The idea of losing our memory and essentially our entire mind as we grow older is a petrifying one. While most people think that age-related memory loss is something entirely unavoidable, many medical journalists show us that there is in fact hope. Genetics definitely play a role in the development of memory loss, but components in your everyday lifestyle such as diet and even education takes part in its likelihood as well.
Occasional forgetfulness comes naturally with age, and this is due to two main reasons: (1) as we age, the hippocampus – the area of the brain in charge of forming and retrieving memory – worsens overtime and (2) proteins that protect and maintain brain cell function deteriorate with age.1
Upon reaching the age of 50-60, many experience slight difficulties in everyday activities and conventional tasks. Can’t remember where you left your keys? Experiencing difficulties recalling what time to pick up the grandkids? Always forgetting your anniversary? Don’t be frightened as these are all considered normal age-related memory loss.
For some people, however, this forgetfulness leads to struggling to keep up with conversations, difficulty thinking of the right word, and inability to perform simple tasks such as getting dressed or brushing your teeth. These symptoms indicate more serious age-related memory loss, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s. In either case, the following tips can help to eliminate your chances of experiencing memory loss. Take action now and be aware of the following advice before it’s too late.
- Anxiety is Your Worst Enemy.
Stress is arguably one of the worst things for your cognitive function. When our bodies experience stress, a hormone called cortisol is released. This hormone is basically in charge of the “flight or fight” concept, whereby our body is signaled to escape the stressful situation and reach the safe-zone. So even though certain important moments require stress, little, irrelevant ones should not have you pulling your hairs out or screaming out of frustration. I’m talking about those annoying moments while driving when the guy beside you is clearly causing havoc, or those days when you can’t stop worrying about getting the house bills paid.
Since stress is inevitable, it all comes down to learning how to deal with it. Some people choose to deal with their anxiety by reading a good book and taking a hot bath. Others prefer yoga or some form of exercise to get the blood flowing and body sweating. I personally like watching something funny, like a stand-up comedy or a good comedy film – a little bit of laughter can fix my day right up. Reflect on your lifestyle and what your hobbies are in hope to find the one (or many!) trick(s) that can really help you take the edge off.
- Vitamins: Get your facts straight.
Scientists used to think that taking antioxidants was the best way to prevent memory loss and cognitive impairment, as they help fight free radicals from attacking healthy cells. In 2002, however, a study2 published in the Archives of Neurology found that there was no correlation between Alzheimer’s disease and antioxidant consumption. This led to further research into memory-aid supplements and their effects on memory. Over the years, more and more studies were released discussing the association between vitamins and memory loss. The findings, however, remain inconsistent.
If you’re very concerned with memory loss then you’ve probably read a few articles or forums that speak of Vitamin E, B12, and D. While taking these vitamins is convenient and can keep your mineral levels in check, here is the truth about them:
- Vitamin E
A study3 published in JAMA (The Journal of American Medical Association) led by Dr. Maurice W. Dysken reported that an intake of alpha tocopherol can help to slow cognitive decline related to memory loss. Alpha tocopherol is a form of Vitamin E that is also an antioxidant. So while antioxidant consumption does not prevent memory-loss, it plays a significant role in slowing the process down.
- Vitamin B12
An article published on July 2, 2015 in the Oxford University Journal states that the association between Vitamin B12 deficiency and cognitive deterioration is questionable.4 The study was conducted by researchers from Oxford University, King’s College London, UCL and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The results showed no evidence of improved cognitive function after Vitamin B12 intake.
- Vitamin D
A study led by Dr. David Llewellyn in the University of Exeter Medical School confirmed that a deficiency in Vitamin D can double the likelihood of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.5
From the above information, you should take home two following pieces: (1) Don’t believe everything that you read and (2) A daily intake of Vitamin E can help slow down age-related memory loss while Vitamin D can help prevent it. We recommend that you consult your physician about dosages of each vitamin to ensure safety.
- Enter (Or stay in) the No-Smoking Zone.
