10 Strategies for Preventing Memory Loss as You Age
Just about everyone has memory slip-ups occasionally. Whether you tend to forget names, misplace your keys or leave the grocery store without an item you meant to purchase, you’re not alone if you feel that your memory fails you on occasion.
As people age, those memory glitches can become more common. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to slow — and possibly prevent — memory loss.
We’ve compiled a list of the top 10 strategies you can use to protect your brain and help keep your memory at its best.
1. Use Mental Associations
Using some so-called memory “tricks” can help you keep important names and other information top of mind. When you come across a new word or meet someone new and want to remember their name, say the word out loud.
In addition, try to connect the name or word in your mind with a picture. For example, if you meet someone named Carol, you might picture a group of holiday singers — also known as carolers.
To help you remember required actions during the course of your day — such as taking medications at certain times — use sticky notes in locations where you’ll see them, or set reminders on your mobile device.
2. Continue Learning
Experts say that mental exercise can benefit your brain just as physical exercise benefits your body. By learning a new skill, you take a powerful step to boost your concentration and focus, and those benefits may extend to other activities, such as driving.
You can choose among a variety of activities — including playing games, using a brain-training application on your phone, participating in a book group, or even watching and discussing a movie with friends — to sharpen your memory. Research has found that any activity that challenges your intellect can help keep your brain functioning at its best.
3. Invest in Nutrition
Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet is important for helping prevent memory loss as you age. Research has found that lab animals that eat diets rich in nutrition display more intelligence than do animals with nutrient-poor menus.
For a variety of reasons, many people are unable to eat enough high-nutrient foods to get ample vitamins and minerals. Experts say that individuals who take vitamin supplements experience a lower level of brain shrinkage. Getting the daily requirements of vitamins E, B6, C, B12 and folate can serve as good backup for your brain.
Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and lean proteins is the best policy, however. One study found that people who eat a Mediterranean-type diet with ample produce, fish and olive oil had a 20-percent lower chance of problems with memory and cognition.
4. Stay Active
Aerobic exercise improves blood flow to the brain, which helps create new neurons and increases connections among existing neurons. If you don’t already participate in aerobic exercise on a regular basis, consider adding 30 to 45 minutes of walking, swimming or other heart-pumping activity three times each week.
Experts note that engaging in physical activity is one of the best steps you can take to preserve your mental function and memory as you age. Exercise can help prevent some of the medical conditions that can result in memory loss, including high cholesterol and blood pressure, obesity, stroke, and diabetes.
If you don’t have the time or stamina for long segments of activity, you can try to work shorter bursts into your day by taking stairs instead of elevators, walking instead of driving, and working in the garden.
5. Avoid Smoking
Research has not proven that smoking causes memory loss. However, studies have shown that smokers are worse at recalling people’s faces and names.
Smoking may directly affect memory, or it may cause other health problems that contribute to memory deterioration. For example, smoking raises the risk of having high blood pressure or suffering from a stroke, both of which can impair memory.
In addition, smoking is known to constrict the vessels that carry blood to the brain. In turn, the brain receives less oxygen, which can damage neurons.
6. Clear the Clutter
Having a cluttered home can exacerbate memory issues because you have difficulty finding what you need when you need it.
To keep track of the important things in life, consider using a calendar app on your phone — or a special paper notebook that you keep in a designated location — to record to-do lists and appointments. Put your purse, wallet and keys in the same spot whenever you enter your home.
In addition, try to limit the number of things you do at once. By focusing on the task at hand and the information you’re trying to retain, you increase the chances that you’ll remember later.
7. Eliminate Stress
Experts say stress can have a significant, negative impact on your brain function. Stress triggers high levels of cortisol, which can make retrieving information from your memory more difficult.
To fight stress most effectively, use relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation or massage. Laughing on a regular basis and participating in regular physical activity also can help.
8. Make Time for Sleep
Getting enough sleep is critical for maximizing your memory. Research has found that your focus and concentration suffer when you fail to sleep sufficiently, and your mental function may be impacted as well.
To ensure that you get adequate rest and sleep, avoid eating a heavy meal too close to bedtime, and stay away from alcohol or any food or beverages containing caffeine in the hours before you plan to retire.
In addition, avoid nicotine, and try to get to sleep and wake up around the same time each day, whether on weekdays or weekends.
9. See Your Doctor
If you feel that your memory isn’t what it used to be, it’s important to see your doctor to rule out other medical conditions. For example, diabetes, vitamin deficiencies, thyroid conditions and depression are among the diagnoses that can impact memory.
Some medications, such as those for anxiety and insomnia, also can play a role in memory function. After your exam, be sure to follow your doctor’s recommendations for treating any chronic conditions, and review your medication list with your doctor on a regular basis.
10. Connect With Others
Social interaction can boost your mood, and it also can help your memory. In people who experience social isolation, depression occurs more commonly — and depression can cause memory loss associated with dementia.
By scheduling time for connecting with others, you increase your chances of avoiding stress, warding off depression, and keeping your memory function as high as possible. If you live alone, it’s important to make sure you have people to provide support. Visiting with friends and family members, talking on the phone, and even chatting online all present opportunities for socialization.
At The Brielle, you’ll find ample opportunities for making new friends, staying active, and enjoying nutritious and delicious meals. Our full calendar of stimulating activities, library, lounge and card room, and other amenities help you keep your mind active and your memory sharp. To learn more about gracious living in a natural, wooded setting, please contact us today.