Tips for a Better Memory

September 16, 2017

1 in 10 Americans age 65 and older have Alzheimer’s and that number is growing every year, showing that we all need to be concerned with memory lapses. Since our brain is a very complicated machine we’re sharing what issues and foods could lead to memory issues and more importantly, what you can do today to protect your brain now and well into the future.

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Transcript 

SHELBY: Welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition. I am Shelby Hummel, I’m a licensed nutritionist with a Masters Degree in Applied Clinical Nutrition and co-host of today’s show. Dishing Up Nutrition is brought to you by Nutritional Weight & Wellness, a company providing life-changing nutrition education and life-changing nutrition counseling.

KARA: I am Kara Carper, Licensed Nutritionist and also co-host of Dishing Up Nutrition today. We have a topic today that I’m sure will grab your attention. It’s called, Tips for a Better Memory.

SHELBY: Most of us, at some time in our life, have had a “senior moment” or forgotten a name, those memory lapses.

KARA: I have a six year old daughter and I do very clearly the days of being up with my daughter during the night when she was a newborn. During the day after not sleeping, I couldn’t remember names of common objects, baby wipes, I’d think “What’s that thing? What’s that thing that wipes the bottom?” So frustrating. I was sleep-deprived and my brain just wasn’t working very well. I bet there are listeners today who have also experienced the same memory problems that I had as a new mom with a fussy baby or even just having a baby. You don’t get quality sleep when you want.

SHELBY: Perhaps, many of you listeners can relate to forgetting where you parked your car or where you just put your car keys.

KARA: Yes. Or what about those sunglasses that are on top of your head? That cell phone that’s in your hand?

SHELBY: I had a friend of mine who was saying she always takes a picture of where she parks her car. Because then if she does forget she can just look at her phone.

KARA: We just hope she doesn’t lose her phone. Several of my clients have shared this experience, if they lost a great deal of blood – that could be from a heavy menstrual cycle, a surgery or an accident unfortunately – the hemoglobin drops down and if it drops down under 7 or 8, people start having severe memory problems. Our hemoglobin, which is a measurement of iron, count should be between 12 to 15 and hearing that it’s 8 or lower, the brain isn’t getting sufficient oxygen or nutrients to function well.

SHELBY: That’s scary! The brain isn’t getting sufficient oxygen or nutrients to function well. So when we can’t recall a word, frankly, it can be very frustrating and maybe even a little scary. There are a number of reasons for memory problems. We know that 5.5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s Disease today. If we think about that statistic, this breaks down to 1 in 10 Americans age 65 and older who have Alzheimer’s. Even more frightening is the fact that this number is projected to grow to 13.8 million Americans over the age of 65 by 2050, more than doubling in the next thirty years or so, so we ALL need to be concerned about our memory lapses!

KARA: The prevalence of memory issues and Alzheimer’s is just outstanding these days.

SHELBY: Yes, and I get so many clients and they say “I’m focusing on my food because I know what it looks like, my Mom or my Aunt…” or someone in their family has Alzheimer’s and they know that that’s their motivator.

KARA: And with the genetic link that’s really important to be looking at that. For everyone this is an issue to be concerned with.

Your brain is one of the most complicated machines in the world. If you feed it junk food, you will no doubt have a junk food-filled brain. That’s how it’s going to operate. Putting the wrong fuel in your vehicle. We need to be fueling our brains just like you would be fueling a car properly.

If you are struggling with your memory, what can you do to have a better memory? Some better questions may be, “What would you be willing to do to have a better memory?” What would you be willing to do to protect your brain? We know that dementia and Alzheimer’s don’t happen overnight, so having an Alzheimer’s prevention plan is something teenagers should be thinking about.

SHELBY: Maybe you sign your son or daughter up for lacrosse or football and you shell out money for special equipment, maybe a special helmet. Have you asked yourself, “Have I looked into those football related injuries or the damage that can occur from a concussion?” Things like that?

KARA: Football-related brain damage has been a hot topic in the news because of the concern many NFL players are having concussions and head trauma during the games. And how does this relates to their future brain dysfunction?

