I have anxiety issues.
And it started long before COVID-19 made it the Theme of the Day. If you’ve read any of my prior posts (see links below) I’m sure this comes as no surprise. I’ve talked about my battle with panic attacks, which began in my teens when I was rushed to the hospital after I passed out from hyperventilating.
So that was fun.
It didn’t end there, either.
I became almost completely agoraphobic a couple of years ago after a major panic attack on my way to the gym left me shaken and never wanting to leave the house again. It got so bad that a short trip to the grocery store was terrifying. The trip itself wasn’t the only problem. Shopping in the store was even worse.
Driving on a freeway became impossible, even if someone else drove. Once I nearly jumped out of a moving vehicle in a blind panic.
The severity of my situation motivated me to finally accept that I needed medication if I ever wanted to do more than lie in bed with the covers over my head.
Granted, it took over 50 years to realize I couldn’t go it alone, regardless of how much I meditated, breathed deeply and did all the other natural methods I could find. I am stubborn that way.
None of this belongs on anyone’s fun-times bucket list.
Although I’m nearly anxiety free, I occasionally want to run screaming out of the room for no apparent reason. When I told my doctor, she suggested upping the dosage of my medication.
That small bump-up in my Rx brought on headaches and heart palpitations. So I’m stuck in that 80/20 zone of feeling good 80% of the time to freaking out the rest.
It’s definitely better; at least I can function like a normal human being in most social situations. Thoughts still swirl like an F-5 tornado in my brain, but now they fizzle out fairly quickly where they used to build in intensity in the past, tearing up every cognitive trailer park in my head.
One of my biggest worries? I fear losing my mental faculties. Although some days I feel that ship has already sailed.
It’s actually a legitimate concern.
Fact is, our brains naturally shrink with age.
This on top of memory loss associated with menopause (which, thankfully, seems temporary), it’s a wonder I can string together a coherent sentence, let alone write this blog post.
If you’ve also noticed a difference in your own memory or other brain-powered activities, the good news is you can reduce those changes by taking a few simple steps…
Check out these science-based brain-boosting tactics:
1. Get blood pressure and cholesterol under control
A healthy heart links to better brain functioning, according to a 2014 study. Yup, while you’re taking care of your ticker you’re also preserving brain cells.
2. Go easy on indulgences
Smoking increases risk of dementia, so quit that ASAP if it’s an issue for you. Plus, drinking more than in moderation, which for women is no more than one drink a day, can also increase risk to your brain.
3. Seek out mental stimulation
Staring at a TV all day long does little good for your fat cells or your brain cells. Learn new skills, play mentally challenging games and engage in other activities that require you to use your noodle. My 81-year old dad completes a crossword puzzle every day, which I’m sure keeps him sharper than the average bear.
4. Move it move it
You knew I’d include this one, right? But it’s not a fake fact: Exercise is a proven way to keep your brain firing on all cylinders, as proven in several studies.
It does this in a few different ways. Regular exercise reduces inflammation, improves the body-brain connection (the “roadway” between muscle cells and brain cells stays better preserved), it boosts parts of the brain involved in motor control and balance and helps indirectly by lowering stress, improving mood and providing a better overall quality of live.
In short, what’s not to love?
NOW YOU… Did you notice a change in your brain power after you hit the half-century mark? Let me know in the comments section below…
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