Minor memory loss is often attributed to normal aging. Do you know when you should be concerned and how to respond about it?
MEMORY: A FACULTY THAT FORGETS?
The mind needs constant stimulation to stay sharp at any age. Activities that challenge it are the mind’s best friends. The more active your brain is (reading, writing, travelling, learning, etc.), the more resistant it will be to the effects of aging.
It is often believed that aging is synonymous with memory loss. Although it is generally recognized that mental faculties can decline somewhat with age, in reality there is significant degree of variability among individuals regarding aging. Most of us know people who have remained very sharp until the end of their lives.
Here is what you can do to increase your chances of being part of this group.
MAINTAINING YOUR MENTAL FACULTIES AFTER THE AGE OF 65
- Read. Reading remains one of the best mental stimulants. It improves language skills and stimulates memory. Variety is important. Vary your reading between newspapers, news magazines, novels, biographies, etc.
- Write. Writing has an even greater stimulating effect than speaking. Writing clarifies thought, improves logic and strengthens memory. Take the time to write a letter or an email to a friend or family member, or keep a journal.
- Play. Some fun activities help you exercise various areas of the brain, such as those involving memory, logic, verbal comprehension, vocabulary, and word use. Focus on pastimes that are entertaining, while helping to give your brain a workout, such as:
- internet games
- Stay socially active. Isolation is the enemy of intellectual ability. Continuing to deal with others, their points of view, and participating in exchanges is essential in preventing mental laziness. Be curious and open-minded. Be sure to maintain an extensive social network around you.
- Take some classes. Whether it is a new language, dance or horticulture, learning helps us acquire new skills, boosts self-confidence and memory. It’s also a great way to meet new people.
- Be creative. Develop your artistic flair. Many artistic and hands-on activities stimulate creativity and coordination of movement. Imagine drawing a tapestry or a flower bed, finding a way to build a birdhouse from recyclable materials, drawing or painting, writing storybooks for children, etc. The possibilities are endless.
- Exercise. It is well-documented that exercising regularly has a positive impact on physical and psycho-affective health. Activities such as brisk walking, cycling, swimming or dancing at least three times a week has a positive impact on mental faculties. Also, exercising allows you to develop strong ties with others and to have fun, while maintaining your autonomy and self-esteem.
- Eat well. Eating well is the basis for good health and contributes to brain health. Follow Canada’s Food Guide focusing on a high intake of cereals (mostly whole grains), vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, olive oil, fish and poultry. Studies have shown that this type of diet has a positive impact on intelligence. Note that omega 3 is thought to be particularly beneficial, which would explain why so many people are turning to these supplements.
- Some diseases can affect your memory. Therefore, it is best to treat them appropriately. Examples include diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and depression. If you have any of these conditions, it doesn't mean you will lose your memory, but it does give you one more reason to follow your doctor's advice.
- Some medications can affect memory. This is the case with some sleep aids, for instance. Speak to your pharmacist or doctor if you feel like your memory is getting worse to see if your medications may be to blame. That said, don't change your medication without first discussing it, as a plan is usually needed.
The brain is a true wonder of nature, it’s up to you to give it the daily attention it deserves!