If you have recently noticed an uptick in “senior moments,” which can range from increasing instances of misplaced keys to forgetting names of friends and loved ones; whether you are actually a senior or not, you might think about the state of your memory. Argentum, a website promoting advocacy for senior living, indicated that 1 in 8, or “13 percent of Americans aged 60 and older reported worsening memory loss or confusion in the previous year.” Those numbers might help put things in perspective to help you understand that you are not alone when it comes to memory lags, lapses and losses.
While the most prevalent sector of society that suffers memory loss is in fact seniors, you shouldn’t ignore emerging patterns of forgetfulness that arise if you fall within a younger age group. When younger people start missing appointments and failing to recall birthdays, however, it often stems more from certain lifestyle circumstances, which include lack of physical activity, poor diet, depression and less focus on academic pursuits. Another major factor in memory loss for younger people — and perhaps with tech-savvy seniors, as well — stems from our continuous access to the Internet. As a society, we tend to instantly do a Google search to think of an author’s name or skip to our smartphone’s calendar instead of taking the time to exercise our memory muscle. The Internet — as well as calendars, for that matter — is a handy tool until we start relying too heavily on it as a resource, forgoing our own internal computer.
Some of the Most Common Possible Reasons for Memory Loss
If you are starting to worry about the absence of your once laser-like memory capacity, consider some of the possible reasons you might feel some synaptic missteps. Once you identify the root of the problem, you might realize you can make some lifestyle changes to clear the fog. If the problem is not reversible, as in cases like Alzheimer’s, you can at least start finding coping strategies.
Below are some of the most common reasons for memory loss:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Prescription medication side effect
- Sleep apnea
- Alcohol, tobacco and drug use
- Depression, anxiety and stress
- Nutritional deficiency
- Head injury
While some of the reasons for memory loss might lie beyond your control — Alzheimer’s is not preventable or curable, for example — you can take steps to make the most of your memory today and perhaps prevent, control or curb some of the conditions that most prominently cause memory loss.
Eat a Nutritious Diet. A diet brimming with whole foods — particularly fresh vegetables and fruits that are flourishing with micronutrients — is essential to so many facets of maintaining good health, but your brain and memory functions thrive on a healthy and balanced diet. Make sure you also get in plenty of healthy fats through avocados, nuts and seeds while doing your best to avoid refined sugars and carbohydrates. Consider increasing intake of some key brain foods, such as curry, celery, broccoli and cauliflower to boost antioxidants that protect your brain and may stimulate the growth of new brain cells. Also, Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly derived from “fatty fish” like salmon and tuna, are beneficial for brain health.
Exercise Regularly. Regular physical exercise increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain. The benefits of daily exercise — for as little as a 20 minute brisk walk — can spiral out to help reduce stress, depression, as well as the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes and hypertension. As for your memory and cognitive abilities, regular cardio exercise often results in endorphins, or “feel good” hormones, that can help keep your brain healthy so you can sleep better and continue making new neural connections for better memory.
Get Plenty of Quality Sleep. Sometimes this tip is challenging since sometimes the harder we try to sleep, the harder it is to get to sleep. However, the effort will pay off since that precious rest time allows for better problem solving skills and memory. It is important, as an adult to strive to get 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep.
Monitor Your Memory. Whether you worry about your mysteriously declining memory at 23 or 63, take regular stock of your memory capacity and quality. The CDC notes that “a better understanding about normal age-related cognitive decline could provide important insights for future prevention efforts,” particularly in relation to Alzheimer’s, but it can help anyone to regularly monitor cognition. Occasionally stop to assess the sharpness of your own memory, at any age. Discuss instances of memory lapses with family members, and ask them to help you track your progress.
Keep Your Brain in Heavy Rotation With Games, Reading and Other Engaging Activities. HelpGuide.org recommends that, like you do to keep your body in good shape, give your brain regular workouts. Do challenging word or number games and puzzles like crosswords or Sudoku, depending on your natural inclination, or simply read a book or the newspaper each day to keep your brain sharp.
Take a Class to Learn a New Skill or Craft. If you want to learn computer coding or carpentry, go for it, for the benefit of your brain; if for no other reason. Mercola notes the findings of one study indicate that craft pursuits, such as knitting and quilting, decreased the chances of having mild cognitive impairment.
Mnemonic Devices and Other Tools That Help Boost Your Memory and Give You Confidence. Many people, young and old, need to find ways to support memory. Sometimes it’s as simple as writing down someone’s name as soon as you meet them. Some people need to refer to the paper later, but for many others, the simple act of writing the name helps them commit the name to memory. Other mnemonic devices and tools you might use to improve memory include using acronyms for phrases, associative visualizations, rhymes, and sorting information into chunks of manageable data.
Manage Your Medications. If you start taking a medication that features the possible side effect of memory loss, pay attention to see how much the medication is impairing your memory and whether it is worth the cost. Discuss your concerns with your physician to determine whether another medication might work better and cause fewer destabilizing side effects.
Put Down Your Smartphone While Watching Television, Walking… or Just Anytime You Can. Focus on one activity at a time, and give the screens a rest anytime you can. Mercola.com notes that it takes the human brain eight seconds to process a new piece of information, so you give your brain the time it needs to take in and comprehend new information in this fast-paced world. Take moments to rest your eyes and clear your mind.
Spend Time With Good Friends and Remember to Laugh. According to HelpGuide.org, “laughter engages multiple regions across the brain.” The world is full of humor and absurdity, and our closest friends, as well as our own sense of humor, can help us take moments to laugh at things instead of feeling overcome by it all. Spending time with friends and engaging in humor-inducing conversations and activities can act as an indispensable stress reducer that provides endless brain-boosting and physical benefits.
Most importantly, try not to feel self-conscious or embarrassed of your memory lapses. Letting people in your life know that you are struggling might help prevent confusion or accidentally hurt feelings for your friends, loved ones and co-workers. Even better, they can help you come up with solutions and coping strategies.