First, you can’t find your keys. Then, it takes you a little longer than normal to remember your phone number. Eventually, you’re forgetting to take your medications. Age-related changes in memory are normal, and not all memory lapses are signs of serious memory problems. However, memory loss doesn’t have to be an inevitable part of the aging process. Here are four simple brain boosters that help keep your mind sharp and prevent age-related memory loss.
As you age, your brain shrinks in size, which can cause memory problems. One of the easiest ways to protect brain size and fight memory loss is to stay active. According to a study published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, older adults who walk at least six miles per week have greater gray matter volume than people who don’t walk as much. If you want to cut your risk of developing memory problems in half, schedule a 30-minute walk into your daily schedule.
Do a Puzzle
Give your brain a workout, too. Start doing The New York Times crossword puzzle or your local newspaper’s Sudoku game. Organize a weekly card game with your friends, or do a puzzle with your grandkids. Engaging your brain in mentally stimulating activities will keep your mind sharp and will lower your risk of mental decline.
Laugh Out Loud
You’ve heard it before: Laughter is the best medicine. Well, researchers at Loma Linda University in California have validated the saying. When you laugh — whether at a funny cat video online or at a funny story your daughter just told you — you reduce brain damage caused by the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn, improves memory.
Don’t Skimp on Sleep
If you aren’t getting at least seven to nine hours of good sleep each night, your memory is going to suffer. According to a study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, poor-quality sleep causes memories to stay stuck in the hippocampus and not reach the prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain where long-term memories are stored. To enhance your ability to enter deep sleep, get on a regular sleep schedule, avoid all screens for at least an hour before bed and cut back on caffeine.
If you’re worried about your memory loss, talk to your doctor. In addition to performing a physical exam and checking your memory and problem-solving skills, they might suggest additional memory tricks, such as posting sticky notes around your home, or devices, such as Reminder Rosie, an inexpensive medicine reminder to help solve the very real daily challenges of memory loss.