Ways to preserve memory as we age

Although memory loss can be a normal part of the aging process, it is a cause for concern to many older adults. While normal age-related memory loss is common and natural, it can be slowed and even prevented through diet and certain activities.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Some degree of memory problems, as well as a modest decline in other thinking skills, is a fairly common part of aging.” Normal memory loss can include occasionally misplacing your glasses or car keys, forgetting a person's name, or not being able to remember a word that is “right on the tip of your tongue.”

The National Institute on Aging reports that these minor declines in memory and cognitive ability may occur because “certain parts of the brain that are important in learning, memory and planning shrink with age.”

Research has also shown that brain neurons become less able to communicate efficiently with each other, and blood flow in the brain is reduced because arteries narrow with age.

To help preserve memory, Harvard Medical School recommends that older adults keep learning new things, maintain a social network of friends and family, engage in regular exercise, refrain from smoking, get 6–8 hours of sleep a night, consume proper amounts of vitamins C and E, and eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables and healthy fats.

The Alzheimer’s Association recommends learning new things by adding small changes to your daily routine. You may consider adding a daily walk, attending a lecture or play, reading a book, researching a subject of interest, playing a game or starting a new hobby.  Crossword and other types of puzzles and word games have also been shown to help enhance brain function.

The Cleveland Heights Senior Activity Center (SAC) offers a variety of classes to help you keep learning new things. It also offers several exercise programs to help you maintain physical fitness and social interaction.

Lumosity, a memory training program on the Internet, offers a personalized game program to help enhance memory. Daily exercises help train a variety of cognitive functions, and are designed to improve overall brain performance, based on target training priorities that you set for yourself. Some exercises are free, others require payment.

It is important to note that there can be other causes of memory loss besides natural aging. The Mayo Clinic lists medication interactions, head injuries, mental health disorders, alcoholism, vitamin B-12 deficiencies, hypothyroidism, and brain tumors as other possible causes of memory loss.

In some cases, memory loss can indicate beginning stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. If you're concerned about memory loss, it is important to see your doctor. He or she can conduct tests to judge the degree of memory impairment, diagnose the cause and offer a course of action.

SAC can be reached at 216-691-7377 and the Lumosity website can be found at www.lumosity.com.

Judith Eugene

Judith Eugene is a native of Cleveland Heights who provides life-enrichment classes and activities for senior adults and those with physical and mental challenges through www.LovingHandsGroup.com. She may be reached at 216-408-5578 or Judith@LovingHandsGroup.com

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Volume 6, Issue 9, Posted 2:20 PM, 08.30.2013