Not a big surprise here: long-term smoking has definitely been shown to cause cognitive decline and memory loss. The Northumbria University’s School of Life Sciences performed a study6 whereby smokers and non-smokers were to participate in a memory test. The results showed that both daily and social smokers performed worse in the memory test. This is because smoking causes the brain to shrink faster than its natural rate, leading to cognitive deterioration. Whether you’ve been smoking for years or just had your first cigarette, here is yet another reason why you should stay away from those evil little death sticks.
- Check your Genes.
Every 1 in 4 people have a gene called the Apolipoprotein E4. This gene can make you 3 to 10 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. If you’ve inherited the gene from one parents then you are 3 times more susceptible to memory impairment and if you’ve inherited the gene from both parents then your risk is increased by ten times. Apo E4 increases the formation of proteins clumps (amyloid plaques) in the brain, thus leading to the death of brain cells and worsening brain function.
We really recommend that you go the doctor to ask for a DNA test in order to find out whether or not you have the Apo E4 gene. Knowing that you have the gene will make you more aware of your lifestyle choices and help you to focus on making better decisions. Even if you think it’s too late for yourself, take the test so you can inform your children and/or grandchildren about whether or not the gene is present in the family line.
- Floss for a Brighter Brain.
That’s right! Spending a few extra minutes to floss your teeth before going to bed can have some pretty impressive benefits. A research study in West Virginia University has shown that oral hygiene may lead to reduced risk of memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In the study, participants who scored lowest on the memory test had higher disease-causing bacteria as well as inflammation in their gums. This is because gum infections can travel up to your brain and poison it, causing cognitive impairment.
From now on, don’t be lazy and get on that floss. Not only does it help reduce the risk of memory loss, but it can also decrease chances of getting a heart disease and strokes. And don’t forget to teach your little rascals to floss before bed as well!
- Get Those Hips Swingin’.
It is known to everyone that exercise is beneficial for your overall health and energy levels. But can it directly affect our memory? The answer is yes. And here’s how:
Remember our first point in this article where we discussed the importance of dealing with stress? Come on, surely you remember! Well, exercise is an effective way of reducing anxiety and maintaining low levels of stress. As a result, our hormone levels are balanced and in-check.
Physical exercise also increases the levels of protective chemicals in our brain. This reduces the chances of brain function deterioration and can therefore help protect against memory loss. Daily exercise helps keep the blood flowing, which promotes reasoning skills and keeps learning abilities sharp.
We’re not saying that you should start hitting the gym 6 times a week, but a light walk for 20-30 minutes a few times a week will do you good.
Here are a few exercising options that are senior-friendly:
- Stretch! Yes, stretching definitely counts. You can start by having your feet shoulder-width apart. Then bend your right or left knee in while pulling your foot towards your bottom. Use your other hand to hold on to a chair or table to maintain balance. Hold the position for 15-30 seconds before switching to the other leg.
- Strength exercises! Who said only 20-year olds can use weights? For women, try starting with 1-2 pounds. You can stand or sit while doing 15 reps on each arm. Men should start with 3-5 pounds and do the same.
We know how difficult it is to move around with those sore knees and aching back, but you can gain so many benefits from simple aerobic exercises. Keep in mind that you should always listen to your body and never push it to do something that is uncomfortable or painful. If you have any known heart conditions, bone/joint problems or chest pain, please consult your doctor before engaging in any type of physical activity.
- Eat Your Way to Better Memory.
Your diet has the ability to affect nearly all aspects of your life such as energy levels, hair and nail strength, ability to sleep, and of course, memory. Here are 7 food types that can help boost your memory and prevent the chances of age-related memory loss:
- Apple Juice
Results published by the Center for Cellular Neurobiology shows that a daily intake of apple juice may reduce the chances of Alzheimer’s by 75%. This is because apple juice prevents the decline of one particular neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, which is responsible for learning.
