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Brain Power

July 2002

Memory loss and difficulty concentrating are two of the neurological symptoms associated with HIV infection. They are also side effects associated with some antiretroviral medications. At best, problems remembering or concentrating are simply annoying or frustrating. At worst, they can be debilitating. While these neurological problems remain among the most complained about symptoms and side effects, there are strategies for managing these symptoms and side effects that may prove beneficial.

Exercise Your Brain

The brain, just like muscles in the body, requires use to stay strong. Exercising your brain, so to speak, will keep you mentally strong. Over the past several years there have been numerous studies showing a direct correlation between mental exercises -- such as puzzles, games, and reading -- and mental alertness and acuity, particularly among senior citizens. Several studies, for example, have shown that persons with Alzheimer's disease who regularly work crossword puzzles have demonstrated slower neurological disease progression than persons with Alzheimer's who did not engage in doing crossword puzzles or similar activities.

Other activities, such as games which require remembering objects, placement of objects, names, or facts are good mental exercises. Fictional literature, where the reader is required to remember characters, plots, and details about a story, is also an excellent tool for keeping one's memory sharp. Television game shows, too, engage the brain and help sharpen memory and concentration skills. One study showed that television trivia games such as Jeopardy! and deductive games such as Wheel of Fortune, where viewers actively play along with the contestants, increased memory and deductive reasoning skills in viewers by twenty percent over a similar group who did not watch similar game shows.

Regularly reading, working puzzles, and playing mentally challenging games, therefore, can help improve one's memory and concentration skills and may help improve long-term concentration abilities and memory retention.

Feed Your Brain

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Foods rich in essential fatty acids (EFAs) are known as "brain foods." Fish, nuts, and seeds are high sources of omega-3, -6, and -9 fatty acids. In addition to foods rich in EFAs, there are a variety of nutritional supplements available which offer a wide spectrum of EFA choices. Max DHA, Supercritical DHA 100, and Total EFA are among several fish oil supplements rich in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a source of omega-3 fatty acid. DHA is commonly found in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and Arctic fish.

Dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE) is also found in fish. DMAE plays a role as a choline precursor in the liver, and Choline assists in the regulation of acetyl-choline in the brain. DMAE and Choline are widely available in tablet form as nutritional supplements for mental clarity. One particular product, Super Choline, combines ginkgo biloba (see below), choline, and DMAE in one capsule, and may be one of the better memory and concentration supplements available.

Nut and seed fatty acid supplements include Flax Seed, Borage, and Primrose. These supplements can usually be purchased in soft gel capsule form; or, in a liquid (oil) form. Flax seeds can also be purchased whole or milled and added to recipes to increase alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), a source of omega-3 fatty acid.

Specific herbs also support clear and proper brain function. Ginkgo Biloba is probably the best known herb for memory and concentration. Herbal combinations such as Neurozyme contain ginkgo biloba in combination with other herbs such as Gotu Kola, Cat's Claw, Turmeric, and other herbs to enhance mental clarity.

In general, combinations like Total EFA, Neurozyme and Super Choline are more effective at mental support than individual fatty acids, amines, or herbs. The synergistic effect of multiple enhancers working together ensures that the brain is receiving all of the nutrients it needs to function properly.




  
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This article was provided by AIDS Survival Project. It is a part of the publication Survival News.
 

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