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How To Keep Your Brain Healthy: What To Know About Age Related Memory Loss + Brain Health Tips
They say the mind is a terrible thing to waste, and it can be an equally terrible feeling to find that your memory and clarity aren’t what they used to be. Don’t worry: this overview of age related memory loss with useful brain health tips you can implement at home is here to help.
Do you ever find yourself asking “why is my memory getting worse”? Maybe it’s because of a proverbial set of lost keys, a name you can’t place, or just a feeling of mental cloudiness you don’t remember experiencing in the past. Age related memory loss is a topic that many people don’t want to talk about, but the fact is, 1 in 9 Americans over the age of 45 report having issues with memory.
So, what are the secrets of how to keep your brain healthy so that you can be one of those other 8 people? As with any area of your physical health, there’s no magic bullet to curb age related memory loss, but there are a number of excellent brain health tips that can help you be proactive about maintaining a healthy brain. Let’s break down what causes short term memory loss in elderly people, and how you can take great care of your mind at any age.
The Basics of Age Related Memory Loss
Before we talk about how to keep your brain healthy, let’s get a better understanding of why your memory may be getting worse in the first place. Short term memory loss in elderly or older people can be a normal process of aging, but it can also be a sign of more serious conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. As a result, you should always consult your doctor first if you’re having memory problems.
What Constitutes Normal Age Related Memory Loss?
A mild, gradual decline in memory and sharpness as we age can be considered a normal part of the aging process. For one, the brain itself simply begins to lose some of its “strength” over time, just like any other major organ in the body. There are also a number of health conditions that may contribute to minor declines in memory:
- Medication side effects
- Anxiety or depression
- Sleep problems
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Thyroid disease
When gauging the normalcy of short term memory loss in elderly people and older adults, experts typically look to see whether or not it affects one’s ability to live a full and productive life. The National Institute on Aging lays out some examples of minor lapses in memory that are considered normal:
- Occasionally missing something like a monthly payment
- Forgetting the day, before remembering later on
- Struggling to remember a word from time to time
- Misplacing objects occasionally
Other common “blunders” like forgetting someone’s name or finding you need to make lists to keep track of certain things are also common.
What Are The Warning Signs of More Serious Memory Problems?
Sometimes, age related memory loss may begin to seem more severe than an innocent case of lost keys, which may mean a more serious answer to “why is my memory getting worse”. Let’s start by defining a few important terms:
- Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI): A condition marked by declines in memory, language, thinking, or judgment that lies between normal aging and more serious conditions. MCI may raise the risk of developing dementia, but it does not always.
- Dementia: An umbrella term that describes a set of symptoms related to severe problems with memory and/or cognition. While Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, it may be caused by a number of other conditions.
- Alzheimer’s Disease: A progressive neurologic disorder that causes an atrophy of the brain’s cells, leading to a continuous decline in memory and cognitive skills.
In general, memory loss crosses the line from normal to potentially problematic when it poses a significant disruption to daily life. Some examples include:
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks
- Confusion with time or place
- Trouble following conversations
- Decreased or poor judgment
Again, a visit with your doctor is always the best option if you’re experiencing short term memory loss. With that being said, there are a number of brain health tips recommended by experts that can help you keep your brain healthy in the face of normal age related memory loss.
How to Keep Your Brain Healthy: Easy Brain Health Tips
For as complex as the human brain actually is, it’s easy to feel like figuring out how to keep your brain healthy might be a herculean task. Luckily, most experts can agree on a handful of simple brain health tips that help to deflect some of the root causes of age related memory loss:
1. Keep Your Brain Stimulated In Fun Ways
“Plasticity” is a key word in any discussion of how to keep your brain healthy. It’s the brain’s ability to adapt by forming new neural connections and protecting existing ones, and developing it works similarly to working out a muscle.
There are lots of ways to “exercise” your brain, like crossword puzzles, sudoku, reading, chess, and drawing. Find something you enjoy, make it a regular habit, and avoid passive activities like watching television when possible.
2. Take Your Sleep Schedule Seriously
This is a major brain health tip, since sleep has several roles in keeping your brain healthy. Not only does it help with the consolidation and storage of memories, it’s believed that proper sleep helps flush out abnormal proteins in the brain that can contribute to age related memory loss. Make sure you’re getting enough consecutive hours of sleep, rather than waking up in intervals.
3. Stick to a Brain Healthy Diet
Both Harvard and the Mayo Clinic suggest that a Mediterranean diet consisting of foods like fish, healthy fats (e.g. olive oil), and plants is a great choice for brain health. Research even shows that those adhering to this type of diet are at a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Health factors like high blood pressure and high cholesterol can also contribute to cognitive problems, which is another great reason to examine your diet.
4. Maintain A Healthy Social Life
Another big part of how to keep your brain healthy may be as simple as enjoying quality time with friends and loved ones. For one, social interaction helps stave off stress and depression, both of which can contribute to memory problems. It’s also been connected with a lower risk of dementia, which may be due to the fact that too much time in isolation can actually contribute to brain atrophy.
5. Exercise To Keep Your Brain Fit
Sudoku and crosswords might be good for giving your mind a workout, but actual physical activity is just as important to keep your brain healthy. As much a total health tip as it is a brain health tip, staying active not only helps by countering factors like high blood pressure and cholesterol, it’s also believed to increase blood flow to the brain for a direct effect on cognitive health.
You don’t have to go nuts running marathons either! Aiming for 30-60 minutes of exercise a few times every week is enough to experience the myriad benefits it can offer.