Monday, March 18, 2013

Preserve and improve your memory

By Bob Gregory

This past Saturday was the 16th Annual USA Memory Championship held at Con Edison in New York.  These competitors are gifted, but like any competitor, they also train for the event.  Of course these competitors are relatively young, but it made me wonder if we should be helping our elderly parents improve memory and fight memory loss by doing a little memory training.  Everyone experiences normal memory loss and according to the British Medical Journal, it can occur as young as age 45!  Testing demonstrated that younger participants had a much lower memory decline (3.6%) while older participants (65-70) showed the greatest decline of nearly 10%!  The article also suggests that being heart healthy has an impact on memory and that diet and exercise can also help.  So what can we do for ourselves and our elderly parents?

Here are some tips on helping prevent and improve memory loss:

  1. Eat healthy and exercise!  We all know the benefits of eating healthy and exercising for weight, heart and general wellbeing, but taking care of our hearts can have the added benefit of preserving and possibly improving our memories.  The August 2012 Harvard Womens Health Watch suggests a diet which contains items from the Mediterranean Diet:

The Mediterranean diet includes several components that might promote brain health:
Mediterranean diet (close up)
Mediterranean diet (close up) (Photo credit: grobery)
·         Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and olive oil help improve the health of blood vessels, reducing the risk for a memory-damaging stroke.
·         Fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids which have been linked to lower levels of beta-amyloid proteins in the blood and better vascular health.
·         Moderate alcohol consumption raises levels of healthy high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Alcohol also lowers our cells' resistance to insulin, allowing it to lower blood sugar more effectively. Insulin resistance has been linked to dementia.

Along with your healthy diet, don’t forget to exercise!  Not only does exercise improve your health, it can reduce stress and help you sleep.  Aerobic exercise tends to be the best for memory but you should consult your physician who can recommend a safe and effective routine for your level of health.
  1. Focus on one task and avoid multi-tasking.  I’ll admit there are times you cannot avoid being a multi-tasker—ask anyone with young children.  However, as we mature we should take the time to focus and complete one task at a time.  This will produce a much higher quality result and help preserve and improve your memory.  The steps to a single task are much easier to comprehend and retain than many steps to different tasks all at the same time—makes senses!
  2. Organization and routines are a great way to preserve and improve memory.  If you are organized and keep everything in their respective place, you should be able to find what you need and remember where they are kept!  If you have one particular place you leave your car keys every time you come into the house, you will have a much easier time finding and remembering where they are placed.  If 
    Organisation (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)
    you ever ran around the house looking for your keys, you know I’m right!  Also, keeping a daily routine can help.  Most of us perform the same tasks every single day, such as eating sleeping, bathing, chores and so on.  By keeping a routine, you will be less likely to forget items that need to be accomplished.  For example, if you need to take medication, make sure you take your medication the same time everyday and associate it with an activity you always perform, such as eating a meal.
  3. Participate in activities that cause you to concentrate.  Some experts point to games to help memory and there are a lot of free online games—just Google it!  Others suggest writing or keeping a journal of your day to help improve your memory.  This can also be very therapeutic if you need to express 
    memory game
    memory game (Photo credit: jessica wilson {jek in the box})
    yourself but don’t want to do it verbally!  Reading is another great way to improve memory.  Once you've completed the book, take the time to write your own review and see how much of the detail you can include.  Socializing can also help as friends often reminisce about the good ole days and that can help your memory.  Speaking out loud requires you to recall and organize your thoughts so they are verbalized in a comprehensible manner.
 If you don’t intend to try some of these tips to help your memory, then don’t expect your elderly parent to do so!  This is an excellent opportunity to help yourself and your elderly parent as well.  I suggest you lead by example and include your parent in as many of these activities with you as possible.  Also, keep in mind that not all memory loss is natural and it can be a sign of a more serious issue such as Dementia, Alzheimer’s or Depression.  Make sure you seek professional help to determine whether your memory loss or your elderly parent’s is natural or something more serious.  Finally, there are several drugs on the market that your physician may recommend to help you or your parent so be sure and discuss any issues you may have.  I hope some of these tips are all you need to preserve and improve your memory!

If you find you need an Assisted Living Facility, Nursing Home or any other type of Senior Facility, I hope you will consider
If you would like to contribute your thoughts and ideas, please leave them in our comment section. We want to hear them. Helping people care for themselves or their loved ones is what we care about. 

We look forward to reading yours.

Bob Gregory is an advocate for Seniors and is one of the founders of At, we are dedicated to helping families get the Elder Care help they need without having to provide their personal information! If find you need an assisted living facility or other type of senior facility, please consider

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