Caffeine (the pure type, not the loaded-with-2-sugars-and-3-creams type) reduces the risk of stroke and diabetes, which are both dementia generators. This statement has been backed up by a researcher from University of South Florida, who swears by the antioxidant properties of caffeine.
- Red Wine
Wine increases levels of good cholesterol and also has anti-inflammatory properties – both of which can reduce the risk of dementia. Since alcohol dilates the blood vessels and promotes blood flow, our ability to think of, learn, process and remember information is also improved.
Curry gets its vibrant, yellow color from its main ingredient turmeric, or more specifically the antioxidant compound inside of turmeric called curcumin. Curcumin helps to reduce protein clump formation (amyloid plaques) in the brain, which prevents brain cell death. By preventing these clogs from forming, our chances of memory loss become significantly reduced.
- Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar contains the necessary nutrients to feed the healthy bacteria living in our gut. This helps with digestion, appetite control and reduces inflammation of the digestive track. What most people don’t know, however, is that it can reduce inflammation in the brain as well. This can help increase concentration and improve memory. Additionally, apple cider vinegar has antioxidant properties, meaning it protects our healthy cells from harmful radicals.
- Green Tea
How many times have you heard about the amazing benefits of green tea? It’s a natural relaxant, can help reduce inflammation, can aid in weight loss and guess what? It can help prevent memory loss too! That’s right, green tea is packed with antioxidants that can help secure our neural cells from damage. It also contains ECGC, which improves brain plasticity and can help reduce risks of neural-related diseases. The studies that tested the benefits of green tea on memory, however, used a high dose of ECGC (equivalent to over 40 cups of green tea). Since this is unrealistic, we recommend taking a green tea supplement.
This delicious fish is packed with healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Since the human brain consists of 60% fat, it makes sense how a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help support cognitive function and brain health. Omega-3 fatty acids work by reducing any sort of inflammation in the brain, which leads to proper neural communication, improved information processing and stronger memory.
Stay Away From “anti” Drugs.
Certain types of medications can induce memory loss due to the nature of their mechanisms. Specifically, drugs that start with “anti”, such as antihistamines and antidepressants, can largely affect the production of acetylcholine in your brain – neurotransmitters responsible for learning and memory. When acetylcholine levels are low or unbalanced, inability to learn new skills (or even retain old ones) and deterioration of memory start to kick in.
Of course if you need some of these medications for a specific illness or disease then by no means reject your doctor’s recommended prescription. The point is to not overdo it. If you have an allergic reaction or a skin irritation then the doctor may give you some antihistamines to reduce the itchy symptoms. In these less-serious situations, however, try to lessen your irritating manifestations by using more natural substances. For instance, irritated skin can be helped by applying apple cider vinegar or aloe vera. In general, don’t stuff your body with unnecessary medications when the situation is not too severe. Always try the natural way first and then move to stronger synthetic drugs when the situation fails to improve.
- Google is Your New Best Friend.
Searching something up on the Internet can effectively stimulate the brain (two times more than reading a book!). I know that it’s annoying when the little grandchildren can’t stop staring at their iPhones or iPods or whatever they’re called, but maybe it’s time to borrow their laptops and computers for a little while. Get them to teach you how to access Google, and then you can begin searching for anything you’re interested to learn. Sparking brain activity and keeping your mind stimulated is one of the best ways to keep your brain healthy and mental energy high.
- Say NO to Sugary Drinks and Junk Food.
Did you know that having type II diabetes increases your chances of getting Alzheimer’s? This is why keeping a healthy, non-sugar based diet is so important. Even if you no longer consume Diet Cokes and McDonalds cheeseburgers, tell your kids and grandkids to stay away from those sugar-packed foods as well.
- Grow a Bigger Brain with One Simple Tip.
Everyone should be learning new things everyday. Whether its practicing a new language or reading a book, learning is so important because it increases brain capacity and forms new neural pathways. By constantly learning, we are training our brains to stay active, have high mental energy and remain healthy. Never think that it’s too late to learn something new. Just when you think you have all the knowledge in the world, a quick search on Google can instantly change your mind. Reading this article probably taught you a few new things as well, meaning you’ve already done your homework for the day.
