Have you been finding it harder to focus these days? Is your memory slipping? Remembering names and dates has become a challenge; your brain is experiencing more fog? As one of my friends once described it, “I feel like I am losing my edge.”
We see cartoons everywhere poking fun at senior moments. And sadly, it seems we have grown to expect aging minds to be demented minds.
Well, I don’t know how you feel about this kind of humor, but I don’t find anything funny about demented brains.
My mother, her mother and two of her sisters suffered with Alzheimer’s. And one of my dear friends is in the late stage of it as I write this. Her husband has been a hero, remaining strong, and determined throughout her decline. But he is exhausted, and hospice has been called in to help.
I have seen first-hand the sadness and pain this hideous disease causes to family members. It’s a slow, cruel disappearing of a person you once knew.
I witnessed my mom’s early stages of dementia as she frequently lost her keys, told the same stories over and over again, got confused with her directions, blamed and accused others of stealing her jewelry, had lost the capability to make dinner for my dad and wasn’t sure what she’d eaten for lunch only a few hours earlier.
I vividly remember one day when I noticed she wasn’t sure which of her four daughters I was. And, eventually, I stood by her bedside tears running down my face, holding her hand and knowing that she didn’t recognize me as one of her daughters at all, or why I had come to the hospice house to visit her.
We all have loved ones who have struggled or are struggling with brain illnesses… whether it be dementia, anxiety, depression, addictions or other mental illnesses. It is not a pretty sight.
I remember when I took a science class in college and our professor brought in a brain for us to examine. It was soaking in formaldehyde. From the outside, the brain looked like pale mush. It was a bumpy looking 3-pound organ, about the size of a large grapefruit but it looked like a large pinkish-gray walnut.
It had the consistency of margarine. There were many folds and creases, and, according to our professor, it was supposed to be soft and squishy. Frankly, I found nothing what so ever attractive about it.
And besides the physical appearance of our brains, we have also developed a number of unattractive beliefs about these organs:
Here’s what medical correspondent Fergus Walsh wrote about his first experience holding a brain:
“When I picked up the human brain in my hands, several things ran through my mind. My immediate concern was I might drop it or that it would fall apart in my hands…. Second, I was struck by how light the human brain is…. The intact human brain weighs only around 3lbs (1.5kg) – just 2% of body weight, and yet it consumes 20% of its energy…. It was only after I’d got used to the feel of the brain in my hands that I could then start to wonder about how such a simple-looking structure could be capable of so much.”
I found myself wanting to learn more. Instead of turning away from it, I wanted to have a more up-close and personal view of this soft and squishy 3-pound, walnut-looking, grapefruit-sized organ. Each step forward found me becoming more fascinated.
I decided to delve deep. Initially, I volunteered to be a ‘lab rat’ in a brain study done by our local University. Soon after, I set about becoming certified as a brain health coach.
After reading dozens of books, watching a plethora of webinars, attending every summit I had access to, listening to podcasts and learning about new research being done; I was hooked!
Our brain not only interprets the world – it creates it.
Everything we see, hear, touch, taste and smell would have none of those qualities without the brain.
I must tell you, I have been absolutely blown away by the miraculous and mystic power of our brains. I have learned to appreciate the magnificence of our beautiful brains and the critical role they play in directing day-to-day life.
I now cherish my brain. I don’t make fun of it anymore, and I do my best to give it my tender loving care. And yes, I now teach my grandchildren about their beautiful brains.
In all my studying of the brain, the biggest “aha!” for me was the knowledge that by taking responsibility and changing some lifestyle habits, we can change our brains. No matter our age! Now, how awesome is that!
I’m sure we have all pondered about what our life might be like in later years. And we can’t help but look at our genetics. I know I certainly do. But what I have come to learn about genetics is that it is not the determining factor… our lifestyle is.
According to Austin Perlmutter, many of us have a misconception that whether or not we get Alzheimer’s or dementia is out of our hands. And this is an incredibly destructive idea. Why? Because it’s simply not true! He explains that by making a few tweaks in our environment and lifestyle we can prevent Alzheimer’s.
In her book, Beautiful Brain, Beautiful You, neurologist Marie Pasinski, MD begins with this:
“In the search for that magic lotion or potion that will make us more beautiful, I’m here to tell you that the answer lies inside your head. That’s right – your brain is the key to improving every facet of your life. […] Your brain is your essence, and it is also the essence of your beauty. By enhancing your mind, you can feel more energetic, creative and alive – all of which makes you more beautiful.”
Don’t you love that word ‘essence’ to describe our brains?
What has become crystal clear to me in my continuing study of brain health is that every day we are confronted with choices about our lives and our brain health. We can choose to mindfully make healthy brain choices, or we can choose to make unhealthy choices. That’s it.
So, let’s do it. Let’s get a brain makeover!
I would love for you to join me and take on the challenge of improving your brain health, your memory, your focus and your mood.
You are never too old or too young to have a beautiful brain day!
What preconceptions about the brain have you grown up with? Since then, which of them have been proven wrong? What do you know about the brain today? If there was a way to give your brain a makeover, would you give it a try?
Tags Brain Health
This is a topic that I think is pretty scary to people . I also am at the beginning stages of forgetting simple things like a persons name I’ve known for 15 years afraid for what lays ahead
Yes, I think most of us have forgotten a name or two. And you’re right it is scary. We will look at some research, strategies and suggestions on that very thing. (My hope is to have the next article to be out in a few weeks).
I would like to see concrete suggestions and strategies for improving brain health.
I appreciate your comment. That’s where we are headed in the next post.
Which next post?
I hope to have the next article published in a few weeks.
This was an introductory article. I will be sharing some information research, and strategies in upcoming articles. (in a few weeks)
Thank you, my MIL had dementia, very disturbing to watch this beautiful woman deteriorate. My family has escaped this but my husband is adopted and we don’t know anything. Everytime he forgets something I wonder. I’m 72, he’s 75. So much unknown
Yes, I agree. Much is unknown, and out of our control. And yet, like so many other chronic illnesses we can focus on healthy steps we can take. My intent is to share what I am learning.
I cared froth my own mother with dementia and watched my mother in law with Alzheimer’s. I joke that I have have covid brain when I can’t recall something, but I too get concerned about what’s to come. I am turning 66 next Tuesday.
I am so glad you mentioned hospice. I am a hospice nurse and spent many hours supporting families who cared for people with some kind of dementia. Such a long road but a privilege to provide unconditional love to someone.
Happy birthday! Ahhhh…you are an angel. Seriously! Thank you for being there to comfort and support the many families, like my own, that would have been lost without you. Your touch, tenderness and care is without doubt the sweetest gift…Thank you for what you do.