Friday, April 30, 2010

Improve Your Mental Clarity

Have you found yourself feeling forgetful, unfocused, scattered, or confused, especially when making decisions? Sometimes referred to as “brain fog,” this sensation can result in declining productiveness, self-esteem and mood. It’s often chalked up to old age and the onset of dementia.

This is typically not the case, however, according to studies of older adults. Forgetfulness, attention lapses, and diminished mental sharpness were more closely related to mood and general health than to age or the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. It may be the side effect of a medication, the result of an underlying medical condition, or most often the result of a sleep or mood disturbance or everyday stress.

Here are some steps you can take if you’d like to improve your mental clarity:

o See your doctor to determine if high blood pressure or an imbalance in body chemistry, hormones, or metabolism is to blame. A host of problems such as abnormal blood sugar, iron or vitamin B12 deficiency, or a narrowing of the blood vessels to the brain all can have cognitive effects. Researchers have found that chronic pain can cause people to forget appointments, bills, and other responsibilities.
o Discuss any medications you take with your physician and see if you can replace any that may dull the senses. The most serious offenders are anticholinergics, used to treat asthma, stomach ulcers, and urinary incontinence.
o Take a break from ongoing stress and multitasking, which can be debilitating over time. Short bursts of stress can release hormones that enhance responsiveness and cognitive ability, but prolonged stress, even from multiple small stressors, can have the opposite effect. Ask for support, get more sleep or take a vacation.
o Be sure to get the optimal 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Studies have found that sleeping six hours a night for two weeks had the same negative effect on thinking as did staying up for 24 hours! Try to sleep the same hours each night, avoid alcohol and caffeine a few hours before bed, and exercise early in the day.
o Engage in physical activity to increase blood circulation to the brain, enhance neural activity, and improve your ability to plan and carry out tasks efficiently.
o Make the time to socialize and interact with other people. Researchers have fond a correlation between frequent contact with others and higher scores on tests of cognitive function.
(Source: Consumer Reports onHealth March 2008)

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