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The memory prescription

High blood pressure, alcohol and sheer lethargy can make you forgetful. making some simple changes can give your brain a boost.

health and fitness Updated: Feb 07, 2009 22:52 IST
Sanchita Sharma

Forget memory pills. If you are still reading this article, memory pills may not be the only things you have had trouble remembering lately. Those worried about their thought process getting fuzzier with each passing day should stop looking for miracle cures and consider changing their lifestyles.

The way you live your life determines how sharp your brain remains over time.

Several studies have shown that the very processes that clog your arteries and hurt your heart also damage brain cells and hamper the ability of neurotransmitters — chemicals that carry signals between one neuron and another — to relay messages within the brain.

High cholesterol narrows the blood vessels, decreasing blood flow to the brain, while chronic high blood pressure causes inflammation. With age, people with chronic high blood pressure and high cholesterol are likely to have problems with recall, abstract thinking and judgment, reported a study in Neuro-psychology last year.

About 20 per cent of the blood from the heart goes to the brain, so it is vital to stay active to maximise circulation. “In the short term, poor circulation, be it because of sheer inactivity or a damaged heart, can cause forgetfulness. In the long term, coronary artery (heart) disease can affect carotid arteries in brain as well. In my practice, people with heart disease often report very small infarcts — an area of tissue that dies because of obstruction of local blood supply — in the brain, which affects the thinking process,” said Dr Purshottam Lal, chairman and chief cardiologist of the Metro Group of Hospitals.

The link between heart disease and progressive brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s and dementia is well established. At the International Conference on Prevention of Dementia last year, scientists went so far as to say that heart disease helped drive Alzheimer’s and treating the heart may help protect the brain in old age.

With age, memory starts failing when synapses — the interconnections between brain cells — begin to weaken, decreasing the brain’s retention power. “There’s no scientific evidence that memory-enhancing supplements help brain function, but keeping the brain active does preserve memory,” says a senior neurologist from AIIMS, who did not want to be quoted.