Could It Be More Than Forgetfulness
How can you tell when memory slips may signal something more serious?
It may have to do with whether the forgetfulness is temporary or permanent and how much cognitive glitches affect your daily life.
For example, it’s annoying to forget why you walked into a room. But if you remember afterward, even hours later, its probably just a normal memory hiccup, says Lon Schneider, M.D., a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.
But tell your doctor if you find yourself struggling to retain information youve just learned. Do the same if memory lapses are permanent or paired with profound inattentionyou leave the stove on all day or get lost in a familiar place.
What can you expect? After ruling out other potential health problems, your doctor will interview you and a family member to check for changes in behavior or personality.
She may order imaging tests of your brain and assess your memory, language, and attention, too.
Your results are most likely to be normal. In some cases, however, they may suggest mild cognitive impairment or full-blown dementia .
Alzheimers disease is the leading cause of dementia, but there are many others, including some that are reversible.
Editor’s Note:;This article also appeared in the March 2017 issue of;Consumer Reports on Health.
Visit The Doctor For Prevention Not Treatment
In developed countries, the rate of chronic conditions, such as hypertension, obesity or diabetes, is quite low. This is because people are educated, and they visit the doctor for prevention and not treatment. By preventing such chronic conditions, you are going to protect the brain against additional problems such as memory impairment or cognitive decline.
Simple Ways To Keep Your Brain Sharp As You Age
There are all kinds of gimmicks that claim to keep your brain strong and prevent dementia, from over-the-counter supplements to brain training programs. But there isnt one magic fix. There is nothing proven that will 100 percent keep you from getting dementia, said Heather Mulder, senior outreach manager at Banner Alzheimers Institute;in Phoenix, AZ.
But that doesnt mean you should throw up your hands in frustration. While there are no guarantees, there are steps you can take that will help keep your brain sharp as you age. The best thing you can do is modify your lifestyle to support your brain health and reduce your risk, Mulder says.
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Stimulate Your Brain By Eating Healthy Food
Some foods like fish, nuts, and salads have been linked with improving overall brain health. To keep your mind sharp, include the following foods in your diet.
To improve your cognition, eat baked or boiled fish. Fish contains Omega-3 fatty acids that are a major brain-building block. People who take foods rich in Omega-3 three or more times a week have a 26% lower risk of brain lesions that cause memory loss.
To keep a sharp mind, consider a Mediterranean diet. It includes a healthy amount of olive oil. Older people who take a Mediterranean-style diet have a 35% lower risk of poorly scoring in brain tests.
Other foods include green tea that is rich in polyphenols and antioxidants. These reduce the risk of Parkinsons and Alzheimers diseases.
Try Your Hand At Cards
Whens the last time you played a game of cards? Researchers who conducted a;study in 2015Trusted Source;on mentally stimulating activities for adults, say a quick card game can lead to greater brain volume in several regions of the brain. The same study also found that a game of cards could improve memory and thinking skills.
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Expert Tips To Help Keep Your Brain Sharp
One of the most amazing things about my grandmother was her sharp mental wit.;
I knew her through her 70s, 80s, and 90s and it seemed that up until the last few years of her life as dementia and old age took hold she maintained incredible brain power. Shed be able to recall names and dates from fifty years in the past and kept the Oregonian crossword part of her daily routine. Opening a photo book with her was a novel chance to watch her mind reel facts from a past generation.
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She always said she didnt do anything special to keep her memory going, although Im convinced that the healthy habits she cemented early in her adulthood played a role in having her so coherent so late into her life.;
Especially in this era where attention spans are shorter than ever and our brains are overloaded with information 24 hours a day, we thought it was important to chat with a few experts about developing habits our own to maintain and improve brain function, so that one day, we can recall moments on a dime just like Grandma Dorothy did.;
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Memory Methods That Boost Brain Power
Learning to create visual images that represent information you want to recall later will help jump-start your memory abilities. One memory technique I recommend, the story method, is useful for remembering lists of items and errands when youre on the go. By creating a story that links your unrelated words, your visualisations and associations will automatically boost your recall. Look at the eight words again and this time spend a minute creating a story that links them all together. Perhaps you visualise a clown with orange hair riding a horse, or a doctor smoking a pipe and playing guitar. Use your first associations and link the images in any order you like. Now write the words again and see how much better your memory has become already.