SHELBY: It’s funny you say that, because not only is it a hot topic in the news, but even Hollywood. I don’t know Kara if you saw the movie Concussion a few years back, staring Will Smith. It brought to light some of those damages to the brain from football. In fact, there was research reported this past year that degenerative brain disease was diagnosed in 99% of 111 deceased NFL players whose brains were donated for research. They had donated their brain for research after they passed and they found that degenerate brain disease is a very serious. If we’re looking at the 99% of those 111 of these former NFL players, that’s actually only one of them did not have degenerative brain disease postmortem.

KARA: Let’s go back and talk about the 10-12 years old kids who are going out for football.

Those kids are tall these days, they look almost like adults, but we have to remember that the brain is growing into the early twenties. So having repeated blows to the head at a young age can severely affect the development of the brain and lead to possible neurological problems later in life.

SHELBY: Maybe we should sum up our discussion here with tip #1 for a better memory is protecting your brain from physical trauma. I think that would be important. Soccer balls were never intended to be bounced off your child’s head; choosing sports or sports equipment that’s going to keep you safe. Growing up our family would go skiing out in Colorado and Lake Tahoe and as kids we always had to wear helmets on the trails. Just a few years back my Mom and Aunt were skiing and my Mom took a fall and ended up hitting the back of her head and wasn’t able to ski the rest of the trip. She thought she had a concussion and a lot of headaches and no surprise right after that both my Aunt and Mom ended up buying helmets for themselves. So let’s start thinking of how we can protect our brain from physical trauma. I was thinking of something else because it’s really nice out and people are riding their bikes. It amazes me the amount of families that are out riding their bikes and the kids all have their helmets on and kids in the Burley have their cute helmets on but the parents are riding their bikes without a helmet. What message are we sending to our kids about requiring our kids to wear helmets but not practicing that ourselves?

KARA: Right. It’s really important to be looking at lower risk sports or like you said, if the family is choosing a physical activity that’s higher risk just to protect the brain, we need helmets. Looks like it’s time for our first break Shelby.

SHELBY: You are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition brought to you by Nutritional Weight & Wellness. If you are struggling with your memory, we recommend changing your food to change your memory.

We also recommend supplementing with

1 Omega-3 softgel with each meal, breakfast lunch and dinner

1 DHA softgel at the same times

1 scoop of Brain Vibrance daily before breakfast, mix in with a little bit of water

3 Magnesium Glycinate tablets at bedtime.

I truly believe if you consider your food and those supplements you will feel the difference.

BREAK

KARA: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. For the past 12 years, we have been talking about food and nutrition every Saturday morning. That’s about 600 radio shows sharing the importance of eating good food for good health. Isn’t it amazing we haven’t run out of topics? We do repeat topics, but there’s always a difference and new research. That’s because food and nutrition affect every cell in your body and brain. That’s really an awe-inspiring fact! I think that’s really why people keep tuning in, because what we put in our mouths affects our bodies, our brains, our entire lives. Questions today? Call us in studio at 651.641.1071.

SHELBY: Kara, before we went to break we shared with listeners our first tip for a better memory, and that was protect your brain from physical trauma.

KARA: There’s a lot more to good brain health. A good memory all begins with learning to respect your brain. That could mean respecting it physically or maybe it means respecting your brain may start with getting sufficient sleep each night. What does sufficient sleep mean? Sufficient sleep means getting at least 7½ hours of sleep most nights. It may surprise you that people who sleep 10 hours a night live the longest, so the old adage get8 hours of sleep a night is a good place to start. I know that 10 hours a sleep per night might not sound very practical or realistic for most people but we can strive for 8.

SHELBY: To be honest there’s no way I could survive off 7 ½, I need 81/2 or 9 or I am crabby.

KARA: So I’m guessing you make that a priority?

