We all need help with our hippocampus. Once we reach adulthood (as in 20), it shrinks. By the time a person reaches 70-years old, there’s an 80% chance that changes in the hippocampus will affect memory and learning.
This area deep inside our brain is more sensitive than the princess and the pea. Head injury, stress, inflammation, hypertension, and viruses can damage it. We need this part of our brain for learning and memory. Loss of hippocampus mass is associated with Alzheimer’s and with depression. It rests near the olfactory bulb which means lack of taste or smell, as with covid-19, can be a sign of harm.
Although there are some things I’d like to forget, I rely on my hippocampus for my livelihood and keeping it big is important for my future. Imagine my alarm when two studies came out recently pointing to factors that contribute to shrinking it.
One linked shrinkage to bad diet. Consumption of roast meat, sausages, hamburgers, steak, chips, crackers, and soft drinks shrank the left hippocampus, even if the indulgences were short term. Mind you, I read this at the end of birthday month in our household–July–when we have five events spread over fifteen days, accompanied by plenty of cake, grilling, & celebrating Better Made’s anniversary.
The second hypothesized that too much coffee (6 cups or more) shrinks your brain and can cause dementia. I don’t drink six cups of coffee, I drink two at the most. But they aren’t small cups nor is the coffee weak. Seventy and beyond could be bleak for me. Is there any hope?
What helps your brain ward off the ravages of time and place? One answer is flavonoids.There are six different categories of these plant molecules and eating from every category is recommended. You’ll need to load up on tea, red wine/grape juice, chocolate, citrus fruits, parsley, berries, soy, and other good stuff as outlined in the link.
Chronic stress attacks the brain chemically, and this can explain why PTSD is so damaging. Childhood poverty and stressful events, especially before age 8, shrink the hippocampus and have been related to life-long learning problems.(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5253253/) Avoiding stress is an important factor in brain health and highlights the need for anti-poverty programs.
It’s uncertain if the brain can regrow itself but new connections are made when we learn or teach new things, even non-academic skills such as as quilting, gaming, and photoshop.
These studies have implications for education and for daily living. Exercise, enough sleep, and healthy meals along with less stress and no cramming facilitate learning. Taking breaks and spacing out tasks is a brain-healthy approach to learning and to chores in general. Apparently, no pain no gain doesn’t apply to the brain.
To save your brain, forget the extra coffee and the meth. Take a break. Enjoy a new skill–no pressure. And don’t forget the parsley.