As we age, a lot of changes occur in our system. One of the organs affected by these changes is our brain. Forgetfulness and memory loss are just some of the issues older adults face.
Though this may be an inevitable event, there are still ways to improve one’s memory and brain function. In this article, I will be sharing some valuable tips along with some essential information that can help you understand forgetfulness and memory loss.
When is Forgetfulness Not Normal?
People tend to become forgetful when they get older. For example, your grandfather might forget where he placed his car keys or glasses once in a while. This event is pretty normal and not a cause for concern.
However, if you notice an elderly forgetting major details in a way that affects his/her daily life, then it might be time to call for medical attention. Forgetfulness is considered not normal if s/he:
- Ask questions repeatedly during a conversation
- Easily get lost in a place s/he is very familiar with
- Always confused about time, place, and people
- Difficulty in following directions
- Inability to perform basic hygiene tasks
Common Causes of Forgetfulness or Memory Loss?
Forgetfulness and memory loss are normal signs of aging, but they can also be early signs of Alzheimer’s or other types of Dementia. If you notice you are getting forgetful but doesn’t affect your quality of living, then there’s nothing to worry about. Some causes of forgetfulness and memory loss can be due to:
- Medical conditions
- Mild cognitive impairment
- Emotional health issues
If you want to ensure you’re not suffering from any brain diseases, then talking to a doctor is not a bad choice. In fact, it can help you catch the disease at the earliest possible.
8 Efficient Tips for Boosting Brain Function
To improve your brain function and decrease the possibility of memory loss and other cognitive impairments, then following the tips listed below can be helpful.
Get Regular Checkups
Several causes of forgetfulness and cognitive decline are other underlying medical conditions. That’s why it’s crucial to see a healthcare professional regularly to catch early signs of diseases that might be causing memory loss. Several examples of underlying conditions are:
- Heart diseases
- Thyroid problems
- Brain tumors (either benign or cancerous)
- Vitamin deficiencies
In some cases, forgetfulness is caused by the current medications that you are taking. Muscle relaxants, anti-depressants, sleeping medications, allergy medications, and statins are just a few examples.
Keep Up A Healthy Diet
A healthy diet doesn’t just contribute to physical health, but it also offers a lot of benefits to your mental health. One of the best meal plans for a healthy brain is a Mediterranean diet. A Mediterranean diet consists of many varieties of fruits and vegetables which are good sources of vitamins and minerals.
This kind of diet also involves a little red meat and more protein-rich meats like fish and chicken. A study even revealed that people who continuously followed this diet are 20% less likely to get memory loss problems.
Get Enough Sleep
Our body, including the brain, does a lot of processes when we are asleep. Not getting enough sleep will not allow the brain to do these processes properly contributing to memory loss.
One way to avoid this is to get quality sleep at night. However, others experience difficulty sleeping at night, especially older adults. Fortunately, there are several practices you can do to improve sleep habits and avoid sleep problems.
These practices include:
- Making your bedroom cooler, darker, more comfortable, and more spacious.
- Turn off the lights and turn on your lamp at least an hour before you sleep.
- Stop using gadgets or watching TV at least an hour before you sleep.
- Make your sleep schedule consistent.
- Reduce drinking caffeinated drinks in the afternoons.
Keep Yourself Physically Active
Regular exercise and other physical activities are proven to improve not just heart health, but also brain function. Exercises that improve cardiovascular health are linked to better brain health. This is because as the heart rate increases during physical activities, more oxygen is pumped to your brain.
The continuous habit of exercising will then maintain healthy cognition and avoid memory loss problems.
Learn New Skills
To be able for the brain to maintain its proper function, it should always be used and challenged from time to time. Though mental stimulations are helpful in this aspect, you can also learn new skills that will challenge you, thus sharpening your brain even more. Some brain challenges include:
- Learning another language
- Conducting a research
- Trying out a new recipe
- Learning to play a musical instrument
- Other activities that you think may challenge your brain
One of the factors of memory loss and other cognitive problems is stress. Long-term stress is linked to depression and anxiety. Furthermore, one expert also stated that the higher stress hormones (cortisol) you have, the less likely your brain can retain information from your brain’s memory.
To avoid stress, try to keep yourself busy, avoid too many stress-inducing activities, and engage in hobbies and activities that you enjoy.
Keep Your Social Life Active
Isolating oneself for long periods is not healthy for your brain, and it can increase your risk of cognitive impairments. That’s why keeping up with your colleagues, friends, relatives, and family plays a significant role in keeping your cognitive health at its peak.
You can also join different groups, charity organizations, or clubs that match your interest. In this way, you can meet new people, relate to their lives, and even share laughs with them. Socializing not only improves your cognitive health, but also your social life, and helps avoid stress.
Sharpen Your Brain With Memory Tricks
Aside from engaging in new and challenging activities, you can also do mental exercises to keep your brain functioning. Some examples of memory exercises are:
- Chunking - This is a memorization strategy suited for memorizing large amounts of information. Chunking is done by breaking down the information into smaller groups by categorizing them according to their similarities. Try reading an article about a specific topic then make an outline consisting of the main points and terms from the articles. After that, challenge yourself and try to memorize it.
- Acrostics and Acronyms - This is another memory strategy for easier retention of a list of terms or a sequence of letters and numbers.
- Doodling - This memory exercise has been proven to enhance your information retention. This is useful when you want to learn a new skill. Browse for tutorials and try to doodle down the information from them. In this way, you’ll be able to learn the specific skill quicker than you realize.
- Talking out loud - Just like doodling, talking out loud is also proven to help you retain information easier and quicker. If you want to remember certain information or term from a book or article, try saying it out loud. You can also do this by remembering the tasks you’re planning to do and the things that you need to buy in the grocery store.
- Varied repetition - Whether you are a visual, auditory, or logical learner, memorizing can be more effective if you use varied repetition. This involves using two or more memorizing strategies so that you can retain the information much easier. You can do this for example by reading the information repeatedly in one day, on the next day, you read the information aloud, then on the third day, trying to rewrite the information you are trying to memorize.
- Cues and reminders - Setting up cues or reminders through sticky notes or alarms can help keep tasks consistent and avoid forgetting them. With continuous practice, your brain will eventually get used to the schedules of the tasks in a way that you wouldn’t forget them even without setting a reminder.
If you want a little fun, you can also engage in different memory games suitable for seniors:
- Trivia quizzes
- Word puzzles
- Jigsaw puzzles
- Other card or board games
Cognitive health is one of the most crucial health aspects that we should take care of, and I’m sure nobody wants to experience memory loss and other cognitive health conditions when they get older. I hope this article helped you have an idea of how to deal with memory loss and enhance one’s memory and cognitive health.