Get Your B's...
Vitamin B12 is vital to clear thinking, but as you age, your body has a harder time extracting it from foods such as milk, meat, and fish.
Smart move: With your doc's okay, take a daily B-complex supplement containing 1,000 micrograms (mcg) of B12, advises Marwan Sabbagh, M.D., author of The Alzheimer's Answer (John Wiley and Sons, 2008). Make sure it has at least 400 mcg of the B vitamin folate, which can improve mental speed. Serious B12 deficiency can be corrected with injections.
...And Your Z's
Low-quality (and -quantity) shuteye can seriously sap mental clarity, says Cornell University sleep expert James Maas, Ph.D. The brain moves memories into long-term storage during deep sleep, he explains. "Anything that disrupts this process can interfere with the ability to retain this information."
Smart move: Stick to one bedtime and keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and cool. Limit caffeine, night-lights, naps, and nightcaps, all of which can zap sleep. If that doesn't do it, ask your doc for a referral to an accredited sleep-disorders center. Fixing a condition such as sleep apnea could clear your mind.
Boosting your activity level can increase brain volume and enhance cognitive function. In an Australian study, people with mild memory impairments performed better on cognitive tests after walking 150 minutes a week for 6 months. Exercise increases the flow of blood to the brain, and it controls insulin and other chemicals linked to cognitive problems, notes John Murphy, M.D., president of the American Geriatric Society.
Smart move: "If you exercise even a little, it's better than doing nothing," says Murphy. "The point is to do more than you're doing now."
Mind Your Meds
A variety of medications can cloud your concentration, notes Sabbagh. Tops on his list: a class of drugs called anticholinergics, found in some bladder, allergy, and sleep remedies. Drugs such as sedatives and seizure-control meds can also produce brain fog.
Smart move: If concentration difficulties coincide with a new drug you're taking, alert the physician who prescribed it. And any time you feel your mind or memory failing you, tote your pills to your doctor's office, Sabbagh says. The doc can work with specialists to hunt for a better mix.