Keeping Your Memory in Shape
"Excuse me, I'm having a senior moment," you may have joked when
you couldn't think of a word, someone's name or the place you went on vacation
last year. But you'll probably admit that even though you joke about it, you
don't like it when it happens.
Memory loss is one of the things about getting older that people dread. Many
people think it's unavoidable. The truth is that while it's common to take longer
to remember certain things, real, profound memory loss isn't a normal part of
aging. By the time you're 65, for example, you have only a 5 percent chance
of developing Alzheimer's disease.
Curable causes of memory loss
There are a lot of conditions and situations that cause temporary, reversible
memory loss. They include High fever
Dehydration (just one reason why it's important to drink plenty of fluid
Poor nutrition and vitamin deficiencies
Serious reactions to medications
Problems with your thyroid gland
Minor head injury
Emotional problems-sadness, loneliness, boredom
Four areas where you can take action to preserve memory
The positive thing about your memory is that lifestyle seems to have a big
effect for many people. Studies of identical twins have shown that when you
compare sets of twins in which one got Alzheimer's disease and the other didn't,
the one who didn't was more likely to have a healthy diet, not smoke, not
drink too much alcohol and get regular exercise. So there are lots of things
you can do to reduce your risk of memory loss.
Research on aging and memory has shown that there are four areas that can
affect and improve memory:
Mental activity- Many researchers believe in the "use it or lose
it" theory, because mental stimulation seems to help keep brains functioning
well. Things that make you think, focus and concentrate are worth taking part
in, such as crossword puzzles, taking classes, writing, doing brain teasers,
Stress reduction-Stress is a part of life for most of us. Studies
show that the more stress you feel, the more your memory is affected. The key
is how we handle it. It's helpful to have realistic expectations about things,
first of all. If a salesperson is rude to you, instead of letting it make you
angry and upset, you'll do better if you can shrug it off and realize that a
salesperson's reaction has nothing to do with you. It's also helpful to take
moments throughout the day to relax. One example-close your eyes, take a deep
breath, and imagine your body gradually relaxing from your head down to your
feet. Make a conscious effort to slow down, maintain a healthy perspective,
enjoy the company of friends, etc.
Physical activity-Studies show that active people have a lower risk
of Alzheimer's disease. In one study, people who spent 40 minutes walking three
times per week had better attention spans, memory function and complex problem-solving
ability than people who did only simple stretching and toning exercise.
Healthy diet-There's a large body of research that suggests that a
diet that's healthy for your heart is also healthy for your brain. This means
eating healthy fats-olive oil instead of butter, for example; fresh fruits and
vegetables; limiting red meat and replacing it with more fish and lean chicken;
eating whole grains rather than white bread, white rice, cakes, etc.
Check out our gift idea in the "Make Life Easier" section of this
e-magazine. It features the "Senior Moments Game," which is funny
in a way, but also provides activity in two of the areas listed above-mental
activity and stress reduction.
UCLA's Center on Aging; G. Small, The Memory Bible; The National Institute on Aging