5 Ways to Maintain Your Memory in Your Golden Years
The number of people diagnosed with dementia, including Alzheimer’s, is rising. The number of women and men in the United States with dementia (again, including Alzheimer’s disease) is expected to double in the not-too-distant future. With that alarming news noted, there is also something positive: Research now indicates that one in three cases of dementia can potentially be slowed down or even prevented!
There is a preventative action that you can take right now that has the potential to lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s or some other type of dementia. Five key ways in which you can reduce your risk are:
- Eat smart
- Stay curious
- Stay Social
Harvard Medical School reports that research reveals a link between a person’s diet, memory, brain health, and dementia. According to these researchers:
The exact reason for the connection between diets high in saturated and trans fats and poorer memory isn’t entirely clear. Still, the relationship may be mediated by a gene called apolipoprotein E, or APOE. This gene is associated with the amount of cholesterol in your blood, and people with a variation of this gene, called APOE e4 are at greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease. “About 65% of individuals who wind up with dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease in their 60s and 70s have that gene,” says Dr. Gad Marshall, assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School.
There are 11 food items that appear to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Cocoa and dark chocolate
- Low to moderate amounts of alcohol
- Curcumin and turmeric
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet consists of large amounts of vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, whole grains, olive oil, seeds, herbs, and spices. It also includes fish, seafood, eggs, cheese, and poultry, and it recommends infrequent red meat and sweets.
Research also indicates that if you stay curious in your life, you can slow down the onset and progression of dementia or prevent it altogether. In essence, by exercising your brain like you would a muscle, you sharpen your wits and prepare your mind for the future.
Remaining curious and exercising your brain comes in many forms. It can include everything from reading, playing certain types of games, conversing with others, taking a course, and many other activities that you likely already enjoy (or even engage in, at least to some degree).
A research study examined a population of seniors who were avid readers. The study followed these women and men in their Golden Years. The results of this study revealed that people who are avid readers reduced their memory decline by an amazing 30 percent.
Experts and researchers in the field of brain health, memory, and dementia recommend meditation as another means of maintaining memory in your Golden Years. There are a variety of benefits associated with meditation. These include:
- Increase in longevity
- Increase in gray matter in the brain
An increase in gray matter in a person’s brain enhances memory and slows down the onset or progression of dementia or even prevents the disease in the first instance.
There is some evidence that certain meditation practices are more beneficial than others. For example, it now appears that chants and mantras used in mediation that are accompanied by some physical movement are demonstrated better at providing memory fortification.
Multiple research studies in recent years have highlighted the benefits of staying social and maintaining your memory. For example:
- The American Journal of Psychiatric Health published a study that showed social support helps protect against dementia.
- The Seattle Longitudinal studies and MacArthur study suggest regular social activity increases cognitive functions and wards off the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
- The Rush University Medical Center study found that very social seniors experience a 70 percent reduction in their rate of cognitive decline when compared to their unsocial peers.
- In a study testing over 6,000 seniors across a period of about 5 1/2 years, seniors having frequent social engagement had a slower decline in intellectual and memory abilities. Good mental capacity was maintained best in those people who were the most socially active.
Researchers in these studies sum up the overall impact of socialization on memory loss:
Keeping social ties, staying connected with old friends, and calling your family members to invite them over for a bite, is what life is all about and a great way to practice preventative health for your brain. So, stay close to the ones you love because they’re helping keep you tethered to a happy, mindful existence, help keep you on your toes, and help keep your mind sharp.
Researchers make no surprise that there is a connection and correlation between proper sleep and memory retention. According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, what is known as memory consolidation takes place when we are asleep. This occurs through the strengthening of neural connections.
As a result, if we do not sleep well or less than we really should, we risk missing those critical moments of memory formation and collection that occur while we are asleep. As an older adult, 7 to 8 hours is the recommended amount of time you should sleep at night. This time frame gives you enough space to get deep into REM sleep. It is during REM sleep that we store these precious memories.
The strategies discussed in this article are some of the most basic steps or actions we can take consistently to help our brains be as healthy as possible. Ideally, we take advantage of all of these strategies and practices discussed in this article. Doing so enhances the possibility that we will be able to slow the onset or progress of memory issues and even dementia or prevent the occurrence of dementia altogether.