Saturday, October 17, 2009

Stay Sharp!

More than 80 percent of seniors worry about memory loss, according to a recent survey. For many of those, complaints about poor memory begin early in middle age. Yet only 20 percent of elderly Americans will ultimately suffer from memory loss severe enough to inhibit their daily activities.

How can you stay in that happy majority that doesn’t suffer from memory loss? Here’s what the experts recommend:

Stay physically healthy. High blood pressure and high cholesterol have been found to play a role in memory loss.

Don’t ignore mental health concerns. Depression and anxiety can interfere with memory function.

Get plenty of sleep. Insomnia or an overloaded schedule will impact both your memory and cognitive abilities.

Exercise daily. Aerobic exercise improves circulation and helps you relax. It can also reduce your blood pressure and cholesterol, which are known contributors to memory loss.

Eat right. Good nutrition is imperative to good brain function. Blueberries, strawberries and spinach are among the antioxidant-rich wonder foods that promote good memory. Also, avoid excessive amounts of alcohol.

Manage your stress. Stress can zap your memory and recall skills. Get plenty of rest, meditate, work out or do whatever it takes to reduce your stress. Laugh as often as possible.

Stay social. Social isolation, particularly among the elderly, can contribute to memory loss because of a lack of mental stimulation. Leisure and volunteer activities with others keeps you focused outside of yourself.

Challenge yourself. Learn a mentally challenging task, such as a new language or how to play chess.

Be organized. Make lists, write things down and have a system for your daily activities. Don’t give yourself a reason to waste your mental energy by worrying.

To improve your memory today, try these tricks:

Be fully attentive and observant. If you are distracted by the phone, social networking, your to-do, etc., it’s harder to learn or remember something new. Pay full attention to the new information at hand. Take a mental picture and reflect on it.

Know your learning style. If you learn by hearing, repeat the information out loud. If you learn by reading or writing, put it in writing and read it a few times.

Use frequent reminders. Frequent exposure to information helps it work its way into your long-term memory. Don’t expect to remember a lot of detail after one exposure to a new concept.

Use mnemonic devices. Use clever tricks to help yourself remember. A common mnemonic device is the acronym (Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge for the notes on the musical scale, or My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nachos to remember the planets in the solar system). A good way to remember names is through imagery. If your new neighbor is named Dr. Winter, picture him walking through some deep snow in the depth of winter – perhaps wearing a lab coat and stethoscope.

Question: What do you do to make sure your memory stays sharp?

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