“What can I take to help my memory?” This is a question patients of all ages ask. With a lot of health food shops and alternative practitioners promoting supplements and medications that allege memory and thought enhancement, patients are looking for guidanceas to what works and what doesn’t. If you want to get your body in better shape, you add regular physical workouts to a calorie controlled diet. It is the same for the brain. While some supplements have promising effects to the brain, improving thinking and memory really requires mental workouts. New mental challenges work and stimulate the brain to help keep it flexible and responsive. Tried mand true brain stimulation include reading books and newspapers, card games, word and mathematical puzzles and playing an instrument.
However, if you really want to give your brain a workout - forcing physical change on its neural networking - then try learning a new computer system or a new language. I can hear the groans as you read that! Learning about computers is pure frustration, you say. Well, it is exactly when you get to that level of frustration that your brain has really been challenged and responds by improving its neuronal wiring. It is the cerebral version of “No pain, no gain.” My favourite prescription for brain stimulation is learning Spanish. While you will most likely not pick it up with the same ability as a nine year old, anyone who can imitate sounds can learn a new language no matter what their age. It is the process of learning not the level of fluency you obtain that provides the brain benefits. Studies show that the focus and attention
given when learning another language is better than any supplement or “smart drug” for maintaining and improving your thinking abilities. My dietary “concentration helper” of choice has been around a very long time - tea. It always seemed peculiar that tea, with its signifi cant levels of caffeine, was also calming. This seeming contradiction is due to a substance in tea called L-theanine. Ongoing research indicates that the combination of caffeine with L-theanine work to give you energy without making you as jittery as caffeine alone. Further, L-theanine is being credited with lowering blood pressure, stroke risk reduction and increasing alpha waves in the brain - the wave associated with calm, focussed alertness. A study of mountain climbers indicated that drinking hot tea does wonders for overcoming fatigue and
"This article fi rst appeared in the
newspaper 'SUR in English'
on 22 May 2009”

 

increasing stamina. I don’t think that revelation comes as any surprise to British readers! What about other supplements? Ginkgo biloba increases the blood flow to the brain and, therefore, has been credited as a memory enhancer.

Other supplements with promising studies are acetyl-L carnitine and phosphatidyl serine. Consult your physician
before taking these or any dietary supplements.


“My favourite
prescription
for brain
stimulation is
learning
Spanish”
   

 

Dr. Anthony practices General
Medicine in the Axarquía