Jeanne Tripplehorn 06.10.1963

Memory

Vitamin D & Menopause: Put a Lil’ Sunshine in Your Life

2.6.12

 

Here comes the sun…doo dooo, doo doo. Okay, depending on where you live, this may not be happening anytime soon.

 

If the sunlight is scarce or it’s too cold to go outside in your neck of the woods, you might not be getting enough vitamin D.  Unfortunately, rates of vitamin D deficiency are particularly high amongst post-menopausal women. What’s the big deal, right? Well, not only does vitamin D play a critical role in the absorption of calcium, low levels of it  have been associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis, diabetes, and breast cancer, as well as lower cognitive functioning and slower information processing speed. Yikes! We’d say that’s a pretty big deal.

 

Lengthy sunbathing is frowned upon for a variety of reasons (for example, skin cancer and, eh hem, wrinkles) and anyway, who really wants to get into a bikini?  But the problem is that our major source of vitamin D is from sunlight on exposed skin – skin without sunscreen.   It’s recommended that we be out in the sun for at least 15 minutes, three to four times a week.  If you can’t get this much sunlight, vitamin D is also available in some fish such as salmon, herring, sardines and tuna.

 

 

As mentioned in Science Daily (1/10/12) low vitamin D levels are so prevalent in Europe (50 to 70% of the population) that the European Menopause and Andropause Society (EMAS) has recommended that post-menopausal women take supplements.  They’re so concerned about this vitamin D deficiency epidemic that they’re calling upon the World Health Organization (WHO) to address the issue.

 

Here, closer to home, the North American Menopause Society recommends a daily intake of 800-1,000 IU either through 15 minutes of sun exposure daily (again, without a sunscreen), diet, or supplementation. So if the sun is shining – get out there and enjoy it. It’s good for you…and your mind!


What do the Super Bowl and Menopause have in common? Madonna!

2.5.12

 

We’re not your typical Super Bowl fans. But this Sunday, there’s something you may want to witness…Madonna, at age 53, will be performing during the halftime show!  We hear pom poms will be involved so this may be your chance for 12 minutes of aerobic exercise.

 

Aerobic exercise is just about the best thing you can do to maintain that memory muscle… it’s no wonder Madonna still remembers all of those lyrics and choreography.


If this isn’t proof that life’s not over when you hit menopause, we don’t know what is!


Memory Tip #4: Avoid Multitasking!

1.7.12

As the holidays approached, my girlfriend Tina began calling her cat Seymour. Her cat’s name is Garvey.  Seymour was the cat who lived next door many, many years ago. Tina wasn’t dementing. She wasn’t losing her memory. She was just another victim of Holiday Haze - a state of mind that occurs when you try to keep track of way too many things at one time and usually gets worse around the holidays.


Multitasking, keeping “too many balls in the air” or mental tracking (as psychologists call it), requires a great deal of attention and it’s exhausting. In fact, in terms of using up the brain’s energy, multitasking  is very expensive. Think about it this way: when you have a ton of programs running on your computer, it’s processing speed just isn’t as fast as when you’re only checking your e-mail.  Mental tracking is also a cognitive skill that declines dramatically with age. Hooray.

 

 

Unfortunately, we tend to beat ourselves up when we can’t manage everything as well as we  used to. Even though my gal pals now work full time, they’re still the ones who remain determined to create the perfect family holiday: festive decorations, yummy sweet treats, merry gatherings and thoughtful gifts for everyone. The need to recreate a 1950s vision of the holidays is probably nuts, but it seems that most moms suffer from this delusion. Mom may be the glue that holds the family together but she’s starting to melt!

 

 

So how do we avoid the overload of multitasking ? Here’s how:


1) Cut out anything superfluous. Learn to say “no” to commitments and delegate tasks to others. Acknowledge that you only have so much cognitive capacity and if  you commit to handling too much, you’re going to probably do a crummy job of it, or worse, drive yourself batty. Keep in mind that this will require some of us control freaks to get comfortable with others helping out and doing things their way. I know, perish the thought. But remember that this is all in the name of saving your brain. Trust us. Real Simple offers some great tips on how to politely say “no” to extra commitments.