SHELBY: I do, yeah. So think about that listeners, what happens to you if you are only getting 5 or 6 hours of sleep a night? You will most likely develop a bad lifestyle habit to make up for your lack of sleep. I hear clients say that they drink coffee, “But first, coffee.” And that’s kind of a sign to me that they’re not getting enough sleep. Because if you’re lacking sleep you may drink more caffeine to stay awake or eat more chocolate to stay alert or for some people that just means that they eat more food altogether. For some people that might mean they have more nervous habits, they smoke more or drink more alcohol. All of these are bad lifestyle habits are damaging to your brain and harmful to your memory.

KARA: It’s so interesting to think about it that way. That lack of sleep causes us to crave these things that are unhealthy. Maybe a cup of coffee here and there, or a glass of wine, but if people are regularly not sleeping they may have a caffeine habit or addition where they are drinking coffee just to stay awake. Or like you said, more cigarette smoking.

Lack of sleep can put you at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. As a matter of fact, in a sleep study that we have mentioned before on Dishing Up Nutrition, researchers found healthy young men who got only 5½ hours of sleep nightly experienced insulin resistance (I think of insulin resistance as pre-diabetes) they had higher blood sugar numbers after only two weeks! Both insulin resistance and high blood sugar numbers are precursors of pre-diabetes, which we know could eventually lead to Type 2 diabetes. So after just two weeks all of those blood numbers changed, for those healthy

SHELBY: You may be wondering why having diabetes is bad for your brain and bad for your memory. Diabetes increases the risk of damage to blood vessels including damage to small blood vessels in the brain. When that damage occurs, people often experience changes in their thinking and memory. These changes are often called vascular dementia, a serious memory problem, and it may be the result of a lack of sleep.

KARA: There’s a lot of reasons that people are not getting enough sleep. Some people lack sleep due to sleep apnea, which causes people to wake up frequently throughout the night because they stop breathing for short periods of time. Research has found that people with untreated sleep apnea may be more likely to develop Alzheimer ’s disease. The good news is that treating sleep apnea has been found to improve memory and thinking skills. I can’t tell you how many clients I have who say they do a sleep study and find out they have sleep apnea and that can lead to health problems, obviously being tired during the day, wanting more food, more caffeine and really getting properly diagnosed and treated is so important. Even though I hear that the machines are not maybe the most comfortable or easy, but I think investing time and money in getting the right one.

SHELBY: Also for some people just having a sleep study can seem maybe overwhelming or inconvenient, but it’s amazing that the people who actually suffer from sleep apnea get such a benefit and reward from actually going into their Dr. and saying “You know, I’m really struggling with my memory or energy, would it be worth looking at a sleep study?”

Okay, we have established a lack of sleep is simply bad for your brain, so why are you only getting 5 or 6 hours of sleep a night? Is it because you have a poor time sleeping or is because you have poor sleep hygiene? Maybe those poor sleep habits like texting, scrolling through Facebook or answering emails before bed? Thinking about those nighttime habits and breaking any of these late night habits can often be difficult and bringing some awareness to that, may need extra support. You may need to see a therapist or nutritionist like Kara or myself to break this chain of addiction. It’s challenging, it’s never easy to break a habit or chain of addiction but I’d say it’s worth it right if you’re protecting your memory, preventing diabetes or reducing anxiety.

KARA: Getting a good night’s sleep can also help with improving moods as well as memory, we know that. To your point of working with someone to break these old patterns – working with a therapist is a great idea, but also as nutritionists, you and I work with people to put together healthy food plans and lifestyle plans. I would say at least 1/3 of my clients we talk about sleep and how are they going to get to bed earlier? And we put together a plan. So we can help with that.

SHELBY: Kara, I definitely want to pick your brain when we get back from break because I know you are our resident sleep expert! You’re listening to Dishing Up Nutrition, brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. I am Shelby Hummel, licensed nutritionist and I’m here in studio with Licensed Nutritionist, Kara Carper. Today we are sharing tips to have a better memory. If you are wondering what do those hosts look like or any of our fabulous other hosts? Go to our website weightandwellness.com and click on “MEET US” on the top right-hand side of our home page. Look under “Meet Our Nutritionists” and there we are …smiling, of course.

