Back in the day, my memory was as sharp as the bell-bottom jeans and velvet suits I used to wear without embarrassment. Movie trivia was my strong suit. In those days, if you asked me the name of the actor who played Sascha, the bartender in Casablanca, the answer would pop into my brain in a nanosecond and take a quick ride on the Synapse Express, then onward to my vocal chords. With a smug smile, I would impress everyone around me by arrogantly mouthing the words, "Leonid Kinskey." And I could even do it after a few joints.
But not anymore. In fact, in order to produce the name Leonid Kinskey for the paragraph above, I had to consult my best friend, the senior's oracle, that awe-inspiring, annoyingly prescient know-it-all named Google.
Like many seniors, I am no stranger to the act of entering a room and forgetting why I'm there; PIN codes and passsords sometimes vanish from my memory; I have on occasion been unsure of the spelling of a word that I have spelled correctly my whole life. I am reasonably certain that this phenomenon is not early-onset Alzheimer's because it happens to too many of my friends and we can't all have it.
But what really bothers me are the senior moments that involve forgetting names of actors and movies, probably because I used to be so good at it.
The other night my wife and I attended an all-Rachmaninoff concert at the LA Philharmonic. On the way, I happened to mention a movie that we both had seen some years ago, an art house film that involved Rachmaninoff's infamous Piano Concerto No. 3. Neither of us could remember the title of the film, although we both could picture the star, whose name we also could not remember. Without at least one of those two pieces of information, even Googling would be a challenge.
So this is how it went: Me: "I think it starts with a G." Her: "Yes! Glenn something." Me: "No, I think it's George something." Her: "Maybe it's not a G." Me: "I'm pretty sure it's a G."
And so on. The truly frustrating thing about these occasional senior moments is that the elusive answer always seems to be on the tip of your tongue. You pound the table; you pull out your hair; you growl. But, like a car that's running out of gas, it just won't make it to the on ramp.
Back to Rachmaninoff: Finally, after emitting the usual flatulent sounds of frustration and agreeing that old age sucks, she said: "You want to do it or shall I?" Sighing, I pulled out my iPhone and typed in the words "Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.3," which was all I had to go on.
After 10 minutes of searching, I stumbled upon it. The movie was Shine, starring Geoffrey Rush. The release date was 1996.
"Aha!" I said proudly. "I knew it started with a G!" How pathetic is that? And how many times have I been absolutely positive about the first letter only to discover that I was totally wrong?
On the other hand, sometimes an obscure name will just pop out of my mouth with no thought whatsoever.
And how long will I remember Geoffrey Rush? Will my short term memory accountant decide it's not worth wasting a precious cell on that information and casually discard it? Is that even how it works?
Some seniors rationalize that these moments have nothing to do with old age, but occur simply because there's just too much information out there and the brain can't absorb it all. These are usually the same people who think 60-year-old men look attractive in Speedos.
The only comfort I derive from this is the knowledge that the same frustrating lapses seem to afflict most of my friends. As they say, misery loves... misery loves... Jesus, what does misery love? It's on the tip of my tongue. Oh yeah. Company. Misery loves company!
That doesn't mean you should pour out a bag of Skittles at each meal. Try to eat foods of a variety of natural colors to gain antioxidants, said Dr. Amen.
Just because something is a fruit, doesn't mean you should chow down on it, according to Dr. Daniel Amen, author of "Use Your Brain To Change Your Age." For brain health, Dr. Amen recommends food with a low glycemic index -- which measures how quickly food increases blood sugar -- and a lot of fiber, which benefits your intestinal tract. Certain fruit like pineapple and watermelon have high glycemic indexes and should be avoided, advises Dr. Amen. Instead, incorporate fruits like blueberries, apples, oranges, cherries, kiwi, strawberries and raspberries. When it comes to fiber, consider adding coconut to your diet. <em>Correction: In a previous version of this slide, "blood pressure" was incorrectly inserted where "blood sugar" is.</em>
Don't eliminate all of the fat in your diet. Instead, focus on incorporating good fats. In fact, if your cholesterol drops too low, you may be at greater risk for depression, according to Amen <a href="http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-breakthrough-depression-solution/201106/low-cholesterol-and-its-psychological-effects" target="_hplink"> and several studies on low cholesterol</a>. So what exactly are "good fats"? Dr. Amen advises people to eat foods rich in omega-3s to promote brain health, including almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, fish, lamb, avocados and green leafy vegetables. Another added benefit of eating good fats? "Your vitamins are actually absorbed better when you eat them with a little bit of fat," said Dr. Amen.
While you generally want to avoid bad fats, if you choose to eat steak, "you want to go with grass-fed, hormone-free, free-range meats" rather than grain-fed meats, said Dr. Amen. "When you feed the animals the high-glycemic foods, they actually produce less of the good fat and more of the bad fat. So they're not as good for you." In other words, what your food eats affects your health too, according to Dr. Amen. <em>Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/mdid/" target="_hplink">mdid</a></em>
Next time you're whipping up some grub, turn to your spice rack for an extra brain boost. Spices and herbs may do more for your health than you realize. According to Dr. Amen, cinnamon balances blood sugar; garlic, oregano and rosemary increase blood flow to the brain; curry acts as an anti-inflammatory; and saffron can have anti-depressant effects. <em>Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/spence_sir/" target="_hplink">S. Diddy</a></em>
Next time you're craving a cold glass of juice with your breakfast, think again. "Juice is sugar that is unwrapped from its fiber source, and whenever you unwrap sugar from its fiber source, it can turn toxic in your body," said Dr. Amen. <em>Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/mamchenkov/" target="_hplink">Leonid Mamchenkov</a></em>
You may be dreaming about that delicious breakfast muffin all night, but you should probably steer clear of the breakfast pastries. "There's way too much bad fat and sugar," said Dr. Amen. Instead, he recommends a protein-heavy breakfast like a few boiled eggs, nuts and an apple. While Dr. Amen suggests eating lean protein at each meal, he believes it is "especially important in the morning because it helps you focus," he said. <em>Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/15216811@N06/" target="_hplink">Nicola since 1972</a></em>
The last thing you need when you're trying to eat healthy are friends who try to coerce you to be unhealthy. "You have to deal with the food pushers in your life because they'll steal your health," said Dr. Amen. "The health of the people you spend time with will often determine your longevity." Make sure your friends understand and support your decision to eat healthier, and try to find other people who who are on the same healthy path as you.
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