2) Don’t try to juggle details or hold information in your mind, write it down, make a list, add it to your “log of the dayand then dismiss it. Keeping things off of your brain’s hard drive will allow it to run more efficiently.


3) Get organized! Don’t waste precious cognitive energy trying to retrace your steps to find those keys and that lost mitten. Organize your life so that it requires as little extra attention as possible.


4) Try to create a quiet, distraction free environment in which to work. Even something as simple as extraneous noise or voices drains attention.  In my office, voices permeate the walls.  I have found that a simple white noise machine or the background noise from a fan improves my concentration immensely.


5) Focus on one task at a time and finish it before moving on. Tell yourself that until you finish your task, you are not allowed to check your e-mail, answer the phone or roam the internet (yes, that includes Facebook).


Obviously, we can’t completely avoid multitasking, so here’s how you can perform your best while doing it:


1) Complete your multitasking  in the morning when you are fresh and rested. As the day progresses and you get fatigued, your skills will decline.


2) Eat a piece of fruit in the afternoon. The brain relies on glucose (sugar) and when glucose is depleted, attention skills suffer.  If you don’t have access to fresh fruit, keep prunes, raisins or cranberry juice on hand. Your attention should improve and you’ll be  getting those important antioxidents as well.


3) Avoid stress. Worries use up brain energy and diminish our ability to pay attention. (Yes, easier said than done, but we’ll be posting a list of some stress busters soon. Stay tuned!)


4) Avoid alcohol. Surprise, surprise: alcohol impairs our ability to perform tasks that require a lot of attention.  Now, before you throw your laptop across the room in protest, there’s good news: At the end of the day, when the multitasking demands are over, that one margarita may not be such a bad thing. In fact, in the long run, it might even improve your memory. Say what? Yes, you read that right! Cheers!

 

 

 

Memory Tip #3: Get Organized!

12.8.11
For over a decade our friend, Linda Wallace, has been designing interiors for Southern California homes. We invited Linda to provide some insight into how to organize your surroundings to maximize your menopaused memory, while also keeping things pretty.
–MM

Are you a basket case when you lose things?  Do you find yourself feeling scattered because, well, things are scattered? Women don’t have to be “of a certain age” to constantly feel forgetful.  Do you have young kids?  Stress in the workplace? Both? If you’d like some semblance of organization in your home without breaking the bank for an “organizer” – read on!


The simplest solution to this common scenario is to follow these key organizational rules:

 

Keep essentials visible. If you can see it, you’ll remember where you put it.

 

Keep essentials in the same place, every time. You won’t waste time and precious brain cells searching for your things.

 

Keep your essentials displayed attractively. You’ll be more likely to keep things in the same place if you like the way these places look.

 

Keeping things visible without leaving your home a total eyesore requires some design know-how. There are a lot of “get organized” and “great storage ideas” books out there, but they’re usually too long and pretty dry.  Put your feet up to read them and you’re out like a light!  Let’s face it, those books are for energetic, young brains. My tips are for women like me:  the “menopausally” challenged who need their clutter to be out in the open where they can find it – yet attractively displayed.   If that’s you, too, keep reading (but don’t put your feet up)!

 

Let’s get things out in the open and make them look pretty!


ORGANIZING THINGS THAT MOVE AROUND THE HOUSE


KEYS: Create drop-off locations at each main entry and exit to your home.  Why two?  Because, if you come in one way, the chances that you’ll walk all the way to the other entrance without setting the keys down somewhere along the way are pretty slim. Avoid misplaced keys by only keeping them in these two locations.  Use a decorative bowls or baskets on entry tables or near back door entrances. I prefer baskets or bowls over key hooks because my hands are usually full when I’m coming in the house.  It’s much easier to drop than hang.

