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Posts Tagged ‘brain fitness’

Earlier this year I was teaching a Master of Memory class when someone asked me, “how does covid affect memory?” This is a valid question as up to 30% of COVID-19 patients at some clinics report experiencing brain fog weeks to months after they recover from their illness. Brain fog is a term used to describe how you feel when your thinking is sluggish, fuzzy, and not sharp. You might experience brain fog when you are sleep deprived, jet-lagged, recovering from an illness, or experiencing side effects of medication. According to Dr. Tamara Fong, an assistant scientist and associate professor of neurology at the Harvard Medical School “In many cases, brain fog is temporary and gets better on its own. However, we don’t really understand why brain fog happens after COVID-19, or how long these symptoms are likely to last. But we do know that this form of brain fog can affect different aspects of cognition.”

Cognition refers to the processes in the brain that we use to think, read, learn, remember, reason, and pay attention. People experiencing brain fog may have trouble paying attention, remembering instructions, making plans, learning, storing, and later recalling information.

To help clear brain fog, doctors recommend practicing the same behaviors that have been shown to protect thinking and memory:

  • Exercise – aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. Moderate intensity is anything that gets your heart beating faster. If 150 minutes is too much, do what you can – every little bit adds up!
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet – fill your plate with nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products. Limit added sugar, saturated fat, and sodium.
  • Get adequate sleep – at least 7 hours a night.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs – if you don’t drink, don’t start. If you do drink, limit consumption to 1-2 drinks a day.
  • Engage in social activities – virtually, or in person. A simple text or phone call is sometimes all it takes to stay connected.
  • Do brain-stimulating activities like games and puzzles, listening to music, reading, and practicing mindfulness.

For more information on how to protect and improve your memory, whether you’re experiencing brain fog or not, view the Extension Today segment “Master Your Memory” below.

Written by Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

Reviewed by Patrice Powers-Barker, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Lucas County

Sources:

Budson, A. E. (2021). What is COVID-19 brain fog – and how can you clear it? Harvard Health Blog. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/what-is-covid-19-brain-fog-and-how-can-you-clear-it-2021030822076

Fong, T. (2022). Brain fog: Memory and attention after COVID-19. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/brain-fog-memory-and-attention-after-covid-19-202203172707

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Taking care of your brain health should be a priority throughout the year, but warmer weather brings many opportunities to show your brain some love.  The Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation shares the four pillars of fitness that are crucial to promoting brain health.

The first pillar of nutritional fitness includes a good healthy Mediterranean diet filled with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and heart healthy fats. This type of diet promotes vascular health, reduces inflammation and is full of antioxidants. The abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables during the summer months, makes it a perfect time to inspire a brain friendly diet.

Regardless of age, we are all mentally fresher and sharper when we get regular, vigorous physical activity. This is where the second pillar of physical fitness becomes important. According to the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation regular exercise can reduce your risk of cognitive decline and memory loss by up to 50 percent. To see the best benefits of your exercise program, it is recommended that you get 150 minutes per week of a combination of cardio exercise and strength training. The opportunities to get outside and exercise are abundant during the summer months.

The third pillar is stress fitness. Chronic stress can result in inflammation, sleeplessness, and mental health concerns. Finding ways to reduce your stress and promote positive mental health is another important step in loving your brain.  Research has shown yoga, mindfulness, and meditation benefit stress fitness by reducing cognitive decline and perceived stress while increasing overall quality of life. Like physical fitness, warmer weather brings opportunities to connect with nature and reduce stress.

Developing and maintaining strong spiritual connections is the last pillar of brain health. Spiritual fitness by whatever means that works for you will promote a higher level of brain health throughout your entire life.

Building a better memory, preventing Alzheimer’s and memory loss all depend on your lifestyle. Now is the perfect time to jumpstart your brain health and show it the love it deserves.

Writer:

Kathy Tutt, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Clark County, tutt.19@osu.edu

Reviewer:

Roseanne Scammahorn, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Darke County, scammahorn.5@osu.edu

References:

     Khalsa, D., & Newberg, A. (2021). Spiritual Fitness: A new dimension in alzheimer’s disease prevention. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease: JAD80(2), 505–519. https://doi.org/10.3233/JAD-201433

     Kivipelto, M., Palmer, K., Hoang, T., & Yaffe, K. (2022). Trials and treatments for vascular brain health: Risk factor modification and cognitive outcomes, Stroke, 53(2), 444-456

     Russell-Williams, J., Jaroudi, W., Perich, T., Hoscheidt, S., El Haj, M., & Moustafa, A. (2018). Mindfulness and meditation: treating cognitive impairment and reducing stress in dementia. Reviews in the Neurosciences29(7), 791–804. https://doi.org/10.1515/revneuro-2017-0066

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