Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Have you forgotten something?

Losing your keys, or forgetting why you’ve gone into a room? These things happen to us all, believe it or not, but they do tend to happen more as we get older – usually because we’re thinking about something else. Among my peers it’s also fairly classic to come to a standstill in the middle of a sentence because one of us has suddenly forgotten the film or its star that was on the tip of our tongue a nano-second earlier.

Normal memory problems
If this happens to you, too, the good news is it’s not a sign of dementia, according to memory experts. Instead, this kind of tip of the tongue syndrome is what’s known as an “attentional problem” (which means that the harder we try to remember the name of that film or celeb, the more elusive it becomes) and though it does tend to happen more frequently as we get older, it’s usually for the simple reason that we’re not really so interested in ‘’what’s-his-name-from-that-film-with-the-ditzy-blonde-and-the-car-chase”.

The quick fix
In this case, the best solution is to change the subject – always guaranteed to release that information, albeit sadly when you no longer need it.

There are things we can all do to generally improve our memories.  For example, the herbal remedy ginkgo biloba improves circulation, transporting blood and oxygen around the body to wherever it’s needed – including the brain.

And, whatever your age, you’re more likely to score well in a memory or brain function test if you lead a healthy life:
.  Exercise regularly (at least 30 minutes brisk walking five days a week)
. Keep your weight in the safe zone (BMI 19-25).
. Don’t smoke
. Be health-savvy: avoid or treat hypertension, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes – all of which can contribute to memory problems by interfering with circulation in the brain, which is the most blood thirsty part of the body.

‘Started in your 40s, a healthy lifestyle like this will also reduce your risk of dementia in later life,’ says Dr Marie Janson of Alzheimer’s Research UK 

Need to know...
Of course one of the main blocks to us taking steps to avoid dementia is that most of us imagine it will never happen to us – even though it happens to one in 20 “other people” once they pass the age of 65. By the time it is happening to us, we will be unaware of it... But this is such a major health problem worldwide that, according to Professor Sube Banerjee, professor of mental health and ageing at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College, London, so much is spent on treating those affected that, ‘if dementia was a business instead of an illness it would be the richest company in the world’.

It can happen to anyone!
There are an estimated 35.6 million people with dementia worldwide and by 2050 the number will rise to over 115 million, according to Alzheimer’s Disease International, making it something we really can’t afford to ignore – as I was reminded just last week. Ironically, the day after attending a dementia think tank for health writers, I turned up for a yoga class with an empty gym bag, and no kit...

My excuse was that I’d been too busy checking my blackberry and locating my keys while simultaneously packing – or not packing – my bag. But that didn’t make it any less disconcerting, and, as I struggled through sun salutations in my jeans and jumper, I could only reassure myself that at least my yoga practice would clear the clutter in my mind - so the day could only get better...!

Happy herbal healing

I’ve just read today’s news that thyme could be a more effective treatment for acne than medicated creams, according to research at Leeds Metropolitan University. I’m sure anyone with spotty skin will be delighted to hear that a truly effective natural remedy could soon be on the market, and of course acne can hit us at any age, not just our teens (your risk spikes again as you head towards menopause, a time when many women also feel just as volatile as their teenage daughters).
I’m a great fan of herbal remedies as my long suffering friends and family will testify. If someone has a cold, I’m pushing the Echinacea. If someone’s feeling a bit blah, I always recommend Rhodiola. And if insomnia’s a problem I’m assured that the right dose of Valerian is a safe and effective remedy that won’t leave you feeling groggy the morning after.
My advice when buying herbal remedies is to look for the THR licence number on the packaging. This means that the product has been tested for quality and safety, and contains the ingredients it claims to contain (you actually have no guarantee of this without the THR licence).  
There are of course other great herbal remedies you can make for yourself – sage, for example, is hailed as the best treatment for a sore throat if you make a tea from it (use dried or fresh leaves) that you can gargle, according to the naturopath Michael Van Straten.  And Feverfew is apparently a great sandwich ingredient if you have a migraine!
So, yes, I will be thrilled when thyme is put into a skin cream and I hope it’s as successful as scientists think it will be. For more information on the thyme story, see