Remember When You Could Concentrate Better?

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Dear Pharmacist,
I can’t remember names and trivia as well as I used to. I feel like my memory is slipping, but otherwise I’m healthy. At 47, aren’t I a little young for this to be happening?
P.T., Vancouver, B.C.

ANSWER: Look in your medicine cabinet first. Lots of drugs can make your brain fuzzy:  Acid blockers for heartburn, cold medicine, prednisone, statin cholesterol drugs, blood pressure pills and antibiotics.

Too much cortisol (a stress hormone) can make you hold onto belly fat, and become forgetful. Since we make cortisol in response to stress, high credit card bills  and problems in life, it’s easy to see why so many people have excessive cortisol. Reduce stress in your life and you will reduce cortisol, then you can enjoy clear thinking.

It’s a no-brainer.  Consider exercise, massage, yoga, a better job (or spouse). Stop watching so much news on TV. Isn’t it always bad anyway? There are supplements that are natural and safe, so hang on a moment.  First I want to tell you about hormones, the kind you make when you are young.  These decline with stress, illness and aging .

As we age, levels of estrogen and testosterone decline making you do bizarre, forgetful things like race all over the house looking for your sunglasses, when they’re on top of your head. These two hormones are needed to produce our good mood chemicals, as well as “acetylcholine”—a major memory molecule. People with Alzheimer’s are deficient in this substance. You can boost levels of it with a supplement called “Acetyl L-Carnitine.”  As for hormones, find a doctor who specializes in bio-identical hormone replacement.

The following nutrients could help cut down on those ‘senior moments’ you are experiencing:

Rhodiola rosea: A Siberian herb that regulates cortisol levels and causes relaxation, better sleep, more energy and improved memory.  People who are depressed or hypothyroid could benefit.

7- Keto or Pregnenolone: Either of these over-the-counter hormone precursors can help bring down high cortisol, but I’d prefer your doctor supervise you.

Bacopa monnieri: An Ayurvedic herb used for centuries which relaxes you, heightens awareness, boosts memory and helps you concentrate on things (like the political race which is really starting to bore me).

NAC (N-acetylcysteine):  This goes into your brain and morphs itself into glutathione, a powerful antioxidant which sweeps up heavy metals and brain gunk.  If you can’t swallow capsules, it comes in a powder form called Immunocal, sold online.

Ginkgo biloba:  Increases blood flow to the brain. That’s great in seniors because their arteries are often clogged.  More blood to the brain, better memory. Ginkgo also seems to help people with tinnitus (ringing in the ears).  Don’t mix Ginkgo with blood thinners like aspirin, warfarin, Plavix, Lovenox etc.

Schisandra: This amazing herb may heighten alertness, boost memory, increase energy and ease side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.  It is adaptogenic, meaning it can increase what’s low, and reduce what’s high in your body.

Rosemary:  Supplement or drink tea. It helps increase circulation, sparks energy, improves alertness and improves hair growth. It can fight bad breath and supposedly stop flatulence, so it’s got you covered at both ends. I believe rosemary can reduce your breast/prostate cancer risk too. Seriously, I don’t have one drug at my pharmacy that can do all that!

Did You Know?

DHA, an essential fatty acid, can improve memory by making your brain cells communicate better.