This method leverages the human brains natural ability to notice and recall visual cues, a skill that has evolved over millions of years. Combining visualisation with associations will make your memories more meaningful and thus more memorable. The strategy is useful for the most common age-related memory complaint of forgetting names and faces.
Mental stimulation from games, puzzles, reading, and conversations is associated with better memory, so I encourage people to keep their minds active.
Healthy Habits To Boost Brain Power
Improving memory and overall noggin performance doesnt have to be expensive or time-consuming. Building more brain power simply begins with improving exercise and sleep routines.;
A 2019 European study found that even in just a two-minute walking trial, cognitive performance improved. It is thought that exercise builds blood flow to the brain, which releases nourishing proteins that feed brain cells and promote the growth of new ones. Beyond all of the other benefits exercise provides, youre likely helping maintain memory function too.;
After exercise, sleep is also vitally important to brain health. Specific sleep steps are associated with a variety of cognitive functions, so getting the recommended seven to eight hours of shut-eye each night is crucial.
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S That May Keep Your Memory Sharp
1. Rule out other factors. Memory and thinking problems are sometimes related to concerns that your doctor can help you resolve, such as depression, some medications , a vitamin deficiency, excess alcohol consumption, hearing loss, and thyroid, kidney, or liver-related illnesses.What to do: Talk with your doctor. Sometimes, simply switching prescriptions or treating an underlying problem will normalize your thinking.
2. Control your blood pressure. Untreated high blood pressure has repeatedly been linked to cognitive impairment later in life, according to a 2016 report from the American Heart Association. This may be because high blood pressure can, over time, contribute to insufficient blood flow to the brain.What to do: Avoid smoking, consume alcohol only in moderation, and aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep at night. And if you have high blood pressure, take your hypertension medications as recommended. A 2016 study published in The Lancet found that older adults with hypertension who followed such lifestyle and medication advice had a lower risk of dementia after six years than those who didnt take such steps.
Ways To Keep Your Mind Sharp While Aging
Do you know someone suffering from Alzheimerâs? Itâs estimated that one in ten people over the age of 65 has the disease. Memory issues will affect all of us at some point, whether we deal with them ourselves or have a friend or family member who is affected.
Many people think that Alzheimerâs disease is genetic or just a result of aging, but thatâs not the case. Less than 5% of Alzheimerâs cases are genetic, and the majority of cases can be prevented with healthy lifestyle choices. The suggestions on this list can help you keep your mind sharp while you get older and prevent issues that can lead to cognitive decline.
Learning can have major benefits for older adults. A study from the University of Cambridge has shown that people with higher levels of education have a lower risk of developing dementia. These individuals are better able to handle changes in the brain before symptoms of dementia occur.
However, itâs not just individuals who were better educated earlier in life that benefit from learning. Dr. Ipsit Vahia from the Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital states that learning new things can be beneficial later in life as well. Increasing mental activity can stimulate new brain cell growth even at older ages, which can help protect against cognitive decline.
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Hydrations Role In Brain Function
According to John Sherwin, biologist and co-founder and CEO of Hydrant, studies have shown that a reduction of just two percent in your total body water content can impair various motor and memory skills.;
Sherwin notes that even scientists havent agreed on the one best way to measure bodily hydration, but an easy at-home base test is looking at the color of the urine. Simply put, the clearer it is, the more hydrated you are. If its not looking clear, you need more water.
Staying hydrated is one of the most important steps you can take to maintain brain function throughout the day, he says.
Sherwin adds that the key to success is ritualizing your routine. At his company, some team members have a special glass they leave out next to their preferred hydrating supplement on the kitchen counter so its the first thing they see after getting up in the morning. You could also use this same method next to your coffee maker.;
A New Book Argues That Making Healthy Lifestyle Choices Can Stave Off Cognitive Decline At Any Age
Like many people over 60, I sometimes lose my keys or forget the names of favorite films. When I do, it makes me wonder: Is this the beginning of cognitive decline? Or, worse, am I fated to follow in the footsteps of my mother, who died of Lewy-body dementia in her 70s?
According to neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta, CNN medical correspondent and author of the new book Keep Sharp: Building a Better Brain at Any Age, the answer is no. Forgetfulness is normal at all ages, and your genes dont doom you to dementia. Whats important is taking care of your brain in the best way possible, he argues.
You can affect your brains thinking and memory far more than you realize or appreciate, and the vast majority of people havent even begun to try, he writes.
