We all have skips in our memory from time to time — misplacing our keys, forgetting an event or appointment, or failing to remember the name of an acquaintance. But as we age, particularly as we reach and pass the age of 65, it is easy to wonder if such small lapses in our memory can be signs of something more serious, like Alzheimer’s disease, or dementia.
The good news is that most of us won’t develop such serious diseases, the tough news is that some memory loss is common as we age — the American Psychological Association says that both our “episodic memory,” which remembers the small things in our daily lives, as well as our long-term memory, which stretches back to childhood, often declines as we grow older.
That being said, recent studies point to a variety of ways that we can reduce age-related memory loss and improve how our brain works from day to day. Here are 6 excellent tips from the Mayo Clinic and the American Psychological Association:
Stay mentally active.
Mental activity can keep your brain in better shape, and this can be done in a variety of ways. You can do mind games, like crossword puzzles, or computer training games designed to improve mental acuity. You can learn how to speak a new language or play an instrument. Even volunteering at the local school or library can help you keep your brain active.
Participating in social activities can help to reduce depression, which can contribute to memory problems. In addition, being social has been shown to improve longevity of life and overall health.
Train your brain.
When you learn new things, try using mnemonics, acronyms and associations to help remember them. Mnemonics use words to remember a sequence. Acronyms simply use the first letter of every word. And associations create a visual link to a name or location, like picturing a night sky when wanting to remember, Eve, the new nurse’s name.
A lack of sleep can create cognitive problems and it is always in your best interest to seek help if you have frequent problems with this important activity.
Eat a balanced diet.
Studies have shown that people who eat more fish, fruits and vegetables (also known as the Mediterranean diet) have lower risks of heart disease and diabetes, as well as healthier brains. In addition, diets heavy in omega-3 fatty acids, found in salmon and other fish, have been shown to improve the networking in your brain.
Be physically active.
There are many reasons to exercise — physical activity can reduce the risk of a variety of diseases, and it makes you feel better both physically and mentally. In addition, however, it has been shown to provide a variety of mental benefits, including improving memory, increasing cognition in older patients, and reducing brain shrinkage. A physical therapist can help you identify exercise activities that are a match for your fitness level and physical condition.