We need to rescue our memory now

Why students at QU and universities nationally should start prioritizing brain strength

By on January 22, 2019

Do you occasionally forget where you set your keys, your phone or your QCard? I am ashamed to admit it, but I can’t be the only one on this campus that does.

For years, I have dealt with small issues like these that seem irrelevant and minute.

We all have hundreds of items on our to-do lists as we go into this next semester. Don’t forget to order books, apply for summer internships, get into a regular sleep schedule (or attempt to), organize housing for next year, finalize FAFSA problems, balance relationships and friendships, stop stressing so much and concoct time between classes to eat.

On top of all that, we have to find answers to satisfy the question, “what are your plans after college?” When really, we have to answer: “What is your next ten to forty years looking like?”

So, as things fall through the cracks, we chalk it up to having a heavy plate.

Regardless, I discovered over winter break that we can no longer dismiss the memory slips. It’s at these ages that we can overturn the impending doom of memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s. This is the best time, in my opinion, to strengthen our prized possession.

Everything else in our body is replaceable (hypothetically). Modern medicine has allowed us to do blood transfusions, simulate walking with synthetic limbs, transplant just about any major organ and help regain once lost senses.

However, our brain is the one part of our body that is unique and irrecoverable.

That’s why I picked up Daniel G. Amen, MD’s 2017, “Memory Rescue.” Written about his foundation, the Amen Clinics, the book contains a methodical approach to not only reversing memory problems, but also preventing them.

“When we consider uncomfortable topics like death or dementia, human nature often leads us to joke about them,” Amen wrote. “Yet..memory loss is no laughing matter.”

The process of preventing has to start now. In an article at the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, Nick McKeehan says that the disease is “characterized by the accumulation of toxic, misfolded beta-amyloid proteins” in the brain. He also mentioned that, in a new Neurology study, “beta-amyloid may begin accumulating decades earlier than believed.

The process of dementia can be “starting as early as our 20s,” McKeehan said.

However, I don’t believe that this should be a scary thought for any of us. It should instead inspire college students around the world to start taking precautions to prevent alzheimer’s and dementia.

“Loving your brain means treating it with care and respect,” Amen wrote.

The first steps are not difficult either, like many of us may think. Amen describes the five significant parts of our brain that are responsible for the cognitive, emotional and social functions of our daily lives: the prefrontal cortex, temporal lobe, parietal lobe, basal ganglia and cerebellum.

However, I believe that it is most vital for college students to prioritize two of these brain sections.

For starters, the prefrontal cortex is one of the most significant aspects of our cognitive functions. It’s “divided into three sections: the motor cortex, which controls the body’s motor movements; the premotor area, which is involved in planning those movements;” Amen wrote. “And the prefrontal cortex, which directs [the] executive functions.” Essentially, it is the CEO of the brain and therefore the most essential part of the body to reinforce.

“Your frontal lobe represents nearly a third of your entire brain,” according to Sandra Bond Chapman Ph.D. at Psychology Today, “and is the last region of the brain to develop and the first to decline with age.”

In order to strengthen the prefrontal cortex, one can try different language games, crossword puzzles, strategy games or Tetris.

Contrarily, the temporal lobes are subject to stabilizing our emotional state. They are responsible for “encoding our memories into long-term storage, as well as mood stability, receptive language (reading and hearing), the reading of social cues,” Amen wrote.

Also located in the temporal lobes are the hippocampus and the amygdala, which process and protect our favorite–and least favorite–memories. Regardless of how busy our lives are, we can no longer take advantage of our most valuable possession. Our memories and brain functions are what should be prioritized.

At the end of the day, the unrivaled strategy to protecting the different parts of our brains is doing and learning that which you are unfamiliar with.

For example, Amen cites a mentalist named Jim Karol. When Karol was about 50 years old, he was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and an enlarged heart. Instead of letting the prognosis stunt his life, it inspired him to grow past it.

“This man with such humble beginnings began memorizing the states and their capitals, more than 80,000 zip codes, every word in the Scrabble dictionary, and thousands of digits of pi,” Amen said. “[Karol] knows the day of the week for every date from AD 1 on.”

“An estimated 36 million people worldwide suffer from dementia,” James Fuller at Independent said.

A diagnosis like this seems to be miles down the road to me. However, I have come to realize that it is crucial that we all take the steps to prevent the prognosis now.

For more information, check out “Memory Rescue” by Amen as well as his foundation’s website at amenclinics.com.

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About Garret Reich