go to sleep. The good news is that you will fall asleep long before you reach the end of the day.

2.  During the process, visualize each step of the day.  The process should include all activities, conversations, thoughts and individuals met during the day.  It might be seen as a video recording of the day played back only in your brain.  Focus on details.

3.  Initially, the mind video will be playing in fast forward.  It will be difficult to pick out the small details such as thinking over your today list or looking in the mirror while brushing one’s teeth.  In addition, scenes may jump out of sequence from morning to afternoon and then back to getting out of bed.  However, your goal is to play the video in sequence.

4.  As you continue the exercise several days in a row, you should begin to see some differences.  That which was once a just big chunk of time will begin to develop into fully visualized scenes, which include people, conversations, room decor, signs and thoughts.  Details will become clearer.

5.  It should become a daily challenge to remember more of the day.  You will become more aware of the things you normally would have done without much thought.  Since you know you must recall, your focus changes.  You are using brain cells not previously harnessed.  While the nighttime exercises may be a cure for insomnia, the daytime exercises help you to focus, improve your memory, and lower the chances of developing dementia.

By improving one’s daytime focus and recalling events of the day, it is possible for people to avoid memory loss and dementia.  Additionally, these activities can help with insomnia.

The ideas in this article are adapted from a blog on how to become a better chess player, but certainly seem appropriate for anyone concerned with dementia and having problems with memory and focus.


University of Pittsburgh Heinz Chapel

A study done at the University of Pittsburgh Alzheimer Disease Research Center, The impact of physical activity on neurocognitive function in adults with cognitive impairment, led by Kirk Erickson, PhD, found that greater amounts of walking are associated with greater gray matter volume, which in turn is associated with a reduced risk of cognitive impairment. The study, published in Neurology, showed that walking 72 blocks was necessary to detect increased gray matter volume, but walking more than 72 blocks did not spare additional volume.

According to Medscape Medical News, Dr. Erickson stated, “These findings are really quite astonishing.  Other studies have previously shown that exercise is related to brain function, but the fact that we found that walking as little as 1 mile a day is related to brain volume 9 years later, and dementia 13 years later, is truly novel and really quite impressive.”

Furthermore, BBC quotes Dr. Erickson, “If regular exercise in midlife could improve brain health and improve thinking and memory in later life, it would be one more reason to make regular exercise in people of all ages a public health imperative.”

If you have not yet started moving, what’s hold you back? Let’s start walking.

Alzheimer’s Association — Memory Walk

Memory Walk began in 1989 and in 1993, it became a a nationwide event for the Alzheimer’s Association. Memory Walk is our country’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer care, support and research. Since its inception it has raised well over $200 million nationally. For every dollar raised at Memory Walk, only 7% will go towards administrative expenses.

Not only does the Memory Walk raise funds, it raises awareness of this awful disease. According to the 2010 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report, Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the foremost public health threat of the 21st century. Here is the grim data:

  • An estimated 5.3 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease (AD); approximately 200,000 persons under age 65 with AD comprise the younger-onset AD population.
  • Every 70 seconds, someone in America develops AD; by 2050 it is expected to decrease to every 33 seconds. Over the coming decades, the baby boom population is projected to add 10 million people to these numbers.
  • In 2050, the incidence of AD is expected to approach nearly a million people per year, with a total estimated prevalence of 11–16 million people. Dramatic increases in the numbers of “oldest old” (aged 85 years and older) across all racial and ethnic groups will also significantly affect the numbers of people living with AD.

You can do your share to help stop Alzheimer’s disease. Consider joining a Memory Walk team. Click here to find a team or start one on your own. My sister is representing our family. Please help support her team. Click here.

AD does not occur overnight. In some cases, it can start many years before you are even aware of it. Could you be one diagnosed with AD down the road? We have to fund the research to stop this. We have to help support the millions caregivers. We just might need the support of one in the years to come. Let’s help support them now!

Check out this video from the Alzheimer’s Association that tells you more about the Memory Walk.

Keeping in mind that there are no clear-cut boundaries that separate the stages of Alzheimer’s, we now move on to more obvious signs — Alzheimer’s Disease: Stage 4 Moderate Cognitive Decline. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, through a careful medical interview, the following deficiencies can be identified.

  • Decreased knowledge of recent occasions or current events
  • Impaired ability to perform challenging mental arithmetic-for example, to count backward from 75 by 7s
  • Decreased capacity to perform complex tasks, such as planning dinner for guests, paying bills and managing finances
  • Reduced memory of personal history
  • The affected individual may seem subdued and withdrawn, especially in socially or mentally challenging situations

Going back to the couple in my last post, I mentioned that she took an extraordinary amount of time preparing instant coffee. I can only imagine that planning a dinner for guests would no longer be possible. In the case of him, he did not remember my stopping him to check on his shoes. In retrospect, I should’ve brought the other pair of shoes to him right away to see if it was his. However, since he insisted it was his shoes, I let it go. But had I brought him the other pair of shoes, I never would’ve had the opportunity to sit down and talk to him in his home. Everything happens for a reason.

Alzheimer’s Research Part 1

Although there is still no conclusive test for the determination of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), there is hope and occasionally, new information. Last month, Science Daily reported that:

Elderly people exhibiting memory disturbances that do not affect their normal, daily life suffer from a condition called “mild cognitive impairment” (MCI). Some MCI patients go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease within a few years, whereas other cases remain stable, exhibiting only benign senile forgetfulness. It is crucial to develop simple, blood-based tests enabling early identification of these patients that will progress in order to begin therapy as soon as possible, potentially delaying the onset of dementia.

A group of investigators, led by Professor Massimo Tabaton of the University of Genoa, Italy, have data that sheds light on this issue. The results of their research are published in the October issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

The investigators report that the concentration in blood of amyloid beta “42,” the toxic molecule that is believed to be the main cause of Alzheimer’s disease, is, on average, higher in MCI cases that went on to develop Alzheimer’s disease approximately three years later. The values of amyloid beta in blood vary considerably among the patient groups examined (MCI that develop Alzheimer’s disease; MCI stable; normal subjects). “This variability is likely very important,” Dr. Tabaton noted and went on to add, “but means that this needs further work before we can use this test for a definitive diagnosis.” For example, the scientists are going to set up a test that picks up a variant of amyloid beta potentially more specific of the disease.

There’s progress, but we still have a long ways to go to find an effective test. A conclusive blood test would certainly be ideal. But even if we were to have a conclusive test, doctors still have very few effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. And still, as it has been for a long time, only an autopsy will reveal definitively whether or not a person truly had Alzheimer’s.

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