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Memory is declining as we age

Is memory declining faster than ever?

There are many causes of dementia and memory loss declining faster as we grow older; but I believe the two main ones, both involving brain activity, are outlined below.

In the past when we needed to know something or solve some problem or get information of any kind, we would ask other people, join trade associations, visit the library, check a dictionary or encyclopedia, or read books and magazines. Most of these things involve both physical and mental exercise and stimulation as well as interaction with others.

But now, all we have to do is Google whatever we want to know. There is very little brain and body stimulation involved and little interaction with others. We have all the information we need at our fingertips. Unfortunately, exercising our fingertips is not enough.

The second reason is that in the past we had full-time employment – a job or career that kept us in contact with other people and continually stimulated our brain almost every day of the week.

But upon retirement, the normal practice is to take it easy, have fewer contacts, use our brain less frequently, have less physical exercise, and more passive activities – such as watching TV. Life for many has become a spectator sport.

This is not always the case, however, and some people continue to lead an active lifestyle, and if not working, spend much time volunteering. In general, people who volunteer are healthier, happier and live longer.

There are many things you can do in addition to exercising your body and brain in order to help prevent mental decline and aid your memory,

Write things down.

Writing things down not only allows you to refer to the information later, it also helps to put it into long-term memory and aids recall. Writing keeps you mindful, increases focus, and reduces distractions. I recommend that you make notes when on the telephone, use a paper planner to schedule tasks, events and activities, and start journaling.

Watch your weight.

Diet is important for overall health, including the brain. Obesity could lead to high blood pressure, which lowers cognitive function. There is a link between weight gain and memory loss.

Read deeply and avoid digital.

Deep reading involves slowing down, concentrating on the meaning of what you’re reading, highlighting key sentences, and sometimes flipping back to previous pages as necessary to ensure understanding. Deep reading improves memory and recall while reading electronic books or Internet articles are more difficult, and encourage distractions and multitasking.

Avoid stress.

Stress induces the release of cortisol, and excess cortisol impairs functioning in the prefrontal cortex – an emotional learning centre that helps regulate working memory as well as other executive skills. The overproduction of cortisol was found in seniors who were experiencing memory loss.

Get adequate sleep.

Sleep deprivation impairs functioning of the executive skills, including working memory. It is during sleep that information is transferred to long-term memory, and brain cells are replenished and repaired.

Eat the right foods.

Proper nutrition can help prevent cognitive decline. Avoid foods high in trans fats such as French fries potato chips and doughnuts. Foods are believed to keep the brain sharp include such things as blueberries, salmon kale and supplements such as EPA Omega 3 fish oil.

Drink plenty of water.

Drinking water is believed to sharpen your recall skills and it has been shown that bringing water into an exam room can raise students’ marks.

Coffee in moderation.

While too much coffee has been associated with stress, in moderation it seems to give memory a boost. Research has backed this up.

Have your hearing checked.

Research suggests that even a mild hearing loss may have a detrimental effect on your ability to learn and remember.

Spend time outdoors.

Nature can have a powerful influence on your brain – including creativity, working memory, concentration and self-control. Taking nature walks can improve mood and relieve the mental fatigue that goes with depression and mental illness.

It is imperative that you walk more, sit less, and move around as much as possible. A sedentary lifestyle is unhealthy. And the brain is like  muscle inasmuch if you don’t use it you lose it. More on memory is included in my e-Book, Boost your memory, published by Bookboon.com.

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