The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 18, 1997 · Page 45
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 45

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Sunday, May 18, 1997
Page 45
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TEST YOUR MEMORY THIS QUIZ is adapted from the book Brain Longevity by Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D. For each statement, mark "true" or "false." 1 From time to time, I forget what day of the week it is. 2. Sometimes when I'm looking for something, I forget what I'm looking for. 3. My friends and family think I'm more forgetful now than I used to be. 4. Sometimes I forget the names of my friends. 5. Ifs hard for me to add two-digit numbers without writing them down. 1 I frequently miss appointments because I forget them. 7. I rarely feel energetic. 8. Small problems upset me more than they once did. 9. It is hard for me to concentrate for even an hour. 10.1 often misplace my keys; when I find them, I often can't remember putting them there. It I frequently repeat myself. 12. Sometimes I get lost, even when I'm going someplace I've been before. 13.1 often forget the point I'm trying to make. 14. To feel mentally sharp, I depend on caffeine. 15. It takes longer for me to learn things than it used to. SCORING: Eight or fewer "trues" indicates your memory is normal. Nine or more may indicate age-associated memory impairment 12 or more may indicate a need for testing by an expert. mental and highly individual. What appears to be memory loss could be due to another condition altogether. Depression can affect short-term memory. Medications, including drugs for high blood pressure and anxiety, tranquilizers, antidepressants and even insulin, may have side effects that seem to be short-term memory loss. Regular marijuana or alcohol use can lead to memory loss. Meanwhile, Dharma Singh Khalsa, a Tucson, Ariz., physician who is the author of the new book Brain Longevity, believes boomers are especially susceptible to age-associated memory loss because of brain overload created by what he calls "multi-tasking stress." At 51, he says, he's the perfect example, with teenagers, a previous marriage and a 90-year- old mother who requires caretaking. Add to that modern pressures and insecurities and the pace of technology, and, he says, "Even if we are adapting to it all, this is the stress that produces the cortisol overload that results in poor memory." Research developments Across the country, scientists are working to pinpoint causes by using: • New technologies. Most significant are imaging technologies like the PET scan, a computer-assisted "picture" of the brain that highlights the areas of highest blood flow during an activity. So if a person is doing a spatial task such as a puzzle, parts of the right side of the brain "light up" as it becomes busy. Intriguing results suggest older adults use different regions of the brain when doing the same activity as young adults, "so there may be compensation," says Dr. Timothy Salthouse, psychology professor at Georgia Institute of Technology and editor of the journal Psychology and Aging. This may lead to ways all generations can use their brains more fully. • Genetic research. "Five years ago, I couldn't have told you any genes involved in memory," says Barry Gordon, director of the Memory Clinic at Johns Hopkins University Medical School. "Now, there's any number of candidate genes involved in memory." Already scientists are experimenting with these genes, hoping to find a "gene therapy" cure. • Drugs. Several new medications, including a class called "nootropic" drugs, are being investigated as memory aids. Also under study: hormone supplements like estrogen, vitamin supplements like vitamin E and B 12 injections, and herbal supplements like ginkgo biloba. This year, the federal Food and Drug Administration began soliciting new drug applications for a class of "anti-aging" medicine, which could encourage more development. How you can fight memory toss Some researchers, like the NIA's Costa, say that until there is more information on exact causes, "we really don't know the specific type of interventions, exercises or training that might reverse the small age-related memory loss." The problem, Gordon explains, is that "aging is probably not a single problem, and therefore it probably doesn't have a single solution. It may require many workarounds." But many researchers insist certain steps work, including: • Use it or lose it. Those who remain intellectually challenged retain more memory. A recent study suggested mental stimulation along with a varied diet may even build new brain cells in areas devoted to memory. "Look at it this way: The higher your intellectual functioning, the farther you have to fall before it becomes a problem," says Burke. • Get organized. For short- term problems like remembering phone calls, keeping appointments or finding those lost keys, experts suggest relying on aids such as calendars, notebooks, computers and message boards. Also, designate one place where the keys or wallet always will be placed. "I don't see any shame in ^USaffiSiEra23a^/aE3)^irar^^'.il£a5Bt^«i9MSii^^ external cues like Post-Its," says Dr. Patricia Tun, assistant director of the Memory and Cognition Laboratory at Brandeis University. Tun also recommends simplifying. "You may not be able to drive the car, talk on cell phone, take notes and drink coffee at the same time. Learn to put everything else on hold and focus on what's most important." • Exercise. "Putting people on a treadmill can improve mental abilities 20 to 30 percent," says Gordon of the Johns Hopkins Memory Clinic. • Keep healthy. Last year, a study that had tracked almost 4,000 men since 1960 found those with high blood pressure in midlife were almost 2' 2 times more likely to have poor cognitive function in old age. • Practice. The dozens of memorization techniques available through books and memory courses can help, say experts, because they put information in priorities and context. But no one technique will strengthen all memory skills — so focus on the type of memory most important to you. • Seek help. University-based memory clinics around the nation offer the latest treatments. Most, affiliated with neurology or psychology departments, conduct clinical trials and provide testing. Adapting to a forgetful future Developments in drugs and hormones that slow the aging process are guaranteed. The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine is offering specialty certification in anti-aging medicine for the first time this year, and more than 300 doctors already have signed up for the certification test in December. Technology will lose some of its sting: For example, voice recognition and microchip-encoded fingerprints or retina prints will make memorizing passwords and personal ID numbers a thing of the past. And those approaching 50 can take heart: Issues facing the baby boom generation are hard to forget — or ignore. C3 Contributing Editor Monika Guttman recently wrote about genetic testing for USA WEEKEND. One man's memory cure Many boomers seeking help for age- associated memory loss encounter doctors who don't take them seriously. Bob Butziger, a Presbyterian minister and psychotherapist in Albuquerque, noticed his memory slipping when he had trouble recalling parishioners' names and clients' stories. In growing frustration, he quit his job and trekked from doctor to doctor; they told him he was depressed or merely had to slow down. Then he met Dr. Dharma Singh Khalsa, author of Brain Longevity, who put him on a regimen that included diet changes, drugs, exercise and relaxation. Butziger feels his memory is again functioning and now leads another congregation. Plus, he says, "I've got my sense of humor back." USA WEEKEND < May 16-18,1887 6

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