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Memory and Concentration


Description

Problems with memory loss can occur at any age, although due to increased fragility and vulnerability in age, the over 40s, and especially the over 60s show more severe symptoms of memory loss if not prevented or treated by nutritional rebalancing.

Symptoms of alertness, orientation, memory and attention may seem to malfunction or become more difficult to perform with total confidence.

There are 2 main types of memory: Short-term memory and Long-term memory.

  • Short-term memory involves recalling details that have happened or been given to you only very recently. Such details may include telephone numbers, names, or perhaps a shopping list. The things you learn initially in your short-term memory have to somehow convert to long-term memory information in order for long-term memory to be made possible.
  • Long-term memory recalls experiences from further in your past. Events when you were a child for example, what you did on a particular date, things you learned to do years ago…

There are also different types of long-term memory: Semantic, Episodic and Procedural.

  • Semantic memory relates to facts you have memorized, e.g. names and places.
  • Episodic memory relates to different experiences you have had.
  • Procedural memory relates to your learning, e.g. how you drive or swim.

Memory also has 3 procedural steps: Acquisition, Consolidation and Retrieval.

  • Acquisition - before information can be recalled it must first be learned and stored. Once acquired is stored in the nerve-cell pathways of the brain, otherwise known as your short-term memory.
  • Consolidation - nerve pathways are strengthened and reinforced creating a more permanent memory ‘file’. This process is where your short-term memory becomes your long-term memory, your long-term storage of information.
  • Retrieval – information is recalled from those reinforced nerve pathways, your long-term memory.

Memory loss, deficiency and dementia

Memory loss and concentration problems are common with increasing age, including difficulties in focusing and in maintaining attention. It becomes hard to ignore outside interference or noise and tricky to make sense of what you are reading, watching or doing.

Some problems are more serious than others. People with more serious memory lapses may be suffering from one of a series of conditions of the brain known as dementia, e.g. Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia affects your ability to carry out normal and usually easy daily activities.

A memory loss problem is serious when it affects your daily living and tasks you have performed a million times before that now seem more difficult or require more thought.

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Statistics

  • 43 - 70% of people with MS are affected with various cognitive problems.
  • On average 1 out of every 10 people has a serious memory loss problem
  • An estimated 4.5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease
  • 11-16 million Americans will be diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease by 2050

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Causes

Chemical imbalance in your body, nutritional deficiency through diet and system malfunction, glycation, general aging, environmental and food pollutants are the most significant causes of problems with memory and concentration.

A less than optimal diet, or a build up of digestive toxins over the years, as well as medical conditions such as those listed below can produce imbalance and deficiency not only leading to Alzheimer's disease and dementia but also:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stroke
  • Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Toxicities
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Menopause
  • Candida infection
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep problems
  • Stress

Other contributors include:

  • Aging
  • Barbiturates and other prescription medications, including high-dose steroid abuse and general medication side effects or drug interactions
  • Deficiency or low body levels of vitamins, including:
  • Thiamine deficiency
  • Deficiency of niacin, which is vitamin B3
  • Low serum folate
  • Chronic exposure to metals, such as lead or mercury, and to dyes, such as aniline
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Heat
  • External distractions

Medications can also contribute:

Side effects of various medications, including those from the following drugs and toxins, are some other causes of memory and concentration loss:

  • Psychotropic drugs
  • Tranquilizers
  • Hypnotics
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Alcohol
  • Sedatives
  • Anxiolytics

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Signs & Symptoms

Basic signs that are more than the occasional normal lapse in concentration is occurring can include any of the following:

  • If you have difficulty performing normal everyday tasks
  • If you misplace things frequently
  • If you find it difficult to hold or follow a conversation without your mind wandering
  • If your behaviour changes noticeably, with irritability, tiredness or aggression

Dementia signs and symptoms

With dementia, changes in brain function occur through chemical imbalance, usually caused by nutritional deficiency or overload.

Symptoms include asking the same questions over and over, becoming disorientated in familiar places, being unable to follow instructions, losing time and date, forgetting people and places and neglecting personal safety, hygiene and nutrition.

Medical conditions may also cause symptoms like those seen in dementia. These can include a high fever, regular dehydration, vitamin deficiency or poor nutrition and bad reactions to medicines or problems with the thyroid gland.

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Conventional Treatments

Conventional medicine uses prescription drugs to stem the symptoms of memory loss.

Tacrine (Cognex)

It works by slowing the progression of memory loss by increasing levels of neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Due to potential side effects regular blood tests may need to be performed to ensure correct liver function. It is also known that many people are unable to take the maximum dose due to the discomfort of side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tiredness, drowsiness, muscle cramps, heartburn, muscle aches, loss of appetite and loss of balance.

Donepezil (Aricept)

Works by raising the level of the chemical acetylcholine in the brain, slowing progression of some types of dementia. Side effects include gastrointestinal discomfort, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tiredness and drowsiness.

Rivastigmine (Exelon) and Galantamine (Reminyl)

Both work by increasing the levels of acetylcholine in the brain. Side effects include gastrointestinal discomfort, abdominal pain, anxiety, aggression, confusion, constipation, depression, diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness, fainting, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, gas, headache, high blood pressure, increased sweating, indigestion, inflamed nasal passages, insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea, tremor, urinary infection, vomiting, weakness and weight loss.

Memantine (Akatinol)

An NMDA(N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptor agent promoting nerve cell viability. Only having had limited trials, Memantine has known side effects including restlessness, insomnia and nervous energy.

Selegiline (Eldepryl)

Selegiline raises the levels of certain neurochemicals and promotes nerve cell viability. Side effects of Selegiline include allergic reaction, headache, irritability, sweating, constipation and/or diarrhea, dizziness, dry mouth, nausea, insomnia and anxiety.

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Natural Treatments

Also, scientists now recognise the importance of mental ‘exercise’ for memory improvement. The old adage ‘if you don’t use it you will lose it’ applies equally to the brain.

It is also well recognised that your brain has a greater demand for specialised nutrients than any other organ in the body. These nutrients have to also be able to cross the blood-brain barrier.

There is no 'magic bullet' when it comes to restoring brain health and improving memory. Sometimes, a person's memory is so far gone that no protocol will correct it...natural or pharmaceutical. In these cases the best that can be hoped for is to maintain the status quo.

Therefore you should be doing everything possible to maintain and enhance the health of your brain before serious symptoms begin to show.

There are a number of very potent and effective natural nutrients that have been clinically proven to help the overall functionality of the brain and the neuro-transmitters, resulting in memory improvement. For example,

  • SAMe
  • Vinpocetine
  • Phosphatidyl Serine
  • Huperzine A
  • Bacopa Extract

These nutrients, particularly when combined with others, help reduce the ongoing damage to your neuro-transmitters and your brain cells in general and may result in memory improvement.

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