As we grow older, we all start to notice changes in our ability to remember things. Maybe you’ve gone into the kitchen and forgotten why, or couldn’t recall a familiar name during a conversation.
“Memory lapses can occur at any age, but we get more upset by them as we get older because we fear they’re a sign of dementia,” explains Karen Kansler, RN, nurse wellness coordinator in the Good Health Center at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital. “Most of the memory problems we experience with age reflect normal changes in the brain.”
The good news is that cognitive decline is not inevitable. Kansler offers these tips to help reduce your risk of age-related memory loss.
Challenge Your Mind
Learning new skills and doing other mentally stimulating activities can help your brain become more adaptable and compensate for age-related changes.
“Challenging your brain is believed to activate processes that help maintain individual brain cells and stimulate communication among them,” Kansler notes. “The more senses you use, the more your brain is engaged. Listen to a new music genre or try a new cuisine. Building and preserving brain connections is an ongoing process, so make lifelong learning a priority.”
Remaining socially connected helps prevent depression and feelings of isolation. Pursue activities that are meaningful to you. Find ways to be part of your local community, volunteer, and spend time with friends and family.
“For many people, aging is a time of loss and adjustment,” Kansler says. “Being with others benefits many people emotionally. It can also stimulate the brain, enliven the spirit, and foster companionships. Staying in touch with others is so important.”
Using your muscles is good for your mind too. “Regular cardiovascular activity helps increase blood flow to your brain. And strength building and balance exercises are essential to preventing falls and helping a person remain independent,” she explains.
“Exercise also helps lower dementia risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol, and reduces mental stress. Engage in regular exercise that elevates your heart rate and builds muscle such as brisk walking, doing squats or lunges, or lifting hand weights.”
Kansler notes that regardless of your age, eating well and getting enough sleep are good habits everyone should adopt. And if you smoke, stop. Living a healthy lifestyle is good for both your body and your mind.
For daily workout tips, visit this page to learn how exercise can help lower your risk of chronic illnesses.
The Good Health Center - O'Neill Building, 2nd Floor
5601 Loch Raven Blvd.
Baltimore, MD 21239