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Improving Your Memory

cognitive decline

Just because memory decline is natural does not mean we can’t change the process.

In last week’s blog, I discussed age-related memory loss and cognitive decline. This week I provide some tools to help you slow down the process.

Just because memory decline is natural does not mean we can’t change the process. The brain is like a muscle in that if you don’t use it, you lose it. An active brain can grow new cells and work more effectively.

Here are some ways to keep your brain healthy:

  • Be physically active on a daily basis. A combination of stretching, strength training, and aerobic activity is an ideal approach.
  • Eat a nutritious diet. Fruits and vegetables, along with other high-value nutritional foods can provide nourishment for our brains. Do not skip meals.
  • Drink enough water.
  • Manage stress. Meditation and relaxation techniques can help us to think more clearly.
  • Avoid alcohol and unhealthy substance use.
  • Get sufficient sleep. The average adult needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night.
  • Breathe. Oxygen is essential to our brains.
  • Stay mentally active.

How do we stay mentally active? Here are some tips:

  • Read more or listen to audio books.
  • Do puzzles and brainteasers.
  • Learn new things, particularly drawing or painting.
  • Go to lectures, plays, museums, or concerts.
  • Cut down or eliminate T.V. watching.
  • Take up a musical instrument.
  • Maintain social and family connections.
  • Study a new language.
  • Find a hobby.
  • Play games.
  • Learn to juggle.
  • Take adult education classes.
  • Learn to dance.
  • Shake up your routine. Rearrange your furniture, drive a different route to familiar places, or wear your watch on your other wrist.

As for forgetfulness, there are techniques that can be used to help us improve our memory. Libraries usually have books on memory improvement. A few suggestions:

  • Organize yourself.
  • Create habits and routines.
  • Write things down and keep your lists in the same place.
  • Do one task at a time, rather than multi-tasking.
  • Pay attention to what you want to remember.
  • Visualize what you want to recall.
  • Use repetition to fasten something into your memory bank.
  • To remember long lists, create a story or connections between items.

You can use memory devices, also called mnemonics, to aid memory. A classic mnemonic is “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pickles” (the first letter of each word is also the first letter of the planets in our solar system – Mercury, Venus, Earth, etc.) or “Thirty days has September, April, June, and November. When short February’s done, all the rest have 31” (used to remember how many days are in each month).

If you think your cognitive issues aren’t garden variety aging, be sure to talk to your medical provider. There are medications to help with dementia. Various supplements are being tested for memory enhancement capabilities, but hasn’t found anything conclusive.

If you are forgetful, go easy on yourself. Stay positive and maintain a sense of humor. Remember being happy is much more important than remembering where you put your keys.

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