BREAK

KARA: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. Today we are talking about the importance of sleep for your brain and a better memory. I recently read an excerpt from the book, A Mind of Your Own by Dr. Kelly Brogan who said, “Sufficient sleep keeps you sharp, creative and able to process information in an instant.” She went on to say, “Studies have convincingly proven that sleep habits ultimately lord over everything about you – how hungry you feel and how much you eat, how efficiently you metabolize that food, how strong your immune system is, how insightful you can be, how well you cope with stress and how well you remember things.” That about covers it!

SHELBY: That is a pretty important list of reasons to get good sleep!

KARA: We hear this all the time, “Get a good night sleep.” But I think sometimes we forget what the downside of missing sleep is.

SHELBY: I joked with a corporate class yesterday morning on sleep and that joke of “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” and I said you’re likely to get there sooner if you’re not sleeping. Kara, before we went to break I know we started to talk a little bit about some research on why sleep is so important, but I know that you have a lot of personal experience and a lot of clients you’re helping get a better night’s sleep. Can you tell us a little more about that?  

KARA: Of course. Some of my clients lack sleep, because for some reason they aren’t able to fall asleep. They toss and turn for hours before they fall asleep. That’s when people start checking the clock, thinking oh no, it’s midnight and I need to get up at 6:00am, then the clock ticks to 2:00am, they fall asleep so exhausted and then the alarm goes off at 6:00am. Personally I have lived with this problem, so here are some solutions that I recommend for falling asleep. I always start with 400 to 800 mg of Magnesium Glycinate. The reason for this is that three out of four Americans are deficient in magnesium. It’s a mineral that’s kind of hard to get from food and our bodies use it up very quickly, even from stress and exercise we’re going to lose magnesium. I start with 400mg but I’ll have people go up to 800mg to fall asleep more quickly. Often that’s all that people need. Sometimes I’ll suggest they add melatonin, the kind that works the fastest is sublingual Melatonin, the kind you put under your tongue and it melts right into the blood stream. So anywhere from 1-5mg you put under your tongue and that works really well to fall asleep. Those are just two tips, but if you have more serious sleep issues or you’ve tried those things and they’re not working make an nutritionist appointment. You can just call our office 651-699-3438 or go to our website to check us out. We do work with people with sleep issues all the time.  

SHELBY: Thankfully I’ve never had trouble sleeping as long as I prioritize and allow myself enough time to sleep. Kara, I know that for me and my brain health, but also for good moods I need that deep sleep so I do take Magnesium Glycinate before I go to bed and I always have a little bit of a bedtime snack too. Listeners, maybe this is a new thing, maybe you’re just transitioning through menopause or maybe you have aches and pains, would you be willing to try having a bedtime snack? Having a bedtime snack 30-60 minutes before you to go bed and trying that Magnesium Glycinate, that’s kind of that first step for additional sleep support. Often times people will say they have trouble falling asleep, but also we have a large group of clients who say they can’t stay asleep. They’re waking up at 3:00am or 3:30am and they can’t get back to sleep and what do they always say to us Kara. Their brain is going. They’re making lists for the next day. I had a new client a couple weeks ago she said it’s her hamster wheel is running and she named her hamster Patrick. Talk about people who are struggling with sleep. I always start by recommending that bedtime snack, because if you’re waking up that’s likely due to low blood sugar attack. Your blood sugar is crashing. Some of my favorite snack ideas for clients is to do a

½ a banana and 2 T. of peanut butter

½ cup of cantaloupe with 16 almonds

½ cup of blueberries with 2 T. of heavy cream – some of that fruit and good fat, but I know a lot of our listeners are dairy-free. So something I’ve been doing lately is coconut whipped cream, have you had it before?

KARA: No, sometimes I purchase the full-fat canned coconut cream on its own and it’s so thick, but I haven’t actually made coconut whipping cream.

