Even if you’re experiencing a troublesome level of memory loss, there are many things you can do to learn new information and retain it. The same practices that contribute to healthy aging and physical vitality also contribute to healthy memory. When it comes to memory, it’s “use it or lose it.” Just as physical exercise can make and keep your body stronger, mental exercise can make your brain work better and lower the risk of mental decline. Here are some fantastic tips I’ve collected from my expert colleagues in the field of LIVING (not aging)!!!!!!
Tips to Help Prevent Memory Loss and Cognitive Decline
- Exercise Regularly. Regular exercise boosts brain growth factors and encourages the development of new brain cells. Exercise also reduces the risk for disorders that lead to memory loss, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Exercise also makes a huge difference in managing stress and alleviating anxiety and depression—all of which leads to a healthier brain.
- Stay Social. People who don’t have social contact with family and friends are at higher risk for memory problems than people who have strong social ties. Social interaction helps brain function in several ways: it often involves activities that challenge the mind, and it helps ward off stress and depression. So join a book club, reconnect with old friends, or visit the local senior center. Being with other people will help keep you sharp!
- Eat Plenty of Fruits, Vegetables, and Omega-3 Fats. Antioxidants, found in abundance in fresh produce, literally keep your brain cells from “rusting.” And foods rich in omega-3 fats (such as salmon, tuna, trout, walnuts, and flaxseed) are particularly good for your brain and memory. Also avoid saturated and trans fats, which helps cholesterol levels and reduces your risk of stroke.
- Manage Stress. Cortisol, the stress hormone, damages the brain over time and can lead to memory problems. But even before that happens, stress causes memory difficulties in the moment. When you’re stressed out, you’re more likely to suffer memory lapses and have trouble learning and concentrating.
- Get Plenty of Sleep. Sleep is necessary for memory consolidation, the process of forming and storing new memories so you can retrieve them later. Sleep deprivation also reduces the growth of new neurons in the hippocampus and causes problems with memory, concentration, and decision-making. It can even lead to depression—another memory killer.
- Don’t Smoke. Smoking heightens the risk of vascular disorders that can cause stroke and constrict arteries that deliver oxygen to the brain.
Brain Exercises to Help Prevent Memory Loss & Boost Brainpower
Here are some ideas for brain exercise, from light workouts to heavy lifting:
- Play games that involve strategy, like chess or bridge, and word games like Scrabble.
- Try crossword and other word puzzles, or number puzzles such as Sudoku.
- Read newspapers, magazines, and books that challenge you.
- Get in the habit of learning new things: games, recipes, driving routes, a musical instrument, a foreign language.
- Take a course in an unfamiliar subject that interests you. The more interested and engaged your brain, the more likely you’ll be to continue learning and the greater the benefits you’ll experience.
- Take on a project that involves design and planning, such as a new garden or a quilt.
When to See a Doctor for Memory Loss
It’s time to consult a doctor when memory lapses become frequent enough or sufficiently noticeable to concern you or a family member. If you get to that point, make an appointment to talk with your primary physician and have a thorough physical examination. The doctor will ask you a lot of question about your memory, including:
- How long you or others have noticed a problem with your memory?
- What kinds of things have been difficult to remember?
- Whether the difficulty came on gradually or suddenly?
- Whether you’re having trouble doing ordinary things?
The doctor also will want to know what medications you’re taking, how you’ve been eating and sleeping, whether you’ve been depressed or stressed lately, and other questions about what’s been happening in your life. Chances are the doctor will also ask you or your partner to keep track of your symptoms and check back in a few months.