The aging process of our bodies leads to a slight decline in normal brain function. As we age, our memory declines because of the weakening of connections between brain cells responsible for storing and transferring information. Neurological disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s could worsen with old age. However, there are other causes of these conditions, such as genetics, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity which are more likely to be prevalent among older people. Additional causes of memory loss among seniors could be a stroke, depression, alcohol consumption, certain medications and deficiency of vitamin B12.
Having looked at some of the common causes of memory loss among the elderly, lets us now shift our focus to steps you can take to slow memory loss as you grow older.
Be Physically Active
It is highly recommended that adults have a regular exercise routine that incorporates strength training and cardio. Exercising has been shown to reduce the risk of dementia by up to 50%. For those already experiencing cognitive issues, being physically active slows down the advancement of these conditions. For instance, exercising stimulates the brain to maintain and create new connections, protecting against Alzheimer’s. Besides, exercising lowers your likelihood of developing diseases such as stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, all risk factors for neurological disorders and memory loss.
One simple exercise that most adults can engage in is walking. The latest research found that walking six to nine miles weekly could prevent brain shrinkage and age-related memory loss. Also, walking increases gray matter in the brain. Other low-impact exercises that the elderly can get involved in are yoga and tai chi, which helps with blood flow to the brain and keeps the mind sharp.
Engage in Mentally Stimulating Activities
Stimulating the mind through mental activities enhances connections between brain cells, helping to keep one’s memory sharp. Physical activities keep the body in shape; mental activities will help your brain function better and enhance memory.
There are many brain exercises that one could practice. A good place to start is by picking mental activities that you find enjoyable because the more pleasure you draw from the exercise, the greater the impact it will have on your brain. You could think of ways to reward yourself and make your surroundings more appealing as you engage in mental activities, such as lighting scented candles or playing your favorite music in the background.
Some exciting brain exercises that you could try out are:
- Playing games that require strategies such as chess, scrabble, bridge, sudoku, crossword and number puzzles.
- Embark on a project that requires some aspect of planning and design, like gardening or restoring a classic car or old machinery.
- Learn a new skill like playing a musical instrument, a foreign language, or a new sport or take a short course in a field that interests you.
- Read books and other material that motivates and challenges you.
Eat foods that support the brain and gut. Your diet should include plenty of natural foods like fruits, green leafy vegetables, oily fish (tuna, salmon and sardines), nuts and seeds (walnuts and flaxseeds), healthy fats (olive, avocado and coconut oils), herbal teas and supplements (green tea, ashwagandha, mucuna pruriens and ginseng).
Also, avoid food that affects normal brain functioning and memory, such as refined carbohydrates, highly sugary foods, excessive alcohol and smoking. Watch your caloric intake, as eating too many calories could increase your chances of experiencing memory loss and cognitive impairment.
Get Sufficient Rest and Sleep
As you age, getting a good night’s sleep is important. The memory consolidation process of storing new memories that you will retrieve later requires deep, uninterrupted sleep. When you have an inadequate amount of sleep, the growth of neurons in the hippocampus is affected, which causes memory and concentration problems later.
Deal with Stressful Situations
Adults need to learn how to manage stressful situations as they arise. Even mild stress and anxiety are known to cause memory problems in the present. In the long term, sustained stressful situations lead to higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which damages the brain and affects memory. All adults should learn and implement stress management techniques to keep their cortisol levels in check.
The brain can produce new cells at any age so that age-related memory loss can be managed and kept at bay. The brain is similar to a muscle in that the more you use it, the more it maintains its sharpness. Your lifestyle and habits have a huge bearing on the health of your brain. Start practicing the above tips to support memory and cognitive function regardless of your age.