Ways to Prevent Memory Loss
It’s all too familiar—you’ve put your keys somewhere and cannot find them, you’ve just met someone and a few minutes later cannot remember their name, you rack your brain trying to remember the name of a place you’ve visited or a certain movie star or even the name of a particular movie. Could you be a future candidate for Alzheimer’s disease, you wonder in dismay. While it has been believed that certain brain cells die as we age, recent research suggests, however, that our brains continue to produce new neurons well into our seventies. And unless there is loss of nerve cells from specific disease, most of our neurons remain healthy until we die. So what can we do to improve our memory as we grow older? Here are some tips:Exercise on most days of the week. In her recent book, The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain, author Barbara Strauch says, “Exercise is the best studied thing you can do to your brain. It increases brain volume; produces new baby brain cells in grown-up brains. Even when our muscles contract, it produces growth chemicals. Using your body can help your brain.” Therefore, a brisk 45-minute walk on most days and a strength training routine three times a week would be ideal.
Challenge your brain. Learning a new language, piecing together a puzzle, doing crosswords, learning a musical instrument, memorizing a poem or song will all help you improve memory. But here’s something else you can also do: do your normal activities with the hand you do not normally use. Yes, that’s right, for example, brush your teeth, use the computer mouse, dial the phone, even practice writing with the hand you don’t normally use. Because this is an unfamiliar activity and since your brain feels that it’s learning a new skill, it is challenged. Performing these challenging tasks enables neural connections in the brain to strengthen further.
Eat a healthy diet. High levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood can reduce the amount of nutrients reaching the brain. Nourish your brain by eating fruits and vegetables, (including green leafy ones), nuts, salmon, olive oil, berries, and omega-3 fatty acids found in walnuts and flax seed. Remember to eat small meals throughout the day instead of two or three big ones.
Don’t rely on supplements to improve memory. The popular supplement gingko biloba comes to mind when thinking about improving memory. However, recent studies have shown that this supplement does not result in less cognitive decline in older adults and neither does it improve memory over a period of time. Pay closer attention to your diet and remember a healthy diet is what contributes to a healthy brain.
Sleep well. According to neuroscientists, adequate sleep is critical for certain key brain functions including memory, performance and the ability to learn. Interestingly, sleep allows memory to be shifted to efficient storage areas of the brain and therefore when information is recalled, it is done at a quicker and more accurate pace without any anxiety. Be sure to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep at night. Fatigued during the day? Midday naps have shown to improve both performance and memory. So don’t feel guilty—put your feet up and take a nap!Stress less and be happy. A little bit of an adrenaline rush might be good, but too much stress and depression can have a negative impact on memory, inhibit the growth of brain cells and impair brain functions over a period of time. In spite of that, there is evidence to show that managing stress, being happy and having an optimistic attitude can all have a positive impact on memory. Pick one stress-relieving activity each day and do it every day for 30 minutes. Playing with your children, meditation, a bubble bath, walking the dog, getting a massage, listening to soothing music, or exercising—the choice is yours!
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