Are you fearful that your cognitive powers are spiraling out of control as a result of the aging process?
While it is true that cognitive decline begins a slow, gradual process around age 45, this decline is not always an inevitable result of the aging process. And having fleeting but frustrating moments when you cannot remember where your glasses are or recall the name of someone you havent seen for a while does not mean you are destined for serious memory issues.
Major memory loss is generally caused by organic disorders, brain injuries or neurological issues. Good news for senior moments. Fortunately, when it comes to increasing learning and memory skills, research confirms that there are many ways we can sharpen our minds and actually improve memory as we age.
Tips for improving memory
Use it or lose it: It is believed exercises that stimulate the brain such as reading, traveling, card games, memory games, musical instruments – even changing your daily routine around – help stimulate the hippocampus, the part of the brain most responsible for memory.
It is also a good idea to challenge the brain by introducing new activities that you have never done before.
Get movin: Regardless of what part of the body you want to strengthen, you need to follow the use it or lose it principle.
When you begin to exercise, muscles will use oxygen at a significantly higher rate, increasing blood flow throughout the body, including the memory-brain area.
Just as exercise helps to keep arteries to the heart open, exercise will do the same for blood vessels in the brain. Even exercising in small doses can help sharpen your memory, but it is important for memory enhancement that the exercising be consistent.
Some studies indicate that regular exercise can even reverse aging in the brain.
Friendships and fun: Maintaining a strong support system by interacting with friends, whether by phone or in person, can stimulate the brain.
In a recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health, researchers found that people with the most active social lives had the slowest rate of memory decline.
And if friends arent readily available, dont forget the friendship and love of a pet. They both come with cognitive benefits.
Adequate sleep: While occasional bouts of insomnia are generally nothing to be concerned about, chronic sleep deprivation can negatively affect memory recall.
If you have trouble sleeping, you might want to try listening to a progressive muscle-relaxation recording. Amazon.com has a variety of recordings available.
De-stress: Chronic stress (activating the stress hormone cortisol) is a major contributor to memory loss. Because we cannot totally void our lives of stress, it would be better to think in terms of stress management rather than stress elimination.
Introducing relaxation techniques such as relaxation breathing into your daily living can help to defuse the biochemical and physiological reaction to the pending stress: Inhale deeply through your nose to a count of four, hold your breath for several seconds, then exhale through the mouth, taking twice as long (eight seconds).
Dont forget to laugh – a great stress reliever. And learn to say no before taking on added responsibilities when your plate is already full.
Hydrate: Drink before you are thirsty.
Even a slight amount of dehydration can reduce mental energy resulting in memory impairment. It is recommended you drink 48 to 64 ounces – or six to eight 8-ounce glasses – of water daily.
Brain-boosting foods: Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, trout, tuna, halibut, sardines, mackerel and herring. Nonfish sources include walnuts, pumpkin seeds and soybeans.
Brightly colored fruits and veggies provide antioxidants, which play a major role in improving memory function.
Foods rich in folic acid are spinach, kale, collards, asparagus, black beans and romaine lettuce.
The Alzheimers Society recommends eggs to improve memory. They have vitamins important for nourishing the memory center in your brain.