You've Changed Your Meds
Anti-depressants can affect mood and concentration when you go on or off them. Antihistamines, sedatives, and anti-anxiety medications can cause lingering drowsiness, and antidepressants, beta blockers, and other medicines can cloud your mind. People who take statins sometimes notice a loss of mental clarity, says Dr. Orford. A daily dose of Coenzyme Q10 may counteract this effect. As for sleeping pills — please.
Write down all the meds you take or recently stopped taking and review this list with your doctor. Ask if any of them are known to cause concentration problems when people go on or off them, or mix them with other medications, or take them long term. Educate yourself about the drugs on your list so you can have a more fruitful discussion.
Go to the National Library of Medicine's PubMed Health [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/], MedLine Plus [nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/] and DailyMed [dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/] Web sites for good information.
You're Quitting Smoking
Yaaay! Two things to remember when you're tempted to cheat: 1. The more and longer you smoke, the more gray matter you lose. That's proven. The sooner you quit, the more you maintain. 2. Yes, you'll have trouble concentrating as you go through nicotine withdrawal, says Christopher Kahler, professor of behavioral and social sciences in the public health program at Brown University. It's a common complaint. But that passes, and the mental-health boost you get from quitting more than compensates: You did what? You quit smoking? Wow. "There's a lot of psychological benefit to it," he says.
The happier you feel when you tackle quitting, the more likely you are to succeed, says Kahler. His tips for boosting mood: Track three good things that happen to you each day and write about them each night. Write a letter of thanks to someone you never thanked for something and deliver it. If you can spend some of the money you save by not smoking, skip the material purchases and do something fun with a friend. Shared experiences generate lasting happiness.
Your Diet Has Deteriorated
What you eat can have a major impact on mental clarity, says Laura Middleton, assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. Bad eating habits increase your risks of obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol and related ills that can impair cognitive function, and being overweight or obese makes it harder to stay active, which is essential for brain health.
Middleton's motto is "If it's good for the heart and cardiovascular system, it's good for the brain." She advises sticking to the principles of the Mediterranean Diet: A diet high in fish and vegetables and lower in meat, saturated fat and processed foods. If sweets and other junk food are your downfall and you're able to cut back, magic can happen: Brain fog, energy crashes, hunger pangs may dissipate.
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