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Local Author's Book Chock-full Of Memory Tips


Local Author's Book Chock-full Of Memory Tips

by Debra Carr-Elsing, The Capital Times, July 20, 2006

Eat, drink and remember.

This simple advice is based on the fact that brain cells are nourished with a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Besides that, dehydration can lead to poor concentration so drink lots of water, especially during these hot summer months. And don't forget that regular exercise will help keep your brain active too. People who exercise briefly each day are more alert and quicker mentally. Chances are, if you exercise regularly, you'll sleep better - and that's another key to keeping mental powers in shape.

It's also a good idea to do things differently, vary your routine. Learn new things, and be an active listener.

Forgetfulness may indicate nothing more than having too much on your mind. So slow down, and pay attention to the task at hand.

Practice deep breathing. As your brain receives more oxygen, you will likely think better and remember more.

These are some of the suggestions in a new book by Madison author Shelley Peterman Schwarz, president of Meeting Life's Challenges. Titled "Memory Tips for Making Life Easier™" (Attainment Co., 2006; $25, paperback), the book is available online at Amazon.com and through Schwarz's Web site: www.MakingLifeEasier.com.

"Strategies in the book will help people who are living with chronic illness or a disability, as well as their caregivers and anyone who struggles with age-related memory loss," Schwarz says.

So the large cohort of baby boomers reaching their retirement years could benefit from these memory enhancing techniques. Ditto for people with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, arthritis, fibromyalgia, diabetes and osteoporosis.

"This is all about getting on with life after a chronic illness or disability," Schwarz says. She knows what she's talking about.

In 1979, Schwarz was diagnosed with MS shortly before her 33rd birthday. Two years later when the effects of the illness started to restrict her mobility, Schwarz retired from her job as a teacher of the hearing impaired.

"At the time, my children were young, and for the first 11 years, my condition worsened every single day," Schwarz says. "It was a nightmare, like an out-of-control train - it just kept going. I felt like I was dying, cell by cell, and there was nothing I could do to stop it."

With the support of her husband, Schwarz tried a lot of conventional and alternative treatments, including hyperbaric oxygen and bee venom therapy. There were few positive benefits.

"Fortunately, the progression of the disease has stopped, but I have been unable to stand on my own for 23 years," Schwarz says.

"Still, I refuse to miss out on my life or the lives of my family and friends because I can't use my legs or my arms."

Throughout her medical journey, Schwarz has discovered helpful techniques and products, which she shares with others in a series of books and newspaper columns. She also speaks to national organizations and appears regularly on WISC-TV, offering information on aids and devices that can make life easier for people with disabilities.

"We can all live happy, productive lives," she says.

Schwarz also shares her knowledge and personal experiences in teleclasses and through an electronic newsletter that's available through her Web site.

"Living with the effects of a chronic illness is like playing a game where there are no rules," Schwarz says. Adjustments and strategies that you used to successfully navigate one day get thrown out the window the next day.

"An illness may not be able to be cured, but you can thrive and make the best of living with it, and you can get back some control," Schwarz says.

"There have been ups and downs with my health, but I'm enjoying the good days. And the bad days, well, I just chalk up that everybody has them."

In her "Memory Tips" book, Schwarz offers tips for caregivers of those with moderate to more advanced memory loss. She also gives suggestions to help readers find services, resources and products to assist anyone dealing with memory loss.

A section in the book talks about traveling with memory related issues, and there are discussions about getting organized and developing memorable habits. At all costs, an overly busy lifestyle should be avoided.

It's also a good idea to use Post-it notes, make lists, create "cheat sheets" and construct timelines. Studies have shown that if you write things down, you're 100 to 200 percent more likely to remember the item and complete the task.

Besides that, count the number of items you're taking with you - such as your purse, notebook and umbrella - before you go out the door, then when you move from place to place, do a recount to make sure you're not leaving anything behind.

"Many times we forget things like names, dates and times because we're not paying full attention when the information is shared," Schwarz warns. "So make a conscious decision to 'listen up.'"

Normal aging changes the brain and often makes it less efficient, Schwarz says. The good news is that experience can compensate for lost brain capacity.

Memory tips are important to people with fibromyalgia because they often have "fibro fog," or unclear thinking, Schwarz says, and 40 to 60 percent of people with MS have cognitive issues.

"Attitude is everything," she says. "Having a positive attitude makes anyone more alert and receptive to receiving and remembering information."

Keep your perspective too.

"You're not the only one who's placed a coffee cup on the roof of your car and driven away," Schwarz says. "It happens. Take note of it, but unless you feel it's unusually frequent, don't be concerned."

"Everyone has difficulty remembering things at times. Try to focus on how much you do remember rather than what you don't."

Besides that, know your limits. Overextending yourself, whether at work or play, can have detrimental effects on your body.

"Increased stress from too much to do, and aches and pains from overdoing, make it harder to concentrate and remember," Schwarz says.

"If you find yourself forgetting things, take a look at your busy lifestyle."

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