Sunday, April 10, 2011

Memory loss and fibromyalgia

Memory loss and disorientation are two of the most challenging symptoms of fibromyalgia. Suddenly not knowing where you are can lead to embarrassment or even panic. Here are 6 expert-recommended tips for preventing fibro fog…

We all sometimes forget grocery items or loved ones’ birthdays, but for people with fibromyalgia, memory lapses happen more frequently and can be more severe.

The chronic pain disorder triggers a sudden forgetfulness known as “fibro fog” or “brain fog.” It changes cognitive functioning and leads to memory loss or other thought-processing problems, says Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., fibromyalgia expert and author of From Fatigued to Fantastic! (Avery Trade).

Actual brain loss may be a cause, some researchers believe. Fibromyalgia patients showed 10 times the gray matter loss than those aging normally, according to a 2007 study by Montreal’s McGill Centre for Research on Pain.

Fibro fog can also cause episodic disorientation – 30-90 seconds of suddenly not knowing where you are or where you’re going, says Teitelbaum. That happens in a third of women with fibromyalgia, often when they’re turning onto a freeway exit or shopping at the grocery store.

These cognitive problems may make fibromyalgia patients fear they’re developing Alzheimer’s disease, but the two aren’t related, Teitelbaum says.

“Fibro brain fog can make you lose your keys,” he explains. “Alzheimer’s makes you forget how to use a key.”

More good news: You can ease symptoms of brain fog. Here are 6 tips from fibromyalgia experts:

1. Fibro fog lifter: Get enough sleep.
Fibro patients often start the day exhausted. They struggle to fall and stay asleep and often suffer from a variety of sleep disorders.

Daily fatigue triggers cognitive problems, says Roland Staud, M.D., professor of medicine at the University of Florida’s rheumatology department. So the more sleep-deprived you are, the more symptoms of fibromyalgia fog you’ll suffer.

Try it: Treatment depends on the cause of your sleep issues. So work with your doctor to find out what’s keeping you awake, advises Teitelbaum.

If it’s restless leg syndrome (RLS), a common fibromyalgia symptom, your doctor may prescribe dopamine agonists, anti-anxiety drugs or anticonvulsants.

If you’re wired from anxiety and depression, ask your physician about taking a combination of melatonin and the antidepressant fluoxetine, which eased sleep problems for participants in a 2010 study published in the Journal of Pineal Research.

Keeping healthy sleep habits can also help you rest better. Teitelbaum offers these tips:

* Put the bedroom clock out of arm’s reach and facing away from you so you can’t see it.

* Take a hot bath before bed.

* Don’t drink alcohol near bedtime.

* Skip caffeine after 4 p.m.

(Get more sleep tips for people with fibromyalgia in our article Losing Sleep Over Fibromyalgia?)

2. Fibro fog lifter: Take ribose supplements.
Ribose, a natural simple sugar, plays a key role in metabolism. And “anything that improves energy production in the cells helps brain cells,” Teitelbaum says.

Specifically, ribose is a component of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), considered the body’s energy molecule. ATP helps the body use key nutrients, such as vitamin B1, that are necessary for proper brain function, says Teitelbaum.

Ribose improved mental clarity an average of 30% in a 2006 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. It also increased energy an average of 61%, says Teitelbaum, one of the study’s lead researchers.

Try it: Take 5 grams (g) of ribose, three times a day (15 grams total) for three weeks.

Then drop it to 5 g twice a day, “although you may find that 3 g twice a day is enough to prevent mental cloudiness,” Teitelbaum says.

3. Fibro fog lifter: Exercise.
Working out can physically grow your brain. Exercise increases the right and left sides of the hippocampus, the part of the brain involved in memory, according to a 2011 University of Illinois study.

And “the increased blood flow that occurs when our heart pumps faster enhances concentration, learning and memory,” says Marie Palinski, staff neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, faculty member at Harvard Medical School and author of Beautiful Brain, Beautiful You (Hyperion).

Try it: The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 minutes of activity on most days of the week for adults. Low-impact activities, such as swimming, are usually recommended for people with fibromyalgia, but check with your doctor or a physical therapist before starting a new workout.

It’s also important to stay active throughout the day too.

“Revving up your heart rate by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking faster, or standing during phone calls improves mental clarity,” Palinski says.

And cut back on TV time, as hard as that may be when you’re achy and exhausted. Too much TV drains you of energy and makes you even more tired and foggy.

“Numerous studies have found that excessive TV watching is associated with depression, lower cognitive function and a decline in overall physical health,” Palinski says.

4. Fibro fog lifter: Change your routine.
A new daily routine challenges both your mind and body.

“When stuck in a rut, we’re constantly treading the same brain pathways,” Palinski says. “Engaging in a new activity literally wakes up our brains.”

That’s because the brain has to lay new neural pathways to process new information.

Try it: Trade the treadmill for a stationary bike, shop at a different store, take an alternate route home, or try a new recipe.

And go outside your social comfort zone, Palinski advises. The next time you’re in the supermarket checkout line, start chatting with a stranger. Meeting new people and engaging in conversation forces your brain to pay attention.

5. Fibro fog lifter: Commune with nature.
Our multi-tasking modern lives – with computers, TV, texting, tweeting, emails and cell phone calls all going at once – can overstimulate the brain and increase stress levels.

“Our brains can only hold one thought at a time,” Palinski says. Constant interruptions disrupt our ability to focus, concentrate and retain information.

Try it: Nature has a calming effect. So walk in the park, take the scenic route home, stop to watch the sunset, or just gaze at evening stars.

People who walked through a wooded park for 15 minutes significantly improved their performance on an attention test, according to a 2008 University of Michigan study. Those who walked on noisy city streets before testing stayed the same.

“The beauty of nature will give your prefrontal cortex – the area of your brain that helps you focus – an opportunity to recharge,” Palinski says.

6. Fibro fog lifter: Practice yoga, tai chi or mindfulness meditation.
Relaxing activities such as yoga, tai chi and meditation can improve problems with sleep, fatigue, poor memory and anxiety – all of which are linked to brain fog, according to many studies.

For example, women with fibromyalgia on an eight-week program of meditation and gentle yoga poses had a 42% drop in depression and 30% decline in fatigue, according to a 2010 Oregon Health and Science University study.

Yoga also reduces inflammation, which can trigger fibro fog, a 2010 Ohio State University study found. Researchers discovered that the ancient Indian practice lowered the levels of cytokine interleukin-6 and IL-6 – two inflammatory markers – in the blood.

Try it: Sign up for yoga classes at your local gym or YWCA or rent instructional DVDs from the library.

If possible, practice outside, advises Teitelbaum. “The combination of exercise with sunshine and fresh air can help reduce brain fog.”

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1 comment:

  1. Fibromyalgia is chronic disease. There is no cure of this disease but treatment can reduce the development of this disease. Fibromyalgia and Alzheimer's treatment