Doctors across the globe are seeing a noticeable uptick of patients concerned with memory problems, forgetfulness, and brain fog since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. If you are experiencing more frequent slips in memory, if you are more easily distracted, making more frequent mistakes at work, or feel like you are walking around with your head in a cloud, you’re certainly not alone.
For many people experiencing brain fog for the first time right now, the overload of pandemic-related stress and trauma from a very difficult year is more than likely to blame. Chronic stress and chronically disturbed sleep alone can cause inflammation in the brain which, over time, can damage neurons and affect cognitive functioning and memory.
But there is good news! Our brains are resilient, and when given the opportunity, the degenerative effects of chronic inflammation can be reduced – or even reversed – with certain lifestyle changes. There is light at the end of the tunnel, so, while we emerge from this pandemic let’s consider just a few basic strategies that will help improve your symptoms today.
3 ways to improve symptoms:
1) Get regular aerobic exercise:
Simply put, aerobic exercise increases blood flow to the brain, which helps your brain create new neurons and improve neural connections. A study by the University of Maryland School of Public Health, published in July 2013, showed that people who increased their heart rate with daily moderate exercise “improved their memory performance and showed enhanced neural efficiency while engaged in memory retrieval tasks.”
Regular exercise also down-regulates microglia in the brain. Try to incorporate just 30 minutes a day of moderate physical exercise – such as walking – for a significant impact on your brain health.
2) Eat smarter:
Not surprisingly, nutrition also plays an important role in brain health and there is an impressive amount of research confirming that essential fatty acids, like Omega-3’s, are very beneficial. If DHA levels are low (DHA is a form of Omega-3) the brain is more susceptible to degeneration. Omega-3 fatty acids also help scavenge free radicals (atoms, molecules, or ions with unpaired electrons) that attach inappropriately to tissue and damage it.
Since our bodies are unable to produce these fatty acids on their own, foods rich in Omega-3’s like salmon, shrimp, sardines, eggs, walnuts, and almonds, should make a regular appearance on our plates.
Fruits and vegetables, high in a type of antioxidant called flavonoid, also play a major role in brain health. Foods rich in flavonoids offer a number of neuroprotective properties, and can decrease rates of cognitive decline and potentially slow the progression of many neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s Disease. Foods rich in flavonoids include tea (black, green, oolong), bananas, blueberries, and other colorful berries, onions, apples, citrus, Ginkgo biloba, parsley, red wine, and chocolate!
3) Don’t take your sleep for granted
Sleep deprivation, sleeping less than the amount of time your body needs for growth and repair, is the most common sleep disorder. Adults should have between seven and eight hours a night of restful sleep, yet CDC statistics show that as many as 35% of American adults are not sleeping enough, and this figure is likely to have increased since then.
During sleep, the body repairs itself by calming inflammation and maintaining hormone production. When these two processes – both important elements in brain health – are compromised it can negatively impact your memory, decision-making, the capacity to focus one’s attention, and the ability to complete complex creative activities, among other things.