Stroke Connection - November/December 2011 - (Page 20)
By Janet Spradlin, Ph.D., ABPP
Rehabilitation Psychologist St. Anthony Hospital Rehabilitation Center Oklahoma City
Memory loss is a common — but nonetheless distressing — stroke deficit. Just as it takes effort to build physical fitness, boosting brain power also takes some effort. irst and foremost, take care of your brain! Just as a car’s function depends on the maintenance it receives, your brain’s function depends on how well you take care of it. A healthier brain means a more efficient memory. Ways to keep your brain healthy include getting enough sleep, eating right, being physically active and managing stress well. Optimizing blood flow and nutrients to the brain is also important and can be done by controlling hypertension and diabetes, and keeping your heart healthy.
1. Pay attention! A very important component of improving your memory is to focus intently on what you are doing. Tell yourself what it is you need to remember. Talking your way through the task can be very helpful in addition to breaking it down into manageable steps. If you are learning the route to a new store in town, verbalize aloud each segment along the way (e.g., turn right at gas station, left at the church, etc.). 2. Challenge your brain!
Try getting out of your normal routine and do things differently. Why not take another route to your destination? Take up a new hobby which you never thought you would. Try using your non-dominant hand to do things.
There are many ways to improve memory and these vary from individual to individual. Here are some tips from stroke and brain injury survivors: Cliff Sandel (hemorrhagic stroke in 2008) uses his cellphone alarm to remind him of appointments. In fact, he said he had forgotten about a recent appointment until his alarm went off about an hour beforehand. Luckily, he made it in time! Cliff is a strong proponent of using and challenging his brain. Prior to his stroke, he played the piano and was an avid reader. Since both skills were affected by his stroke, he now takes piano (and clarinet) lessons and exercises his brain by memorizing poems and pieces of music. Cliff also makes up memory games such as trying to remember the names of all the NFL quarterbacks. Chris Wende (heart attack/brain hypoxia in 2008) says he does Sudoku puzzles to keep his brain sharp. He also uses his computerized calendar to remind him of appointments, and puts things (e.g., keys, wallet, medications) in the same place so he will know where they are. In addition, he asks friends and family to send him reminders via email, text or phone calls. Another trick Chris uses is to park in the same general area, like the top floor of a parking garage. On occasion he has activated his car alarm to find his vehicle. Danny Hill (brain stem stroke in 2006) uses a big dry erase board posted on the wall to remind him of things he doesn’t want to forget. He also keeps a notebook where he writes things down. In addition, he exercises his brain by using repetition and associating specific images or phrases with what he is trying to remember. Reading and doing puzzles also help keep his mind sharp.
3. Stay social! Research shows that engaging in meaningful relationships and social activities contributes to a healthy brain. Get involved with others and don’t f orget to laugh, which has been shown to activate areas of the brain vital to learning and creativity. 4. Use it or lose it!
Because of neuroplasticity, “exercising” our brains can actually change neuronal circuitry by creating new neural pathways and synaptic connections that result in improvement of cognitive a bilities, including memory.
20 S T R O K E C O N N E C T I O N November | December 2011
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