Gupta distills results from hundreds of research studies to help readers understand whats known about keeping your brain healthy. Along the way, he busts common mythsfor example, that doing puzzles is a good way to ward off dementiaand replaces them with science-based advice on how to live a longer, healthier life with a more functional brain. He also distinguishes typical memory lapses from more troublesome ones a distinction I found quite reassuring.
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More Research Neededbut Don’t Wait
While brain training activitiessuch as computer games that aim to improve memory and attention spanis an exciting area of research with no downside, none of these activities are proven buffers against AD.
“When a study shows an association between two thingssuch as mental stimulation and a decrease in risk of ADpeople often make that next leap to assuming mental stimulation causes a decrease in AD risk,” says Dr. Jankowiak. “But none of these studies definitively show cause and effect.”
Nevertheless, experts agree evidence is building to support the idea that continually challenging your brain in healthy ways, spending time with loved ones, and having fun goes a long way in terms of safeguarding the brain. The key is to participate in activities you enjoy, according to AAN member Ronald Petersen, MD, director of the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center in Rochester, MN.
“We can’t document that any of these activities are better than another, so don’t do 10 crossword puzzles today if you hate crossword puzzles,” Dr. Petersen says. “Taking care of your brain shouldn’t be a chore, but rather a source of entertainment. That way, if they’re fun to do, you have nothing to lose.”
Here’s your go-to guide to a few brain-boosting activities.
Learn a Second Language
Become a Social Butterfly
Play Some Tunes
You don’t need to play like Mozart to benefit from music. Dabbling in guitar or learning to play “Chopsticks” on a keyboard offers countless benefits.
Practice Meditation And Mindfulness
Practicing meditation is a great way to reduce stress, worry less, and generally help you calm down. In addition to those benefits, meditation is also great for your brain. It can help you improve your memory and also assist with how quickly and accurately your brain can process information.
Even a couple of minutes a day meditating or practicing mindfulness can have benefits. When meditating, find somewhere quiet where you can focus on your breathing and the present, and not allow stress and worry to affect you during this time. If you are new to meditation, there are many apps and programs online dedicated to helping you learn this new and important skill.
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Benefits You Can Expect From Brain Exercise
Giving your brain the proper stimulation will help you be your mental best now and protect you against future cognitive decline.
Though you cant expect to get all of the following benefits from any one activity, brain exercise can help in these ways:
- less stress
He;wrote Keep Your Brain Alive: 83 Neurobic Exercises to Help Prevent Memory Loss and Increase Mental Fitness back in 1998 when few people were talking about brain fitness.
In his book, he coined the phrase neurobics to describe brain exercises that enhance brain performance by using all five senses in new and novel ways.
” The only way to continually stimulate your brain is to stay out of your comfort zone.
He explained that mental decline is not usually from loss of brain cells, but occurs from loss of communication between brain cells.
This occurs due to;the decreasing number and complexity of dendrites, the branches on nerve cells.
He found that by doing the right kind of mental exercise, we can grow new dendritic connections.
Katz noted that most brain exercises rely mainly on sight.
He believed that the key to fully exercising your brain is to engage all the senses sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell in novel and complex ways.
He contended that any activity can be turned into a good brain exercise provided it is new, fun, and challenging.
He listed 83 brain exercises in his book.
Here are some of my favorites that you can do anywhere, anytime.
Brain Exercises That Increase Intelligence
In 2008, a groundbreaking study proved for the first time that overall intelligence could be improved.
This was huge news that changed the way science regarded intelligence.
Several important findings resulted from this study:
- Intelligence is fluid and can be increased with the right stimulus.
- The gains are dependent on the amount of training, i.e., the more you train, the more you gain.
- Anyone can increase their cognitive abilities, no matter their starting point.
- Cognitive enhancement made in one area has the potential to improve totally unrelated skills.
Here are some of the most significant ways to stimulate your cognitive potential:
Do things youve never done before.
Travel somewhere youve never been.
Check out an unfamiliar ethnic cuisine.
Try a hobby that is totally out of character for you.
If you are a couch potato, sign up for a dance;class.
If you are athletic, try needlepoint.
9. Challenge Yourself With Mastery
Learning something new stimulates brain activity.
But as soon as you master it, the mental benefit stops because your brain becomes more efficient at the activity.
The only way to continually stimulate your brain is to stay out of your comfort zone.
So once you master something, challenge yourself with the next level of difficulty or learn a related skill.
10. Turn Off Technology
An obvious way to do things the hard way is to stop relying on technology.
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