OK. I came into the kitchen for a reason, I just can't remember what it was. Let me look in the fridge. Hmm. Nothing there rings a bell. I wonder if I wanted something out of the cupboard? No... but what about the sink rings a bell? Ah yes, now I remember... it is time to take out the garbage.

Does the paragraph above describe early onset Alzheimer's or an episode of senile dementia? The answer is, probably neither. Episodes like this are common at any age, but more so in an unnaturally aging brain. That's right, I said that memory loss is NOT an inevitable part of the aging process.

The brain is capable of producing new brain cells at any age, so significant memory loss is not an inevitable result of aging. But just as it is with muscle strength, you have to use it or lose it. Your lifestyle, health habits, and daily activities have a huge impact on the health of your brain. Whatever your age, there are many ways you can improve your cognitive skills, prevent memory loss, and protect your grey matter.

I had a patient the other day, a young man in his mid 30's, whose story was way too familiar. He felt his memory was not what it used to be. When I asked him how his sleep was, he replied that his job made inhuman demands on his energy and joie de vivre. Working in the great pressure cooker that is Silicon Valley levels even the strongest constitutions, no matter what the age. In addition to job stress, relationship stress, loss of a loved one, change of residence - any stressful situation may impact memory function. High stress and memory dysfunction are immortal partners.

Other elements that impact memory function are anxiety and depression and the prescription pharmaceuticals prescribed to manage these conditions. Alcohol abuse, recreational drugs, chronic infections, lack of exercise and sleep problems also decrease memory ability.

Notice that most of the things that affect memory result as a consequence of questionable life choices? Here are seven strategies you can use to keep your memory quick and vibrant:

1) Examine your decision making process, especially the ways in which you manage stress. It may be helpful to seek a counselor who assists you in examining why and how you make life choices.

2) Exercise every day. Studies have shown that older people who do even mild exercise, like brisk walking, had far superior memory function than sedentary people. The reason is that exercise is the number one stress busting tactic of all as it releases a plethora of happy molecules (endorphins) and also aids with restful sleep. "In general, what's good for the heart is good for the brain," says Gary Small, MD, director of the UCLA Center for Aging. A walking strategy that appears to work well is 5 minutes of warmup walking, 20 minutes of brisk walking and 5 minutes of cool down walking.

3) Eat a rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables -- leafy greens blueberries, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots -- you get the idea. These colorful foods are rich in antioxidants that protect our cells from free radical damage.

4) Use supplements wisely. Health providers in the alternative and complementary medical field often give their patients shopping bags full of pills, thinking that health springs from a gelcap from a bottle. Studies do show that a daily Vitamin B complex-rich multiple helps maintain memory function. Turmeric has also been shown to be excellent as it has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions. Omega-s fatty acids, like those found in salmon, may enhance memory function. There are other nutrients that may also be of merit that are being studied as you read this.

According to a new study, eating oily fish such as salmon can significantly improve your memory and help prevent the onset of dementia

5) Do mental calisthenics. To keep your brain sharp, many experts say, you need to exercise it regularly. Play scrabble. Do crossword puzzles. Challenge yourself to learn new things. There are a few web sites that offer memory improvement games. BrainMatrix.com is one of them.

6) Sleep well. Healthy sleep patterns are crucial for cognitive performance, especially memory. Seven hours of sleep each night is what experts agree upon works best. Sleep is essential to lower levels of stress hormones, to relax and refresh your entire body, and to literally turn off your brain. Easier said than done? Make an appointment with us to discuss strategies for healthier sleep.

7) Drink a little red wine. Some studies indicate that red wine is good for the heart and whatever is good for the heart is good for the brain. Not all the reasons are understood, but many researchers believe red wine may be good for you because it contains the antioxidant resveratrol. It is important to note that excessive alcohol intake can disrupt sleeping patterns.

Unless you have organic or functional brain damage, there is no reason you cannot improve your memory function. But it does take focus, and focus is yet one more memory-nourishing technique.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Marcel Hernandez N.D.
General Naturopathic Medicine, Men’s Health Care, Pediatrics, Bioenergetic Medicine (QX), Life Counseling

Dr. Marcel Hernandez trained at Bastyr University in Seattle. After he and his wife and partner, Dr. Connie, left their busy naturopathic practice in Vermont, they moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where Dr. Marcel served as Director of Wellness Insurance Programs for American Western Life Insurance Company and maintained a private practice as well. While at American Western Life, Dr. Marcel developed and directed a revolutionary managed care health insurance program, which stressed preventative medicine and self care, and provided reimbursement for visits to alternative health care providers.

With Dr. Connie, Dr. Marcel has co-founded and co-directed high-profile naturopathic clinics in Brattleboro, Vermont, and in Palo Alto, California. When not seeing patients in Palo Alto, Dr. Marcel is directing the development of a naturopathic retreat center, situated on three tropical acres overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the Big Island of Hawaii.

As a naturopathic doctor, Dr. Marcel uses an integrated therapeutic approach to help his patients address their health concern. Among the therapies he employs are clinical nutrition, vitamin and mineral therapy, herbal medicine, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, lifestyle counseling and bioenergetic medicine. Although he practices general family medicine and is able to address a wide variety of health issues, Dr. Marcel has developed a particular expertise in men’s health, pediatrics and digestive disturbances. He is the author of Your Child’s Health, a manual for parents which emphasizes nutritional strategies for raising healthy children.

Dr. Marcel is currently working on a new book, Prostate Cancer: The Definitive Guide for Making the Best Decisions. Please visit his personal website, www.NaturallyHealthProstate.com for more information on Dr. Marcel’s approach to prostate care.