Fight memory loss with Scrabble and humour

info@islandpacket.comJuly 27, 2012 

By Wanda Lane

Special to The Sun City Packet

Some readers may remember an essay I wrote previously about keeping your brain active. I listed several activities experts believe preserve brain function, include playing games like Scrabble.

Since writing that column, I've been doing activities on the list, including playing more Scrabble. I must not be playing enough, however, because I still can't find things. However, I've decided not to be a victim--I'm going to fight back.

Many people believe that no matter how smart, educated or accomplished we are, none of us use more than 10 percent of our brain power. Researchers discount this belief, insisting that it takes 100 percent of our brain to do 100 percent of our thinking. I prefer the popular misconception, because it means I can enlist the other whopping 90 percent of my untapped brain to help me find things.

Were we each to undergo an MRI of our brain at this time in our lives, it might indicate some shrinkage and minor hardening of the arteries. Doctors agree that this common condition can contribute to memory frustrations. Does that mean that just because these results are typical, there is nothing to be done about it? Absolutely not!

Many experts say the most critical aspect of brain care is movement and exercise. Exercise creates production of serotonin, neurotransmitters essential to the central nervous system.

Rest assured that it's not necessary to develop an Olympic training schedule to meet your brain's requirement for exercise. Moderate exercise will accomplish the job. So if you want to find missing items, go for a walk.

A second essential factor of brain health is diet. Good brain food is easy to incorporate into your daily diet and goes beyond broccoli, blueberries and whole grains. Healthy brain food includes red wine, dark chocolate and almost any type of nut. Gourmands will savor the inclusion of spices such as cinnamon, saffron, garlic and ginger.

In addition to exercise and diet, I employ several strategies in my constant quest to find things. As a first step, I pay purposeful attention to where I put them. Multi-tasking has its usefulness, but it doesn't combine well with remembering where I put something. Now as I rush from kitchen to bedroom to garage distributing items as I go, I say aloud to myself, "I am putting my glasses (the most searched for item) here on the dresser in the bedroom" or "I am putting the scissors in the second drawer by the refrigerator."

Instead of mentally rehashing my shopping list while I park, I pay close attention to where I'm leaving my car. (I mean really, where is Walt Disney when you need him? Signs depicting Mickey, Goofy or Cinderella would be much easier to remember than the boring A, B, C or 1, 2, 3 aisle markers in most parking lots.)

Also, I establish specific places for car keys, shopping lists and other "likely-to-escape" necessities that tend to hide at the exact moment I need them.

I also hold myself to certain standards. One example is spelling. When memory fails, I attempt to find the correct spelling immediately. I make it a mini-lesson to myself. Math was never a favorite subject, so over the years it has been hard to resist the lure of a calculator.

Now, I do the calculations by hand (and head) and verify with the calculator. In the past, when I have searched for a specific word, and ended up saying "Er...huh...you know... that thing that..." I try harder to associate the needed information and drag it to the surface more quickly. Remember, we can't give up. We must fight back.

I'm not sure these new approaches will provide instant recall, but the signs have been encouraging so far.

Why, only yesterday I said to my husband, 'Bob. I'm looking up this word in the dictionary. Can you help me find my glasses?'"

Wanda Lane lives in Sun City Hilton Head.

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