I think one of the worst things that often happens during menopause is that we start resting on our laurels. Not caring for our bodies and our minds can begin a spiral of forgetfulness, a lack of focus and depression. It is as if we are viewing ourselves age, a sort of out-of-body experience in witnessing your own demise. (Cheers!) Well, unless you are willing to check into the Hotel California, you simply need to move, stimulate and explore everything that will be healthy for your brain.
Depending on your source, the brain is composed of 77-85% water (maybe some have a bit more; I think I have dated them.) Endlessly, doctors and scientists tell us that the aging process encourages atrophy of the muscles and certainly the brain. Since Aristotle, “thinkers” have been walking for brain health. Sounds simple enough. However, there is more, oh so much more, one can do beyond walking. What we all need to remember in brain health is the law of the land (or in this case of the human body): use it or lose it. The sad news is that a woman’s brain reaches its peak size at about age twenty. Yiks! No fair! The least thing we can do is to try and s-l-o-w down the process.
One of the more difficult things about menopause is that a woman may rightfully feel she is losing control over her body. Is the loss of the mind far behind? Menopause is a reminder that the body and mind won’t just go on forever as it was when we were twenty. As I state in my book, “Meet Me Under The Eiffel Tower”, we are ever-evolving beings. Menopause is an awakening to consider what we want to do with the rest of our lives. We can reclaim and reconstruct ourselves and our future, whether it be a loss of belly fat or an increase of memory flow. We each decide what is important. Activity stimulates the blood flow to the brain. Don’t stagnate. Beyond an endless selection of aerobic exercises don’t forget to keep trying fresh new adventures out. Explore new situations, people, activities. I went zip-lining upside down, traveled to far off lands, worked my butt off and up (literally), started a woman’s spiritual group, trained for a marathon with Leukemia’s Team In Training, did a mission trip to Ethiopia, and began taking classes and courses that had always interested me. I am now fascinated with mosaics. I speak at public forums about Paris or Women’s issues. All this I began after fifty. All these things put me in touch with a variety of new, interesting people. On my 70th birthday, I plan to sky-dive with my grandchildren cheering on Grandma Tasha. That is the image of myself I want to leave them, that I always was willing to try something new. My favorite quote is by Helen Keller: “Life is An Adventure or Nothing At All”.
According to doctor and author, Christiane Northrup. “Brain function is also profoundly affected by our expectations and attitudes about life.” Boy, ain’t that the truth. If you are in a cycle of being unhappy, it is hard to pull away from that. It is a sort of comfort zone without risk. If you expect to be happy and content, your attitude may steer the course to exactly that, promoting a healthy sense of self and life to come. Northrup writes an impressive chapter in her”The Wisdom of Menopause” on what contributes to a healthy brain. And while I couldn’t possibly put all the many factors of her book down in my humble blog, here are a few of her suggestions in protecting our brains:
1. Feed your brain with nutrients. Honestly assess your current diet. A low-fat diet that contains lots of fruits, veggies and whole grains are best. Damn! So long Milky Ways. Avoir Godivas. Adios Cadbury! Talk to your nutritionist about your levels of zinc, B vitamins or thiamine, folic acid, selenium and antioxidants such as vitamin E and C. The risk of stroke is very low in women who eat at least five servings of fruits and veggies a day. Brain protection is another reason to eat plenty of these nutrient-rich foods. We may all know that but we certainly don’t always do it. Who do you know that eats veggies and fruits five times a day?
2. Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol intake. Cigarettes decrease oxygen to the brain (along with other areas of your body). A male friend of mine, clearly in lousy shape, drinks alcohol before he even arrives at my home for dinner, polishes off a bottle of red wine (and declares it’s good for him) and then proceeds to the brandy bottle. Don’t kid yourself. M o d e r a t i o n in drinking is imperative.
A faulty memory in the aging person is common. A few choices that will help memory are:
A . Ginkgo works by increasing blood flow to the brain.
B . Gotu Kola is known as a “memory herb” and also increases circulation to the brain. (Do not take at bedtime.)
C . Good Fats: Small amounts of high-quality fat in your daily diet is important. Olive oil, sesame oil, fatty fish.
D . Soy – Dementia is much lower in Japan where the consumption of soy is far higher than it is in the U.S. It also helps the cardiovascular system to prevent strokes.
Staying mentally active (join a book club, take a course at your local college) and socially connected are tantamount to staying mentally healthy.
Memory Loss…oh yeah, it is not easy, is it? We will talk more about that in future blogs….if I can remember…
Next: The Lusty Month of May: Let’s discuss what makes for a good lover!