Dr. Karen Pollard - HeadshotDr. Karen Pollard

Dr. Karen Pollard is a clinical neuropsychologist specializing in memory and memory loss disorders. She recently started Brain Wellness International, PLLC, to focus on helping people get the most out of their brainpower and prevent memory loss. Visit brainwellnessinternational.com, email drkarenpollard@gmail.com, or call 336-310-9260.

Allow me to introduce myself … I’m Dr. Karen, your memory doc. I’m here to answer your questions about anything memory-related.

Memory loss is a scary thought for many, but I have found in my career that a lot of that fear comes from the unknown. So don’t be shy; I’m here to help!

Since this is my first column, I’ll begin by answering one of the questions I have heard the most in my clinical practice: “How can I keep my brain healthy as I age?”

There are two main things that I advise people to do

  1. Employ healthy lifestyle habits that reduce risk of memory loss.
  2. Do everything you can to facilitate early detection of serious memory changes.

There are many lifestyle habits that we can all employ that will reduce our risk of memory loss in the future. First and foremost, exercise! Research has shown that exercising 30 minutes per day on at least five days per week will significantly slow progression of cognitive decline for many; in other words, it keeps your brain strong.

It doesn’t even have to be strenuous exercise; walking will do the trick. And even if you have time restrictions or physical restrictions, you can achieve this goal—just break it down into smaller chunks. Exercise for 15 minutes twice a day, 10 minutes three times a day, or 5 minutes six times a day. Just make sure to get your 30 minutes in.

The next lifestyle habit is eating a healthy diet; easier said than done, I know. The Mediterranean diet is recommended for brain health. This means that you eat lots of leafy, green veggies, lean meats, and try to increase your intake of omega 3s and antioxidants while limiting intake of saturated fats and processed foods. Nothing new here; just reinforcing what health professionals have been preaching for years.

Other lifestyle habits that keep your memory strong include reducing stress, staying mentally active (continual learning is best), and getting proper sleep. All of these strategies have been shown to improve brain health and—bonus—they improve cardiac and overall health as well.

The other main thing you can do is work to facilitate early detection. This means becoming your own health advocate, learning and investing in your cognitive future, and giving your doctors all the information so they can make the right decisions as early as possible. Many people wait to seek professional help regarding memory loss until it’s too late to do much to slow it down.

It’s better to be proactive than reactive, right? Get a baseline evaluation to know how your brain works BEFORE there’s a problem; that way, your doctors can detect issues as early as possible and get you on the right treatment path BEFORE it’s too late. It’s like getting life insurance for your brain; hopefully, you will never need it, but if you do, you’ll be so glad you have it.

Have you already developed healthy brain habits and invested in becoming your own healthcare advocate, as discussed above? If so, wonderful! If not, make a change today. You too can set yourself up for the best cognitive future.