Guest Blog : Now… what was I saying? by Mary Fisher-Morris
Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is something many people experience as they age – ‘Where did I put the car keys ?’, ‘Thought that dental appointment was next week? This age related ‘forgetfulness’ is quite normal; its only when these episodes increase in frequency and actively affect normal independent function should there be cause for concern.
MCI does not have to be a precursor of dementia, but it is a reminder that people need to maintain their neurocognitive system – have an MOT on their brain and work at keeping it healthy. There’s been an explosion over the last decade or so on importance of cardio fitness, losing weight, physical exercise, dry January, giving up the nicotine etc…. but few stress the importance of Brain Exercise and Fitness… and yet it’s this amazing cerebral organ that keeps everything else going!
One buzz word to remember today is Neuroplasticity , the ability for the brain to ‘rewire’ itself, form new ‘pathways’, create new dimensions. Consider an analogy -a computer is built to specific specifications and has regular software updates to improve performance; in comparison, our magnificent brain has the ability to ‘download’ and hardwire updates firstly through the creation of new cells- neurogenesis, and secondly by regular ‘uploads’ via neuroplasticity as we learn new things, experience new activities, engage in socialising with new people….. Perhaps those readers with a propensity to tattoos may like to assault their dermis with this delightful word of neuroplasticity as a constant reminder of the remarkable ability of our brain.
The exciting implications of neurogenesis and neuroplasticity are that we have the potential to improve what we have at any stage of our lives, improve and upgrade! Consider how following a stroke or other brain trauma, people learn to walk again, recover speech and regain their lives through the process of neurogenesis and particularly through neuroplasticity- the brain rewiring new pathways, replacing damaged neurones.
Here at Memcheck memory clinic we work with the innovative and pioneering Enigma Wellness centre where emphasis is on a preventative, holistic approach to physical and mental wellbeing. Encouraging people to have a brain MOT establishes a baseline measurement of their overall memory, perceptual and verbal performance. The consultation takes about an hour and involves several globally approved assessments. These are analysed and a comprehensive report sent to the client and if they wish, their GP within a few days. There is evidence to suggest that working on the ageing brain can stabilise performance and prevent progression to dementia, so the earlier people seek help the earlier they can begin to employ strategies and prevent progression.
We believe that by working to maximise neuroplasticity, overall brain performance can be improved, memory and general cognitive performance strengthened. Whilst evidence shows that a small percentage of people with MCI will go on to develop dementia, this is certainly not always the case, and seeking help early can give support and reassurance.
There is also evidence that toxic amyloid build- up in the brain can begin as early in life for people in their 30’s and 40’s, so it’s never too early to start nurturing that brain. And it can be fun; the state-of-the-art gym at Enigma is not only for the Lycra Loving Gym Gods and Goddesses; far from it. The specialist equipment and gym/physio professionals are there to support those people post- stroke and those with Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative conditions whose limbs and muscles need that extra specialist support. Improving gait and balance can make everyday life so much more enjoyable rather than a challenge.
Research demonstrates learning anything new is good- whether it be a new language, musical instrument, new sport, new people -it all promotes new neurone growth and improves the synaptic performance and connectivity across the brain. Neuroplasticity….
Think nutrition the connection of Gut and Brain is a crucial link with Intermittent Fasting also implicated to help brain health and decrease risks of neuro degenerative disease. Memory training, crosswords, computer games are gymnastics for the brain, the repetition and learning helps rehearsal and memory performance. And getting a good night’s sleep is vital.
But overall one of the most important things everyone can do is get out and exercise; walk to work, climb the stairs, buy a Fitbit and join a group to make exercise a regular part of life. Walking is multi-tasking- people are using so many senses-hearing, visual, smell, engaging in conversation, managing balance and orientating as to direction finding, utilising spatial awareness etc. It’s challenging the brain in so many different ways- as well as pumping cardiac and respiratory systems.
And we are in an age of very innovative technology- supportive, assistive, challenging, instructive, all designed to make life easier and more enjoyable. Take for example TIYGA , a brilliantly designed App which encourages users to record relevant data over periods of time from an individualised perspective. These data can produce algorithms demonstrating patterns of behaviour, mood, clinical symptoms without the instrumental problem of recall error. For the problem memory, TIYGA is a boon offering a personal diary with much needed supportive structure.
So it really is a ‘no brainer’ to encourage all older people to work on maximising their Brain Health! It underpins everything one do in life and needs to be cherished…..To become a body and brain guru! To get out and enjoy the world … life is too short to not appreciate and make it the best it’s capable of.
Think Heart, Think Brain, Think Wellness.