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 a healthy memory. When it comes to memory, it’s definitely smart to adopt the familiar adage “use it or lose it.” Just as physical exercise can keep your body strong, mental exercise can help make your mind function better and lower your risk of mental decline. Here are some great tips to help you and your aging loved ones maintain healthy brains and consequently healthy lives!
Tips to Help Prevent Memory Loss and Cognitive Decline
- Exercise Regularly with Kinder, Gentler Routines
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. Baby boomers are fueling the exercise trend toward kinder, gentler workouts. Fitness experts suggest that the ideal routine combines the strength, flexibility and balance training of yoga and Pilates with an aerobic activity such as brisk walking. I recently posted a video interview with the founder of the International Council on Active Aging, Colin Milner, about the benefits of exercise and staying active as we age – it’s full of great information! Whatever exercise program you decide to embrace, remember to always check with your physician before you begin.
- Stay Social and Maintain Your Relationships
People who don’t have social contact with family and friends are at a higher risk for memory problems than people who have strong social ties. Social interaction helps the brain function in numerous ways: it often involves activities/conversations that challenge the mind and it naturally helps ward off stress and depression. When it comes to staying engaged, products like the VTech CareLineTM home telephone and personal communication system enables you to live an independent lifestyle and gives your family confidence that they can stay connected with ease. So join a book club, reconnect with old friends, visit the local gym or pick up the phone. Conversing with other people and staying engaged will help keep your mind sharp!
- Eat Plenty of Fruits, Vegetables and Omega-3 Fats
Antioxidants, found in abundance in fresh produce, help 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. Try not to be too strict – otherwise eating properly just becomes another form of stress – just try to keep meals simple, nutritious and fresh. But do be careful – a new study suggests that overeating in older people may double their risk for mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a term that describes the stage between the memory loss that normally comes with aging and that seen in early Alzheimer’s disease. And (obviously!) don’t smoke! Smoking heightens the risk of vascular disorders that can lead to a stroke and constricts arteries that deliver oxygen to the brain.
- Manage Your Stress and Get Some Sleep
When you’re stressed out, you’re more likely to suffer memory lapses and have trouble learning and concentrating. Cortisol, the stress hormone, damages the brain over time and can lead to memory problems. Get plenty of sleep! According to WebMD, if you’re sleep deprived, you’re at risk of developing a number of serious health problems, such as hypertension, obesity and diabetes, and your ability to learn and retain new information may be impaired. 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. Unfortunately, reduced sleep can also eventually lead to depression – another memory killer.
If you want to stay sharp and in control of your life well into your golden years, there are proactive methods to achieving the mental alertness you need. More and more research is pointing to the fact that physical activity and lifestyle choices have more to do with preventing Alzheimer s disease and other forms of dementia – once thought to be a normal part of aging – than pure genetics. Face it, as we get older our minds tend to lose their sharpness. We start forgetting things, like people’s names or what item was next on our mental to do list. But aging doesn’t have to be synonymous with a dull brain – get out there and use it before you lose it!
Disclaimer: Content and suggestions provided within should not be construed as a formal recommendation and AJA Associates, LLC makes no representations, endorsements or warranties relating to the accuracy, use or completeness of the information