Improving Attention in Inattentive ADHD

Most everyone knows that eating junk, having to much stress in your life, and lack or exercise and sleep are bad for you but it turns out that for people with ADHD, these bad habits can wreak total havoc on our attention, focus and memory.

Every once in a while I feel compelled to look into the latest research of advice that my mother has been giving me for a very long time. I found recently published studies in respectable journal regarding most of this advice and it's relation to cognition and memory. My mother sincerely believes that she is mostly right about everything. I would not go that far but she is most certainly right when it comes to her advice regarding what we eat, how much we sleep and how much exercise and stress are in our lives.

I will not say that one of these things is more important than the other as I think that each one of these factors plays a critical role in how well our brains and the brains of our children performs. Recent studies in the area of diet, exercise, sleep, and stress reduction have reinforced the notion that with regards to our cognitive function, how we live makes a tremendous difference in our ability to attend and to focus. I think that the recently published studies in these areas are worth mentioning.

Our diet is with us every day and the decisions we make with regards to what we eat may be one of the most important determinants of our current and future cognitive functioning. A September 2009 article in the Journal of Nutrition reported that "A greater intake of high-antioxidant foods such as berries, Concord grapes, and walnuts may increase "health span" and enhance cognitive and motor function."

Getting walnuts into kids is sometimes a chore so I have taken to using walnut oil and grape seed oil (a great antioxidant) to cook and to bake.   These oils are delicious and nutritious and both of these oils are more forgiving than olive or canola oil when it comes to frying chicken nuggets as they both have a higher smoking point AND a higher flash point so you can fiddle with the temperature of the oil without totally ruining your entire frying endeavor.  I don't know about you but chicken nuggets can be easily burnt on the outside and raw on the inside unless the oil is just right.

Exercise is another important tool in our arsenal that improvescognition in ADHD. In the August 2010 edition of the journal Developmental Neuroscience, Dr L. Chaddock reported that "Higher aerobic fitness levels are associated with greater hippocampal volumes, superior performance on tasks of attention and interference control, and elevated event-related brain potential indices of executive function." Dr. Chaddock's research showed that increased childhood aerobic fitness is associated with greater dorsal striatal volumes and that this is related to enhanced cognitive control.

People with ADHD can have severe sleep issues but a good night’s sleep can help memory and cognitive function which is why managing sleep issues is essential to the complete treatment of Inattentive ADHD as well as all other types of ADHD. Research has been ongoing on the role of sleep in Brain Development with the most recent conclusion being that; "The importance of both REM sleep and NREM sleep states in normal synaptic development lend support to their functional roles in brain maturation. Both sleep states appear to be important for neuronal development, but the corresponding contribution is likely to be different." Reports Dr. P.D. Peirano in the May 28th, 2007 Biological Research Journal.

We are only now learning how important reducing stress is to improving cognition and memory. Dr. L. Eiland reports in the September, 2010 Hippocampus Journal that "Life stress produces long-term alterations in cognition, emotionality, and stress responsiveness." He report that adult male rats exposed to early life stress, in the form of maternal separation, exhibit baseline impairment of hippocampal dependent memory. The hippocampus is the part of your brain that is responsible for some memories and Dr. Eiland's study has shown that stress decreases the size of the hippocampus.

We often look for external interventions to our focus, memory and attention problems without first cleaning up our bad habits. As we venture into a new school year I will try to feed myself and my children better, I will try to get us all to bed early, I will try to eliminate as much stress as possible from my lives and theirs and I will
make sure that all of us get outside and exercise at least 5 days every week.

Humor me. You all do the same.

1 comment:

  1. Love this post, especially the part "We often look for external interventions to our focus, memory and attention problems without first cleaning up our bad habits."
    Thanks !!!


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