SHELBY: I actually started buying the smaller 6oz. cans, but it is that really concentrated really coconut cream, thicker than larger cans. That small can I stash a few in the back of the fridge and then I’ll pull that out after a day or week and I’ll use my immersion blender and whip that up with a little bit of maple syrup, or sprinkle in some cinnamon or even a little bit of vanilla extract. It’s so easy and just keeping a few in my fridge is a dairy-free treat to put with fresh or frozen berries. I look forward to having my bedtime snack.

KARA: That’s a great way to avoid a big bowl of ice cream that could potentially wake you up in the middle of the night. Then you have the sugar high and a sugar crash at three in the morning.

SHELBY: All of those ideas we just shared will help you balance your blood sugar so you can have restful sleep through the night and magically your brain and memory is working better when you wake up in the morning.

KARA: I can’t say enough good things about the bedtime snack if listeners want to understand more about why that works is because healthy fats like those in the snacks you just mentioned. Whether it’s peanut butter, heavy whipping cream, coconut cream, some almonds or avocado is another great example. The healthy fats stabilize our blood sugar so it’s less likely to do that huge spiking and crashing thing at 3 in the morning. It’s that crash that sends adrenaline through our body and it’s a very stressful situation to have low blood sugar and the bedtime snack.

Occasionally it is necessary to add some other key supplements. To recap, I would typically add 400 to 800 mg of Magnesium Glycinate and sometimes I add 3 capsules of Activated Calcium and sometimes I might add 2 capsules of NeuroCalm, that’s just a really great overall sleep formula. It has over eight different ingredients and it’s very relaxing. Not everyone needs all of this but you kind of take one thing at a time and I can tell you firsthand that it’s worth first hand that it’s worth figuring out what is creating your sleep issue. So we can talk more about that a little bit when we come back from break.

SHELBY: I know you have other tools in your tool belt! You’re listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. Be sure to tune into Kate and Brenna next Saturday as they talk about how food and nutrition can help you during a life crisis you may be going through. Maybe gearing up for a wedding, a birth of a new baby or an unexpected death, we want to remind you that food matters. We’ll be right back.

BREAK

KARA: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. We are pleased to offer our Weight & Wellness Series starting the week of Sept 18th. In just 6 weeks, you can learn the whys and how’s of balanced eating and, of course, the benefits. Come and learn why people have been raving about this series for the past 10 years. On the weekend of October 6th, we are offering the Weight & Wellness Weekend Seminar – all 6 Weight and Wellness classes in one weekend! It’s great for people that don’t have the ability to come back six weeks in a row. Remember we offer Continuing Ed Credits for nurses, too. It’s a great way to earn 14.4 credits and learn how to eat to support your own health as well as your patients. In November, we are offering our popular Menopause Survival Seminar and our brand new Nutrition for ADHD Saturday Seminar. Want more details about any of these, call our office at 651.699.3438 and the Front Desk Staff is happy to answer any questions.

SHELBY: Kara, before we went to break you were giving us some ideas on other supplements to help people sleep 7 ½, to 8 or 9 hours of sleep. I know you have one other idea that you have used and that works well.

KARA: Yes. So Magnesium Glycinate – and just really quickly Shelby, we had a caller that did not stay on air and they wanted to know the difference between different forms of magnesium. We specifically recommend Magnesium Glycinate especially when it comes to sleep, it’s very absorbable and it works best for sleep. There are many forms of magnesium on the market and the caller asked about oxide and that’s maybe a little more readily available and cheaper, it’s not absorbable so it runs right through you. That could really cause some loose stool and digestive issues. You really want to avoid Mangesium Oxide and it’s worth it to get the Magneisum Glycinate.

Aside from that, some calcium, some NeuroCalm, magnesium and besides those my favorite amino acid for sleep is GABA. They refer to GABA as nature’s Valium, I’ve been using it for about ten years. Most people know by now that I’ve had chronic insomnia, I have it managed now where I sleep probably six of out seven nights, but I really have to take my GABA, my magnesium and my bedtime snack. So I can help you figure that out if people are struggling.

