Jeanne Tripplehorn 06.10.1963

Posts Tagged ‘Memory’

Feeling Jealous, Stressed or Moody? Get over it! Or You Might be at Increased Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease


A recent study from Sweden published in the scientific journal, Neurology, provides evidence of a link between certain personality traits and risk for Alzheimer’s disease. The scientists followed 800 middle-aged women for about 40 years and measured their self-reported personality traits and stress levels. They found that a perfect storm of anxiety, jealous tendencies, moodiness and prolonged stress appears to be associated with doubling the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.



What’s the connection? Remember how anxiety and stress affect our thinking? The researchers in this study suggest that our personality, thoughts and behaviors dictate our lifestyle choices and how we manage stress. Anxiety and stress affect the hippocampus, that important little structure in our brains that’s responsible for memory, and also happens to be an early target of Alzheimer’s disease.


How do you change your personality or  stress level?   You can work with a psychologist to help you better understand your personality, how it affects your health, and to develop stronger coping strategies. You can also check out these stress management tips!


Stress Reduction

Stress Reduction Tip #1


Learn more about Alzheimer’s disease:

USC Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center

Video: What is Alzheimer’s Disease?


Green Movement: Take Your Mushy Mind Outside


shutterstock_girl-in-nature When I’m faced with a mental roadblock or just feeling a bit fuzzy upstairs, I take a walk.  Afterwards, I usually feel more relaxed and clear headed. Little did I know that my cognitive functioning was also improving! A recent study in Psychological Science reported that cognitive functioning improves after people interact with nature.  They had their participants do a complex mental task involving memorizing a list of things and mentally changing the order of the items around. Then half of the participants went on a walk through a park while the other half walked through an urban setting (downtown Ann Arbor). When they came back, they repeated the tests. Lo and behold, scores of those who walked through the park significantly improved while those of the city walkers didn’t. Oh, it gets better. Those of you without easy access to nature need not despair, because it turns out that they got the same effect using pictures of nature versus pictures of urban settings!


As you may have already noticed, menopause doesn’t just wreak havoc on your body, but your mind, too. So the next time you find yourself in a mental fog, take a hike!



Movimiento Verde: Lleve su Mente Afuera

Cuando me enfrento a una barricada mental o me siento un poco borrosa en la cabeza, salgo a caminar. Después, usualmente me siento más relajado y lúcido. Yo no sabía que mi funcionamiento cognitivo también está mejorando! Un reciente estudio en Psychological Science reportó que el funcionamiento cognitivo mejora después de contacto con la naturaleza. Los participantes hicieron una tarea mental complejo que incluye la memorización de una lista de palabras y cambiando mentalmente el orden de las palabras. Luego la mitad de los participantes fueron en un paseo por un parque, mientras que la otra mitad de paricipantes caminaban por un ambiente urbano (centro de Ann Arbor). Cuando regresaron, todos repetieron las pruebas. Sorprendentemente, los resultados de los participantes que caminaron por el parque mejoraron significativamente mientras que las resultados de los otros que caminaron en la ciudad no mejoraron. Si usted no tiene fácil acceso a la naturaleza, no se preocupe. Los investigadores consiguieron el mismo efecto usando imágenes de naturaleza contra las imágenes de los entornos urbanos!

Como usted pudo haber notado, la menopausia no sólo provoca cambios problemáticas con su cuerpo, sino también con su mente. Así que la próxima vez que te encuentres en una niebla mental, vaya a caminar al aire libre!

Stress Reduction Tip #2: Breathing


Who knew that something so simple could reduce stress?!


Yes, we are talking about breathing. Let’s face it, many of us Menopaused Minds are so frazzled because we’re often carrying a lot of stress around with us. Not only is stress unpleasant, but it can really take a toll on our bodies and minds. In fact, recent research has found that high levels of stress in middle age can increase risk for Alzheimer’s disease. From the ordinary daily stressors (managing your hectic schedule, refereeing kid’s fights, work demands, etc.) to life’s whoppers (aging parents, divorce, unemployment, etc.), being stressed has become the new normal for so many of us. The great news is that we are doing something every day, every minute, without even thinking, that can help moderate your body’s response to life’s challenges.


Breathing has been scientifically proven to be an effective stress reducer. But not just any breathing, we’re talking about deep breathing. Why is that? Our bodies’ stress responses are hardwired physiological reactions that served to protect us back in the early days of humans. Stress is what told us that we were in danger–usually in danger of not having enough food or the danger in becoming something else’s food. The body has two opposing systems that regulate our basic bodily functions (like breathing, organ function, etc.): sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. When we’re in danger, the sympathetic nervous systems kicks in and we go into fight/flight/freeze mode to survive. Our hearts race, certain “non-essential” organ systems shut down  and blood rushes to our muscles in preparation to run away. Once the danger is no longer a threat, our parasympathetic system starts up and basically calms the body down, slows our heart rate, cues the shutdown systems to go back online, etc.


The fight/flight/freeze mode was okay when it was short lived – when we needed it because we were being chased by a lion. The problem is that now our stress tends to be more chronic. So, we end up being stuck with our sympathetic nervous system in overdrive. Our body gets tired and glitchy. We get sick more, our energy drops, we’re more irritable, and we even have a harder time losing weight, either from eating more to cope with stress or due to the body holding onto fat b/c of the perceived threat to survival!


So, how is breathing going to help? When we engage in deep, slow breathing, we actually cue our parasympathetic system that we’re not in life threatening danger and we can chill out.  Your breathing is strongly tied to our heart rate. Ever notice how when you get worked up about something, either fear or anger, your heart rate picks up, and your breathing becomes faster. So, deep breathing helps slow down the heart, muscle tension eases, pain can even decrease, blood pressure goes down, and mental alertness increases, and even the pH of our blood changes. The amazing thing about all of this is that you can get results even with doing as little as 3 or 5 minutes of deep breathing!


Want to try it?

Here’s a very basic example of a 3 minute breathing practice :

(adapted from Breathing, Stretching, Relaxing Program, VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System–yes, veterans are doing this and they love it!)


Sit upright and gently maintain a natural spine alignment with your hands resting comfortably on your lap.


Either close your eyes or gaze at something on the wall or floor.


Breathe normally and just notice your breath. Notice how the air feels sweeping into and out of your nose. Notice how your body moves with each breath. Notice the pace of your breath, the length of each inhale and exhale. Your mind might wander. If it does, just bring your attention back to your breath.


Start to breath more deeply, from deep down in your abdomen. Count your inhale and exhale length and try to get them to match. Once they’re in sync, try breathing this way three times.


The key to stimulating that parasympathic response is to spend some time breathing out longer than you breath in. For example, you can practice by counting your breath rate, say 1, 2, 3, 4 in, and 1, 2, 3, 4 out, a few times. Then do 1, 2, 3, 4, in, and 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 out, a few times. You can work your way up to a count of 8 out and then back down to 4.


Here are more resources on breathing exercises and guided practices:

UCLA Mindfulness Research Center
Dr. Weil Guided Breathing Exercises
6 Breathing Exercises to Relax  in 10 min or Less (TIME)




How Exercise Could Lead to a Better Brain: Not Saying We Told You So



More news about how exercise is so great for your brain!


Check out this week’s New York Times Magazine for a great piece on how exercise can actually make you smarter! Yes, even for those of us with Menopaused Minds!

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



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!

Memory Tip #4: Avoid Multitasking!


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!