- Don’t Neglect Sweet Slumber.
Lack of high-quality sleep can have detrimental effects on the brain. Endless studies have been published to show how important sleep is to keep the brain sharp in terms of memory, learning and overall cognitive function. Even if you think that getting 6-8 hours of sleep is enough, it’s actually the amount of REM sleep you get that really benefits your brain. REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Sleep is a form of deep sleep that really allows your brain to recharge. Without it, brain fog is increased and ability to recall information is significantly reduced.
If you’ve been experiencing sleeplessness or trouble sleeping, we recommend consulting with your doctor on ways to treat the issue. One way that definitely works for me is taking a brain-boosting sleep aid, such as Lumonol Luna. This product is packed with healthy plant extracts such as Valerian Root and Passion Herb Flower that can help induce sleep and improve cognitive abilities at the same time. Taking Luna before I sleep makes me feel fresher and more energized in the morning, which improves my overall lifestyle and mood.
- How Are Your Ankles?
If your ankles look swollen or feel sore, this could be a direct indication to your cognitive health. Every single blood vessel shares similar health throughout our body. This means that a clogged vessel in the foot could demonstrate blockage in the brains’ blood vessels as well. You can visit your doctor to do an ABI (ankle-brachial index) test to see if this is the case. If you do happen to experience improper blood flow and clogging of blood vessels then you should consider exercising more and/or improving your diet. Refer back to #14 and 15 for more information on how to stay active and maintain a brain-boosting diet.
- Play Memory-Stimulating Games.
Memory jogging games are not only fun, they can also bring feelings of satisfaction and pride from success. Let’s face it, us old folks don’t have much to be excited about anymore. I know the young ones love playing with their phones and computers, but I just don’t get any of that nonsense. And there’s nothing wrong with sticking to old-fashioned games. I used to consider playing memory games as a hobby, up until I found out how great they can be to prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s. These games stimulate the mind and serve as reminders to our brain that the lights are still on and that someone’s home. Don’t shut down on us just yet brain cells, because we still have lots of thinking to do.
If I’m not too busy getting asked by my daughter to babysit her kids, I’ll try to fit in 3-4 game time sessions per week. Some people may prefer to play alone, but I love inviting my friends over for some tea and to play memory games together. Let’s face it, staring blank faced at that TV all day gets pretty boring…And depressing for goodness sake! I mean isn’t there any more good news going on in the world? Makes me miss the good ole days. Anyway, back to the memory games. There are a few ones available online, but you might need to ask little grandson Chris to help you jumpstart the laptop. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy then you can have the games printed out. Another option is to buy memory card games in your local retail store. Here are 4 of best, most entertaining memory games that I would hands-down recommend to anyone:
- Old Maid
- Practice Language Skills.
There are hundreds of scientific studies that have been published to show that good mental health is highly correlated with level of education. One of the best things to learn is language. I’m not going to be unrealistic and tell you to pick up your old French textbook from high school and start learning all those conjugations (oh what a pain!) over again. Unless this idea really appeals to you, there are more practical ways to stimulate our language skills without putting our brains into overdrive.
The idea is to constantly learn new words, even if it is in your native tongue. I was fortunately raised with two different languages in the household (yay to multi-racial families!), so I have constantly have tons of linguistic aspects to improve on. I met a man once at a bar who had a list of complex vocabulary words right in his wallet. I’m serious – he whipped out his wallet and unfolded the long piece of paper that was attached to it, across which was written around 20-30 vocabulary words that I could not even pronounce. Obviously I was weirded out (just like anyone would be at first glance). But he taught me a very important lesson about language that day that I will never forget. Language is the main thing that separates us from other species and puts us up on a higher pedestal. It has allowed us to progress, create civilizations, and communicate more effectively. Constantly training your brain to adopt new vocabulary words, whether it is done by reading a new novel or strangely keeping a list of words in your wallet, is beneficial not only to your overall knowledge but also for your mental health.
