Have you ever struggled to remember someone’s name, forgot where you parked your car or misplaced your glasses or house keys?
You are likely having minor “memory glitches” or moments of temporary forgetfulness or confusion associated with the aging process.
While occasional forgetfulness is normal, it can still be frustrating, embarrassing and concerning. As you age, changes in cognitive function can cause our brains to process information slower and therefore experience these memory glitches. To help you keep your mind sharp and performing optimally through every stage of the aging process, here is a list of tips to combat mental decline and preserve mental sharpness.
“Jog” your memory.
Exercising has numerous benefits to your health like lowering high blood pressure, preventing health conditions like diabetes, decreasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke and even boosting your mental health. Staying active has also been linked to higher brain function and motor skills in seniors. Evidence suggests that aerobic exercises (exercises that get your heart pumping like running) are especially beneficial as they improve blood circulation to areas in the brain associated with memory.
If you haven’t exercised in a while, start small! Try going for a brisk walk after dinner or taking a dance class. If you’re interested in a low-impact exercise, try swimming or water aerobics. It’s never too late to begin getting active!
Use your brainpower.
We know the benefits of exercising our bodies, but what about keeping our brains active? By engaging in brain-stimulating activities like reading, drawing and playing an instrument, you can help keep your memory sharp and improve brain function.
An excellent way to engage your brain is by learning a new language or picking up a hobby like quilting which has been linked to enhancing memory function in older adults. With many complex patterns, styles and techniques, you will never stop challenging yourself. The long period of intense focus is great for training your brain to concentrate better. Not to mention it’s the perfect creative outlet and stress reliever!
Involve your friends and family! Challenge them to complete a sudoku puzzle every day or play a match of chess with you. The options are endless for ways you can use your brainpower. The most important criterion is that it is something you enjoy!
Sleep it off.
In today’s modern constantly connected world, it seems harder and harder to turn off and get a good night’s sleep. As you age, sleeping problems can become common causing your sleep quality to decrease. However, 7 to 8 hours of sleep daily is a must. When you sleep, your brain begins the process of retaining important memories and getting rid of unnecessary data to keep from overloading your brain. This process is known as memory consolidation and is essential to converting new experiences or information into long-term memory, making recalling easier and remembering more accurately.
If you are having trouble sleeping, create a night routine and go to bed at the same time every day. Your night routine can include participating in relaxing activities like meditating or journaling. If you like to read at night, be cautious of using a phone or tablet. The blue light from electronic devices can inhibit the production of melatonin causing you to feel wide awake at night.
Be proactive about your health.
Don’t let an untreated medical condition be the cause of your memory loss issues. Unlike popular belief, dementia and Alzheimer’s aren’t the only health conditions that can cause cognitive decline. By staying on top of your annual health screenings and check-ups you can better manage health conditions that affect your brain function like hypothyroidism, diabetes and vitamin D and B-12 deficiencies.
Next time you visit your primary care provider, tell them about your concerns and bring a list of the medications you are currently on (some medications have been known to cause memory problems).
Whether you are experiencing normal moments of forgetfulness or suspect a more serious health issue, it’s important to talk to a medical professional and be open about your worries. You and your provider can work together to determine an appropriate care plan to meet your needs.
About the Author
Dr. Corin DeChirico is Chief Medical Officer and Vice President of Medical Affairs for Healthcare Network, a medical and dental home for children, adults and seniors. For more information on Healthcare Network, visit HealthcareSWFL.org or to make an appointment, call 239.658.3000.