Of all the age-related deficiencies that pop out, the ones I have noticed that I am already beginning to experience have to do with vision and memory. Nothing serious—-yet. I can still assist my declining visual acuity with cheap, over-the-counter reading glasses (I blogged about this here) and I practice different brain games daily to keep my mind sharp (I blogged about that here). Still, I panic a tad whenever I forget why I am doing something or when I try to figure out what I wanted to remember. Minor memory loss is just part of the growing older reality but of course it can lead to signs of more serious diagnoses like dementia or even Alzheimer’s disease (my personal fear). Lucky for us, there are tricks we can do today to keep our minds sharp and improve our memory capabilities.
Recently, I read an article by Madonna Behen entitled, “Seven Easy Ways You Can Improve Your Memory Now.” (USA Weekend August 26-28, 2011) These seven ways came from leaders in the fields of cognition and aging and include:
1. Paint a Mental Picture- It is a lot easier to remember a vivid experience than a boring name or date. To help you remember names or dates, visualize a vivid picture that represents the parts of the name or date.
2. Switch Things Up- I learned this when I attended brain research seminars. The brain thrives on new experiences. Change up how you look at things. Something as simple as changing the font on your computer will help you retain unfamiliar facts. A new font causes your brain to concentrate more intently on the information.
3. Talk to Yourself- No problem here. I talk to myself all day long—internally. If you want to boost your memory, say something you want to remember out loud. Using more senses (visual, auditory) along with speaking at one time, helps you remember.
4. Use it or Lose it- What is true for your body is also true for your mind. The more you work it, the healthier and sharper it will be. What is especially effective is developing and using language; not only English but other languages as well. Switching from one language to another strengthens the connections in our brains.
5. Don’t be a loner- The more social you are, the less likely you are to develop memory problems and other signs of mental decline as you age. A great excuse to not only cultivate relationships in person, but on Facebook and Twitter as well.
6. Take a walk- Taking a brisk, 40-minute walk three times a week improves memory.
7. Get a good night’s sleep- Uninterrupted sleep is crucial for memory consolidation.
There, you have it. Some solid research on how to slow the aging process as it relates to memory and brain function. And don’t forget, sleep is an important component for a strong and fluid memory.