 

GLASSES: Don’t even try to keep track of your readers.  It’s a waste of time.  Reading glasses have become quite affordable (you can buy them at the 99 Cent store!) making it easier to buy them in bulk.  I keep a pair in the following locations: television room, bedside table, laundry room (who can read those tags?!), kitchen, car, purse, outside patio, garage.

 

 

Bonus Tip (Greeting Cards): Off to a party, running late and no birthday card?   Think you bought one, but where did you put it?  Keep all greeting and thank you cards in an antique tin box or a lidded basket.  I make sure there’s a pen in there, too…and maybe another pair of reading glasses!  Remember, just like in decorating-group ‘like items’ together in one place.

 

 

ORGANIZING JEWELRY


RINGS: Place a small, porcelain dish in up to 3 locations (depending on your habits): by the kitchen sink, bathroom lavatory, and next to your bed.

 

PINS: Know that woman who always dons cool pins and you think, Why didn’t I think to wear a pin? Probably because it was buried in a drawer and you couldn’t see it.  Out of sight, out of mind! An inexpensive and fun way to avoid that is pinning them on a long ribbon and hanging it where you get dressed.  Tie the ribbon on a decorative hook or tack it right to the wall or a shelf.

 

 

 

 


BRACELETS & NECKLACES: I don’t think there is anything prettier than interesting bowls full of chunky jewelry set out on your vanity or dresser.  I use silver, porcelain or wicker containers.  As colorful as flowers, but much less maintenance!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ORGANIZING THE HOME OFFICE


BULLETIN BOARDS: Whether for appointments or invitations, they are a must! There are a jillion places to purchase nice ones.  I like Ballard Designs or Pottery Barn.  Or make a fabric-covered one yourself. (yeah, right).  And please – no dry erase boards.  They’re ugly and those pens stink.


 

 

 

 

 

 

WRITING IMPLEMENTS & MISCELLANEOUS SUPPLIES: Display pens, pencils, and other office tools in a collection of decorative vases or those ceramic pieces your kid made in the first grade that you just can’t throw away.  It’s better than digging through drawers.


 

 

MAGAZINES: Yes, that pile of magazines by your bed that you haven’t had time to read?  Please put those in a nice, big basket.  Attractive and you won’t slip on them getting out of bed at night.  Much cheaper than a new hip.



Bonus Tip (Magazine/Catalog Clippings): Use magazine holders to store catalogs you may “need” in the future; pages you tear out of magazines, take-out menus, travel brochures – hide anything in these you’ll never take the time to file.  They look tidy and attractive on shelves. Magazine holders can be grossly overpriced, so I get mine at IKEA.


 

 

 

ORGANIZING THE KITCHEN


“HOUSEHOLD” DRAWER: OK,  I lied.  Some things should be out of sight.  Growing up we called it the “junk drawer”.   Small household tools, tape – you know the stuff.  Buy cheap drawer dividers and throw it all in there!  At least it’s in one place and make sure to keep it all there!


COUNTER TOP CLUTTER: Out in the open on the counter is fine, but only if they look nice.  Maybe it’s a designer thing, but containers do help the cluttered house/cluttered mind syndrome.  Put those unsightly vitamin bottles in a fun basket so you remember to take them but don’t constantly knock them over.  Fill a vintage flowerpot with those “grab & go” snack bars that are keeping you so thin.



 

 

ORGANIZING BEFORE LIGHTS OUT


Already in bed and don’t feel like getting up?  By your bed, in yet another pretty box, basket or tray, keep your reading glasses, lip balm, hand lotion, pen and a small notepad for the “to do list” you fret over in the middle of the night when you are undoubtedly wide awake!


 

SO… now that your home is beautifully contained and clutter free, you have time to search for the answers to life, not your car keys.  Happy organizing!


–Linda Wallace, Divine Finds Interiors

Menopause Mind Proof: Not Losing Memory, But Brain Works Harder

12.8.11

Although we’ve been convinced that the Menopause Mind is real for a while now, hence this blog, finding empirical support for the connection between menopause and memory declines has been as easy as finding those car keys you left in the fridge.

