- Memory loss happens to most people.
- Memory loss doesn’t always mean dementia, but it can be scary.
- Here are some proven ways to help reduce your risk for memory loss and increase your cognitive function.
As you get older, you may forget things from time to time. As a natural part of the aging process, mental flexibility can begin to decline as early as in your 20s, while noticeable detail confusion and memory loss can begin in middle age, around 45-55. While Alzheimer’s (the most common cause of dementia), is still a common fear when one experiences a memory mishap, stress and anxiety, grief, injuries, traumatic experiences, sleep deprivation, environment change, and many other factors play a role in how our brains function.
The good news? You can decrease your risk for forgetfulness and memory malfunctions with a few minor changes to your routine. Fortunately, or not, this past year alone has brought with it a lot of changes, and it’s time to address what that could be doing to our mental health. From testing your mind with gaming, to continued education and beyond, here are a few functional ways to fight memory loss as you age.
Learn new things
Who else had a high school counselor who always made sure to reinforce the idea that they were “a student of life?” Anyone have a teacher or mentor tell you, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey?” There is a chance you have encountered someone like this in your life, who seems to always be spouting positive expressions about being a continual student. And, while the idea of being tested and aggressively judged for the rest of your life might not sound that great, life tests you in far different ways.
Just like when you exercise and engage your physical muscles, the muscle that is your brain requires that exercise, too. Brain cell growth doesn’t stop when you’re young, and learning something new as you age will engage your brain in a number of ways.
Take a moment to consider if you prefer experiential learning versus reinforcement learning in a classroom, as that can greatly affect what you learn and where it is stored in your brain. Choose what senses you want to engage with. Do you want to test your palette, play with scent, create a rhythm that beats out of your chest? Engaging multiple senses can help to improve memory function, so get wild!
Play online games
The last few decades have found many connections between the development of the human brain with the presence of video games and other intense stimuli in the mix. Computer-based video games have widely been proven to improve recall and increase problem-solving capabilities in children. So why not the same for adults? More recent research has shown the positive effects of 3D gaming (versus 2D gaming) for memory function in adults aged 60-80 and multi-functional gaming that requires more use of problem-solving skills.
In fact, research supports the value of online activities that enact critical thinking. Social media is among one of these memory-boosting options, however the type of material you engage with can have a huge effect on how your brain reacts to stimuli. While social media is a great opportunity to create art, network, and build your brand, it has also been a catapult for misinformation, heartbreaking news, and bullying opportunities over the years. Therefore, we would not suggest engaging in social media as a sole form of cognitive improvement exercise.
Aging comes with the slowing of the production of various chemicals in the body. Additionally, some people have a genetic predisposition to have challenges with the processing of some nutrients in their bodies and others may have diets that do not provide enough specific vitamins or minerals to meet their individual needs. In these cases, some of these nutrient deficiencies can be supported with supplementation. Some potential supplements include:
Vitamin B-12 deficiency is commonly associated with memory loss in aging patients.
Omega-3 Oils also have a proven positive track record with brain health.
Get your recommended sleep
It’s not always this easy. However, if you are experiencing any symptom and need a place to start, we always suggest analyzing your sleep patterns. Sleep deprivation inhibits your immune system and can lead to an array of issues, including lowered libido, high blood pressure and heart failure, anxiety, and digestive problems. Are you getting the recommended 7-9 hours per night, and are the people in your life getting their recommended amount of sleep?
Cortisol is one of the hormonal signals fired off throughout the day to keep your body’s natural clock, or circadian rhythm, working. Lack of sleep is linked to numerous physiological and mental conditions, including memory loss. Cortisol-conscious workouts perform best at the time of day that cortisol levels are higher (earlier in the morning),and allow you to work off calories slowly and efficiently. This is vital to a good night’s sleep.
Manage your stress
Cortisol-conscious workouts also work phenomenally to help manage stress, another key factor in memory loss. If you find yourself maxed out on emotions, with heightened anxieties and feelings of burnout, you are not alone. Calming activities like yoga and meditation are known to help manage stress across the board. In fact, yoga is directly linked to hippocampus growth, the area of the brain that controls your information retention. Studies have linked months of continued yoga practice to hippocampal volumes in elderly people, and is highly suggested to supplementally fight Alzheimer’s. Moderate amounts of other exercises like walking 5 miles per week or regular light aerobic exercises have been proven to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Reducing your caffeine and sugar intake can decrease stress levels, which can be helpful when there is immediate need. Making sure to regulate those sugar levels is important to balance within your body overall, and is a good thing to keep in mind as you age. Unregulated diabetes and sugar irregularities can lead to advanced cognitive issues and confusion.
Other ways to help manage stress involve engaging in activities that you truly enjoy. This could include hobbies, time with friends or family, bragging about your new entrepreneurial endeavor, or a laundry list of other options. Those of you who find comfort in cleaning? Now is the time. Organizational savants who hope to lead like Marie Kondo? Go at it! Establishing control over your situation in these small ways can help improve your stress levels immensely.
Luckily, there are many ways to successfully improve your cognitive function and memory capabilities. In addition to the above, seeking guidance from a counselor or mental health professional can also work wonders when evaluating options to improve your health, specifically. Be sure to stay up-to-date on memory loss research, and product rollouts that could help you contribute to your own brain function.