request info email to friend
Fighting Memory Loss
It seems that as you get older, you have trouble remembering things. You worry that this is an early sign of Alzheimer’s or dementia. And even if it’s not, it’s annoying. But memory loss is not an inevitable side effect of aging. There are things you can do to fight back.
The Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research offers several suggestions for keeping sharp as you approach your golden years:
- Exercise your mind. Just as you work to keep your body in shape, you should keep your mind in shape. Mental activity can help your brain stay healthy and promote new connections between cells. So challenge yourself mentally. Learn a new skill, like a foreign language or playing a musical instrument. Do activities that stretch your brain, like word games and crossword puzzles. Take a class. Read books and newspapers. Volunteer for something that you find interesting and challenging. Have frequent and meaningful discussions with people you care about. Commit to staying mentally active.
- Work your body. Exercise promotes blood flow to your brain as well as to your limbs, and it makes you feel more alert. Aim for at least 30 minutes of activity every day. It doesn’t matter whether you hit the gym, ride your bike or walk the dog – just get moving.
- Eat healthy, with a focus on fruits and vegetables. These are high in antioxidants, which can keep your brain cells healthy. A healthy diet also can keep cholesterol from clogging your arteries and limiting the blood that gets to your brain. Go for colorful foods like oranges, blueberries, sweet potatoes, dark greens – they are usually higher in antioxidants.
- Drink alcohol moderately or not at all. Heavy drinking can keep you from getting the proper nutrition, which can in turn cause brain damage. Heavy drinkers also are more likely to develop dementia. So lay off the sauce.
- Avoid stress. Stress releases hormones that, if they are present for extended times, can hurt your brain. Being stressed also makes you feel worried or depressed, which can interfere with the way your brain works. So look for ways you can avoid stress. In the short term, try meditation or exercise. But longer-term, consider ways to simplify your life.
- Protect your head. A head injury can make you more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. So wear a helmet when you ride a bike, a motorcycle or a horse, or when you do anything that could result in injury to your head.
- Don’t smoke. You can add memory loss to the list of bad things that smoking can cause or make worse. So if you smoke, that’s just one more reason to quit.
- Have a good relationship with your doctor. Staying healthy is an important defense against memory loss. Let your doctor know if you have a family history of dementia or Alzheimer’s, and talk to your doctor about any concerns you have about your memory or any other issue as you age.