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Education begins the gentleman, but reading, good company and reflection must finish him.
– John Locke  
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  Volume No. 16 Issue No. 8 August 2019  

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Front Page   |   Feature Stories   |   Search This Issue   |   Log In
  Use it or lose it
  By Mark Stoller

   Mark Stoller is a nine-year resident of Colorado. He and his wife, Andra, both U.S. Air Force veterans, moved to Falcon in 2007 and are now raising their three teenage daughters in Latigo. They enjoy their home on the prairie with plenty of room for their six adopted dogs, bagpipes & Celtic Festivals and beekeeping. Mark enjoys the privilege of his wife and daughters being his muse for topics, people to meet and places to investigate.
Unfortunately, it seems that I am losing some mental acuity: memory, focus and concentration.  
   In times of information need, I turn to my fount of knowledge — Google. As a word of caution, any malady you research on Google will result in the sinking feeling you are going to die soon. Just saying!
   However, I did find there are 10 reasons someone could experience “brain fog” and memory loss. Those reasons: 1) hormone deficiencies; 2) lack of sleep; 3) candida (yeast overgrowth in your gut); 4) poor diet; 5) food and environmental allergies; 6) vitamin and mineral deficiencies; 7) prescription drugs; 8) smoking; 9) physical inactivity; and 10) artificial sweeteners. I can relate to at least four of the reasons, and I know I have some dietary and physical decisions to make.  
   Andra is incredibly steadfast in planning healthy meals for our family. I simply lack the self-discipline to say no to the sweets and high carb treats I find at work and along my travels. I have yet to meet a donut I didn’t like! 
   I found an alternative explanation in Professor Richard Restak’s course Optimizing Brain Fitness. Your brain is no different from any other muscle in your body. If you fail to work it, your brain will atrophy.
   Brain plasticity, also called neuroplasticity, refers to the brain's ability to change at any age -– for better or worse. Gray matter can shrink or thicken. Neural connections can be created, weakened and/or severed. 
   In general, we consider that our brains are formed in our youth, develop during the school years, and then — that’s it. On the contrary, intelligence is not a fixed entity. It, too, can be developed to greater extents.
   Medical studies are proving when you exercise your brain, there is a remapping of functional connections, and alternative circuits can be established to compensate for lost or injured areas.
   Where to from here? By challenging your brain to learn new information, throughout the course of your life, you can build up your cognitive reserve. This is the same as saving money for retirement. You can improve your cognitive capacity in later years by gaining knowledge while feeding your curiosity today.
   Based on research, I’ll start by practicing reasoning skills, memory training and processing speed with puzzles and word games such as Scategories and Scrabble-type games. There are many internet sites dedicated to optimizing your brain. Playing music, not just listening to it, has been proven to emphatically affect brain health and function. 
   The brain care trifecta must be respected: diet, sleep, and exercise. Limiting, if not eliminating, processed sugars is a great first step toward overall health. At least six hours of sleep is essential for your brain’s processing capabilities. Lastly, exercise increases blood flow to the brain and is vastly beneficial for an incredible number of processes.
   I have a choice on how I age. I need to exercise my brain, build the cognitive reserve, and enjoy the memories I have and hope to create.
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