One of the most unfortunate parts of aging is memory loss.
It happens slowly, but before you realize it you have trouble remembering simple things, like where you just put your keys, where you parked your car or that you were supposed to visit the doctor today.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are serious concerns for many older adults, as one person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s every 67 seconds in the U.S. But even amid this reality, there are several things you can do to keep your brain engaged.
Here are four ways to keep your memory sharp as you get older:
According to recent research, just one hour of exercise a week can reduce a person’s risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s by 50 percent. Health experts say exercise is the number one way to prevent these conditions. One study even showed that people who did not do vigorous exercise for at least 20 minutes a day, three times a week or five, 30-minute sessions of moderate exercise such as walking were 82 percent more likely to develop dementia.
Exercise may decrease the likelihood that people with a family history of Alzheimer’s will go on to develop the disease. This is because physical activity, especially aerobic exercise that increases your heart rate, encourages new capillaries to form that deliver much-needed nutrients and oxygen to the brain. It also stimulates the brain to release growth factors, which create cells that can slow down cognitive decline as you age.
Several studies show that maintaining strong social ties also stimulates the brain. A 2011 study by the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago showed that friends and family are the best antidote for age-related memory challenges. It showed that seniors who were highly social had a 70-percent reduction in cognitive decline compared to those who were more isolated.
So, stay engaged with your community and your loved ones. Volunteer at your local church or a non-profit organization focused on interests about which you are passionate. Participate in activities you enjoy, whether it be gardening, playing cards, cooking or joining friends for daily walks or phone conversations.
Never Stop Learning
If you are 65 and older, having an idle mind won’t help you stave off dementia and Alzheimer’s. Keeping your brain as active as possible is so important as you age. Health experts says that learning accumulates in your brain, creating something like a “memory bank” that you can rely on to reinvigorate your mind as you age. Read a book or a magazine, watch the news or history programs on TV. Talk to friends and family members about great moments throughout your life or about current events to keep your brain engaged with the world around you.
Remember, You are What You Eat
Obesity can increase your risk for Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 60 percent, according to research.
When it comes to your overall health, you are what you eat and consuming a diet high in saturated fat and sodium can increase your risk for many health conditions, including dementia and Alzheimer’s. A diet filled with fruits, vegetables, fish, whole grains and nuts, like the Mediterranean diet, can have significant long-term benefits for your brain function as you age. Extra-virgin olive oil, which is a key part of this diet, seems to play an important role in keeping the brain engaged. Olive oil contains oleocanthal, which has anti-inflammatory properties and is believed to help remove a protein that usually builds up in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. According to a Columbia University study, people who ate a Mediterranean diet had a lower risk of developing memory issues and a lower risk of these issues leading to full-blown dementia.
Although lifestyle adaptations may be difficult and changes to your memory will happen as you age, you can slow this decline by eating healthy, continuing to learn, and staying active and socially engaged. If you’ve become more forgetful with age, talk to your doctor about other ways to keep your brain stimulated and don’t hesitate to ask friends or family members for help if you need it.