Did you misplace your keys — again? Did you forget someone’s name — again? Did you forget to do something important — again?
Millions of people experience the above problems every day. Too many people think having the above problems means they’re in an early stage of dementia. Most of the time they’re wrong. Having more memory problems as we age is normal — although not inevitable. Senior citizens can, and often do, have better memories than younger people.
If you are having memory problems, you should do two things. The first step is to figure out whether your problems are normal or a symptom of dementia. The second step is to take experts’ advice on what to do to prevent future memory loss. This blog is mainly concerned about the latter step, but let’s touch on the first step briefly.
The Helpguide.org report “Age-Related Memory Loss” compares normal age-related changes to symptoms that may indicate dementia. If you forget something but are able to recall and describe those incidents, your memory problems are normal. If you can’t, you might have dementia. If you pause to remember directions but don’t get lost in familiar places, your memory problems are normal. If you get lost in familiar places, you might have dementia. Having problems thinking about what word to use is normal. Saying the same thing repeatedly is not.
How You Can Prevent Memory Loss
Exercise Your Body
The Harvard Health Publications’ report “Preventing memory loss” says that exercise improves your memory for several reasons. One of the reasons is that it reduces your risk of getting diseases that can harm your memory. People who have strokes, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are all at a greater risk of having memory problems.
The Harvard report recommends walking instead of driving, using the stairs rather than elevators, getting involved in activities such as gardening that many people don’t realize is exercise, and learning a sport you haven’t played before. The WebMD report “4 Ways to Stop Age-Related Memory Loss” recommends 45 minutes of moderate aerobic exercises three times per week. Aerobic exercises are continuous exercises such as cycling, swimming, and walking. Non-aerobic exercises such as many teams sports are less beneficial.
Exercise Your Brain
Learn a new language. Learn how to play a musical instrument. Read about subjects you’ve never read about before. Work on crossword puzzles. Reread your college textbooks. Take quizzes about knowledge. Engage in discussions about interesting topics with friends.
The list of things you can do to exercise your brain is long. Do some of them! If you do, you will reduce your chances of having memory problems. The Yahoo! Health report “Lifestyle Changes May Guard Brain Against Memory Loss” says that “learning and complex thinking strengthen connections between nerve cells.” It also reports that people who had good grades and jobs that “required expertise with numbers” were less apt to get dementia.
Can fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, and whole grains be classified as brain foods? I’m not sure but the Harvard report said that a healthy diet that includes these foods “is vital in maintaining the health not just of your body but of your brain as well.” Avoiding unhealthy foods also reduces the risk that you will get a stroke that will impair your memory. Thus, you should avoid eating foods with a lot of saturated fats and trans fats.
The Yahoo Health report says that medical studies have concluded that poor sleep increases your risk of early memory problems. Sleep apnea is particularly bad for your memory. Poor sleep can also “spur a brain-clogging protein named amyloid that’s a hallmark of Alzheimer’s.” The Harvard report recommends going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning. It also reports that sleeping pills can cause memory loss.
The WebMD report says that studies show that people who take vitamin supplements have “less brain shrinkage.” The report recommends taking folate, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. The Harvard report details studies that show there is a correlation between taking vitamins C and E and lower rates of dementia.
The more you read about the topic of preventing memory loss, the more you learn about other ways you can slow memory loss. And remember reading about new topics is in and of itself a way to slow memory loss. So read and learn about how to improve your memory! The next blog on this topic might include a quiz.