"I feel like every day, I lose my memory more and more.
It started when I couldn't find my car keys, sometimes I
forget directions. My mother has Alzheimer's so I'm
concerned," says Jerry Solowitz, a 63 year old man.
Ellen Lerner, 37, sometimes worries that she can't keep
track of everything in her job as a public relations
executive. "I feel like stress can get to me easily, and I
worry because I forget simple things like where I put a
Should these people be concerned?
"Yes," says Lynda Toth, Ph.D., co-author with Pavel
Yutsis, M.D., of Why Can't I Remember? Reversing Memory Loss
Jerry should start a specific program with a health
practitioner who specializes in memory loss, due to lots of
unsuspected new causes for memory dysfunction. Ellen needs
to make lifestyle changes, as stress can definitely lead to
"Cortisol, which is one of the stress hormones, can be
harmful because it keeps calcium in the memory pathway too
long and destroys the neurons, which is very damaging to the
brain," notes Toth.
Why Does Memory Fail?
Memory fails for several reasons, says Augustine
DiGiovanna, M.D., author of Human Aging: Biological
Perspectives, (McGraw-Hill 2000), and Professor of Biology
at Salisbury State University in Salisbury, MD.
Normal Aging: Much of diminished memory as we age is due
to reduced blood flow to the brain from atherosclerosis,
which is hardening and narrowing of the arteries. Decreased
blood flow causes neurons to shrink and function less
Also, as we age we lose neurons and neuron connections
that can lead to memory loss. So the way people think, how
much they remember, and the mental activities they do
determine how many brain cells survive through the years.
Finally, as people live longer, the chance is greater
that the body's immune system and other defense mechanisms
won't be able to protect against certain diseases that
affect the brain and memory (Parkinson's, strokes,
A Starving Brain: The brain is not getting fed the
nutrients it needs (vitamins, minerals, amino acids,
glucose). Without the right "food" the brain's energy levels
become lowered and stop powering the memory cells. Then,
free radicals can do more dirty work and continue to rust
Drink And Sink: Alcohol passes through the blood-brain
barrier and slows down the processing of information between
memory neurons. Memory loss increases over time, as memory
Sad Stories: Depression can imbalance the
neurotransmitters and electrical charges of neurons.
Tense and Tight: High blood pressure can constrict and
narrow blood vessels, limiting blood and oxygen flow to the
One way to boost brain power is to take the right
Ginkgo biloba: The powerful medicinal herb ginkgo biloba
increases blood flow and circulation to the head by dilating
blood vessels in the brain, allowing more oxygenated blood
to get to the neurons. It also protects against free radical
Research: Ginkgo biloba extract displayed a significant
effect on helping the mental abilities of people 50-59 years
old (Phytotherapy Research 13, 1999: 408-415).
Pregnenolone: This powerful hormone regulates the balance
between excitation and inhibition in the nervous system and
helps enhance memory and brain function, possibly by
repairing a fatty substance that is part of the myelin
sheath that surrounds nerve cells. Research: A St. Louis
University School of Medicine study on mice showed that
pregnenolone enhanced memory and helped mice to navigate
Huperzine A: This herbal supplement is derived from club
moss found in China; in purified form it inhibits the enzyme
that breaks down acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter produced
in the brain that you need for memory.
Research: Studies conducted by Alan Mazurek, M.D., found
that huperzine A in purified form improves memory, enhances
focus and concentration and has been used to improve memory
loss in Alzheimer's patients (Alt. Ther. in Health Med. 5
, March 1999: 97-98).
Another study in The Journal of Neuroscience Research
showed that huperzine A is a potent inhibitor of
cholinesterase, which penetrates the brain and produces a
dose-dependent increase of the neurotransmitters
acetylcholine, norepinephrine and dopamine in rat cortex
(41, 1995: 828-835).
Phosphatidylserine (PS): This substance, which occurs
naturally in nerve cell membranes, helps keep fatty
substances soluble and cell membranes fluid and helps reduce
levels of cortisone which are damaging to tissues.