SHELBY: If you are listening to our podcast and live in New Zealand, New York or even in New Hope, we can do an appointment with you via phone or Skype, I know Kara you have lots of clients you work with over the phone or via Skype. We’re here to help you to protect your brain and improve your memory. If you’re listening to us as a podcast, if you have a question about something we said or the name of a book or supplement, we are actually transcribing all of the current podcast so you can go to our website weightandwellness.com and I believe it’s Monday morning that the podcast and transcript is posted.

KARA: Our theme today is three tips for better memory, so to summarize what we’ve talked about is tip #2 for a Better Memory – get at least 7½ hours of sleep a night. Research tells us that ultimately, 8 to 9 hours is optimal. Being sleep-deprived can cause slow reaction time, cloud judgment, affect vision, impair information processing, or even increase aggressive behavior, just to name a few things. Not sleeping enough is bad for your brain and bad for your memory.

SHELBY: That’s why we spent so much time on it this morning. We often hear, “You are what you eat.” Let me put it another way, your brain is made up of what you eat. Are you eating to enhance your brain’s performance are you eating for a good memory or are you living on pizza and beer or cookies and mochas? We know food fuels cell growth and cell regeneration, so brain cells can regenerate with good nutrition that helps us have better brain function and memories. What you eat on a daily basis directly affects the health of your brain, that’s pretty important for people to hear. So do you want a high performing brain or a brain that is constantly breaking down on you? As we said earlier, a junk food diet will result in a junk food-filled brain, which is definitely not good for your brain or you memory.

KARA: Here is an example of a breakfast that is bad for your brain and bad for your memory. If you chow down on a large blueberry muffin, keep in mind a large blueberry muffin contains 19 teaspoons of sugar and a small mocha latte with 17 teaspoons of sugar.

SHELBY: That’s 36 teaspoons of sugar, almost a cup of sugar! One cup of sugar is actually 48 teaspoons, but 36 teaspoons from a large muffin and small mocha is a lot of sugar affecting your brain.

KARA: So how is that person going to feel an hour after eating that? Are you feeling spacy brain fog feeling? Having trouble with word recall? And craving sugar?! That’s because your blood sugar has spiked and it’s already had time to crash and that’s when people crave more sugar.

SHELBY: How about a balanced breakfast idea? Maybe you scramble 2 or 3 eggs cooked in butter and have a side of sautéed broccoli with ½ cup of blueberries and a glass of water, how do you feel with that breakfast? If I’m not eating eggs that day I’ll substitute in chicken sausage or even a pork sausage to cook with spinach or broccoli and have some fruit on the side. When you’re eating a balanced breakfast you have good energy, a sharp memory, a sense of well-being and saying life is good! Food does matter for maintaining your memory.

KARA: As a nutritionist, I know our brains need animal protein to make our building blocks for all of our neurotransmitters, so we have good moods and good memory. I am always thinking of what I’m going to have for protein, what am I going to give my daughter for lunch? Whether it’s cut up chicken, string cheese or maybe some cold meatballs, those are some examples of things I would put into her lunch box. Or we talk about a nitrate free deli meat roll-up, where you spread some cream cheese on that and roll it up. All of those good forms of animal protein are going to support memory.  

SHELBY: As a nutritionist, I also know our brain is 60-70% fat, so we need to pair that animal protein with a good quality fat at each meal and snack, so we have good reception.

KARA: We are running out of time, so aside from the animal protein and fat at every meal and snack we really want to focus our carbohydrates on vegetable carbohydrates versus bread, pasta and things that turn into sugar and don’t support memory. Vegetables support memory.

SHELBY: So it sounds like our Tip #3 for a Better Memory is to eat balanced with animal protein, good vegetable carbohydrate and some good healthy fats.

KARA: The first tip was paying attention to the physical brain and protecting that brain, avoiding high risk sports or wearing a helmet.

SHELBY: And number two tip in protecting your brain is to get good quality sleep.

KARA: 7 ½ hours per night is preferred and 8 to 9 is optimal. Our third tip is really focus on clean food, what we mean by that is having healthy good quality animal protein, fats and vegetable carbohydrates.

SHELBY: Our goal at Nutritional Weight & Wellness is to help each and every person experience better health through eating real food. 

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