- Estrogen Power!
More than half of the people who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease are women. Coincidence? Science says no. Women have higher levels of estrogen than men do, as estrogen is needed to maintain the female reproductive system. One role that estrogen has, interestingly, is to boost memory capacity. It helps us learn new information, store it inside our minds and access it when necessary.
Unfortunately, estrogen levels start dropping like crazy when we hit menopause, making us more vulnerable to age-related memory loss. I suggest taking estrogen supplements once you hit menopause as a preventative measure against memory loss. If you are concerned with the fluctuations of hormone levels then please consult your physician before taking estrogen.
- Avoid The Embarrassment When You’ve Forgotten Someone’s Name.
Names are honestly so easy to forget. How am I supposed to remember what your name is, Mrs. I-wear-heels-even-to-the-supermarket? And even though you may think it’s useless to remember all these names, you’ll be surprised at how great of an exercise it is to jog your memory (pun not intended, ha-ha) and train your brain.
A few tips to remember names quickly and for longer periods of time:
- When you hear a name for the first time, think about whether or not you like it. Noah? Hm, I quite like the sound of that. Caroline? What a pretty name, my cousin’s name is Caroline too.
- Write it down. Your kids and grandkids probably use their stylish cellphones to do this, but you can just use your good ol’ notebook or address book to jot down these names. Just met old friend Alexander at the mall? Write his name down in the notebook so you don’t embarrass yourself next time.
- When you are talking to someone, try to incorporate their name into the conversation. You can tell them how lovely their name sounds, ask them about the origin of the name, or just use it to call them.
- Socialize…a Lot!
I cannot stress how important it is to keep a big social circle. I know most of us only have 2-3 close friends, but it doesn’t hurt to ask them to bring their friends and relatives to the upcoming Sunday get-together. When you’re bored at home, ask a friend to come over for a chat, go out shopping with them, or have coffee at the new café down the street together.
What’s the science behind this? Well scientists haven’t exactly pinned down the process by which social interaction improves memory, but talking to people does stimulate the brain and make it more efficient. Communication is a complicated process that goes on in our brain, and keeping a close group of friends is imperative to maintaining healthy brain functioning.
- Write Things Down.
In relation to #4 (it’s the name remembering tip, in case you forgot!), writing things down is probably the most effective way to retain memory. Since I’m a visual learner, writing down words and seeing them works the best for me, but if you’re an auditory learner then perhaps record your to-do list for the day. Forgetting to do little things can lead to larger, more serious memory loss issues, so don’t put away the simple task of making a to-do list. I like to keep my to-do list stuck to the fridge – that way I don’t have an excuse not to read it.
- Take Nootropics.
If you’ve never heard of nootropics before then today is your lucky day. Nootropics are cognitive enhancing supplements that can benefit your memory, learning capacity and even verbal fluency. There are thousands of different nootropic supplement brands, but I recommend sticking to the senior cognitive enhancers, because most of them specifically target memory loss. Nootropics range from natural herb extracts like peppermint and guarana to lab-made ingredients such as noopept and piracetam.
Nootropics work in different ways, but they mostly increase blood flow to the brain and target neurotransmitter levels in the brain. For instance, vinpocetine is a powerful nootropic that stimulates blood flow to the brain, allowing you to boost concentration for longer periods of time. Piracetam, on the other hand, works by increasing the release of acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter in charge of learning and memory. This allows you to improve your learning abilities and retain better memory skills.
So which product should you choose? If you are already experiencing detrimental memory loss, or if you know someone who does, or if you want to take preventative measures, then it is best to pick nootropic supplements containing Noopept. Noopept is a powerful nootropic that stimulates the release of nerve growth factors, which in turn reduces the chances of cell deterioration. A product that has risen in popularity in the market containing Noopept is Lumonol, which is suitable for all-ages. Take action now!