 

Well, it seems like we’re both right and wrong. The Los Angeles Times just ran an piece on the findings of a recent study designed to examine whether or not post-menopausal women complaining of memory problems performed significantly worse on memory tests than women who did not share these complaints.  Researchers at the University of Vermont and Vanderbilt used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to examine the brain activity of 22 women while they worked on various memory tasks. It turns out that the performance of the 12 women who complained of memory problems on these tests was no different from that of the 10 women who claimed that their memory was fine.

But, the researcher’s also found that the brains of the complainers were much more active than the non-complainers. Specifically, the action was increased in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which plays a role in intellectual functioning and working memory, and the anterior cingulate cortex, which is involved in a variety of autonomic  functions (think blood pressure,  heart rate) and cognitive functioning including decision making, learning and emotion.

 

So, what does this mean for you? Even though you feel like your memory is shot  (the subjective experience of menopause mind), it may not really be that bad (your objective memory ability), but your brain is probably working overtime to compensate for memory slips.  To us, this translates to the following:  if you feel like you have memory problems, they probably exist, but your brain kicks into high gear to make up for them. Keep in mind that this study was done with 22 women, all of whom were post-menopausal. They did not compare post-menopausal women with pre-menopausal women  This does not yet support the theory that physiological changes during menopause cause memory deficits. But it seems we’re one step closer to grasping the workings of the mind’s mysterious metamorphosis during and after menopause than we had been–although not entirely there.

 

The LA Times piece also includes a discussion of the findings from another recent study that examined hormone changes and brain matter. To put it very simply, they examined the brains of women before and after a brief round of hormone therapy (increased estrogen). They found an increase in the density of grey matter after hormone therapy. This suggests that hormones may influence brain’s functioning by playing a role in how much grey matter–the more grey matter, the better your cognitive functioning. But it’s still unclear what exactly is going on.  The University of Vermont and Vanderbilt researchers plan to test hormone therapy as a way to improve memory among the complainers.  Or, maybe they’ll just get them to stop complaining. We’ll keep you posted.

Memory Tip #2 Keep a Log of the Day

11.25.11

If you’re mind is gone, than you’ll need to find a substitute…and we’ve got one just for you!


Step 1: Get yourself a spiral bound notebook. Try to find one that fits in your bag or purse. (See below for suggestions)


Step 2: Open the first page of the notebook and write down today’s date.


Step 3: Log everything that happens. Note every phone call, every meeting, every conversation, every thought. Don’t answer the phone without a pen and your notebook in hand. Don’t grab for a sticky or a random piece of paper, you’ll just end up losing these. Write everything in your notebook even if it’s just a scribble.


Step 4: At the end of the day review your notes:

a) Put events on your calendar with address and directions

b) Add contacts to your iphone

c) Turn to a fresh page, put the next day’s date at the top and create a “To Do”  list

 

Sample Log of the Day:

 

Finding the Right Notebook:

You’ll be using this notebook everyday so it helps to choose one that will withstand some wear & tear and one that you enjoy using, be it because of the paper quality, utility features (e.g. pockets), or simply because it’s pretty. Here are some suggestions:


 

Project Planner: This is a notebook with your typical lined pages, but with added sections for lists.

Cambridge Project Planner Notebook, $9.99, Staples.

 

 

Pretty Notebooks: If you like looking at something, chances are you’ll use it more than if you don’t. There are so many pretty notebooks available these days, there’s no need to settle for those boring notebooks from elementary school are a thing of the past.


Jonathan Adler Notebooks with Pockets, $9.99, Barnes & Noble.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vera Bradley Notebooks with Pockets, $10-16.

 

 

 

 

For a fun twist on an old classic, these notebooks are made from vintage books, including novels, text books, and children’s books. Ex Libris Anonymous, $14.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notebooks with Pen Holders: Don’t waste time searching through your black hole of a bag for a pen. Get a notebook with a pen already attached. Or you can buy pockets and pen holders for the notebooks you already own. Page Pockets & Pen Loop, $3.99-4.99, The Container Store.