Research: Phosphatidylserine encourages a sense of calm
by raising the levels of alpha brain waves and increasing
the production of acetylcholine (Neuropsychobiology 24,
Vitamin E: This potent antioxidant attaches to bad
cholesterol and helps prevent free radical damage to cells.
Research: Age-related processes like memory function and
problem solving can be affected by free radical damage.
Several studies show that vitamin E might slow the effects
of Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease (JAMA 282,
August 18, 1999: 621). Acetyl-l-carnitine: Increases
cognitive performance because it rejuvenates cellular
membranes of mitochondria, the storehouses of energy
contained in every living cell.
Alpha-Lipoic Acid: Preserves memory tissue by increasing
glutathione levels, which protect fat stores in neurons from
Nine Ways to Remember
Dr. Lynda Toth suggests the following ways to make the
most of what you've now got.
1) Power Up Your Smile. Remove dental fillings and
replace them with porcelain or ceramic ones. The mercury in
metal fillings may be harmful (some believe) and can affect
the brain and nervous system, inflaming memory tissue and
preventing the entry of nutrients into the cells.
2) Don't Be a Tin Man/Woman Avoid exposure to aluminum.
Don't use aluminum pots to cook in. Aluminum accumulates in
memory tissue, damaging cells. In fact, autopsies of
Alzheimers patients show they have unusually huge amounts of
aluminum in the brain. But no one knows where this aluminum
3) Eat Right. Eat organic and pesticide-free foods.
Pesticides get into the cells and can damage DNA.
4) A Matter of Taste. Avoid foods with artificial
coloring, monosodium glutamate (MSG, often called "natural
flavors" or "natural seasoning"). Also avoid processed foods
with taste enhancers called exito toxins such as l-cysteine
and aspartic acid.
5) In the Raw. Make sure that your diet consists of
enzyme-rich 50% raw foods (fruits and vegetables) to feed
the brain. Eat less animal fats.
* Drink green juices to support levels of the brain's
*Eat lots of fiber, which helps remove toxins from the
body. Pick up psyllium fiber.
*Limit intake of processed sugar, caffeine and alcohol to
lessen the load on the liver and pancreas.
6) Cut Bait. Watch the fish that you eat. Lots of ocean
and inland-caught fish are contaminated with mercury. Go for
deep, cold water fish such as cod. Avoid shark and
7). Oil Up. Supplement your diet with omega-3 fatty
acids, such as cod liver oil or flaxseed oil. These fats
lubricate memory cells.
8) Work That Body. Stay fit and exercise. Exercise helps
oxygenate the body, reduces cholesterol, and builds and
energizes new memory cells which reduces wear and tear on
the brain function.
9) Do Mind Games. Read, listen to music. Tune into
different radio stations than the ones you normally listen
to. Do crossword puzzles and a wide selection of word games
which can stretch your brain and give it a tough workout.
Student of Life
You need to keep learning your whole life to keep your
brain and memory in tip top shape. The brain is adaptable,
and you are always building new neurons, says Dr. Toth,
which means that there is no limit to how long it can
develop. Anything that stimulates the brain will help it to
grow. That's why as you get older it's even more important
to take classes, start a new hobby, travel. In fact, the
challenge of learning and doing new things (without stopping
in a fit of frustration) causes your brain to grow, says Dr.
The Good News
As people get older, their brains may actually improve
and repair themselves through a complicated process that is
designed to eliminate faulty neurons that are prone to
making mistakes. At the same time, brain activity goes on
that results in the development of new and improved
connections with neighboring neurons.
Research also shows that memory improves if you train
people to have faith in themselves. (The brain helps those
who help themselves.) Apparently, a confident perspective
can encourage the brain to actually improve to the point
where its new-found abilities may increase to the point
where it fulfills expectations.
So keep your chin up and stay away from the
artery-clogging saturated fat that can cut off the brain's
blood supply. It's all in the attitude, says Dr. DiGiovanna.
And, of course, the key to a long and happy life with your
brain is also on the end of your fork and in that bottle of
Estelle Sobel, is the co-author of Beautiful Skin: Every
Woman's Guide to Looking Her Best at Any Age (Adams Media,