6 ways to protect your memory health

November 18, 2021 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

Ever wonder what you walked in the room to do? Couldn’t remember where you put your car keys? Forgotten someone’s name?

Take heart, you’re not alone. Everyone, at some point in time, has had one of those moments.

“Most people who think they have a memory problem don’t,” says Charles Lawler, M.D., who specializes in internal medicine and geriatrics. “When people complain about their memory, it actually is a good thing … most people who have dementia don’t really know it themselves.”

For a lot of us, hitting age 50 gets us thinking about our overall health — and our memory is part of that. As we age, memory fades.

While there is no evidence to show there is anything we can do to prevent dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. Lawler says there are a few things that might help with memory health:

  1. Eat a healthy diet. What we eat makes a difference in our overall health. Dr. Lawler suggests following a Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet is built on the use of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Fish and poultry are used in moderation and red meat and sweets are used only on occasion. Studies have shown following a Mediterranean diet can help prevent heart disease and stroke.

  2. Exercise. Working out on a regular basis has been shown to improve overall health and mood. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of exercise weekly, or 30 minutes a day for five days a week.

  3. Stay social. Getting together with friends and family or taking part in social activities on a regular basis helps boost mood and can help ward off depression or stress, which can contribute to memory loss. If you live alone, look for ways to get together with other people or find social gatherings — such as a walking club or book club — that you can participate in regularly.

  4. Give your brain a workout. Though there’s no evidence to suggest it prevents memory loss or dementia, crossword puzzles and other games (e.g., Sudoku), playing cards with friends, or taking up a new hobby (such as playing a musical instrument) helps keep the brain active, which, in turn, may potentially benefit memory function.

  5. Get a good night’s rest. Sleep plays an essential role in overall health. A good night’s rest helps us function at our best. A lack of sleep can lead to brain fog and hinder memory function. If you are having trouble sleeping, try creating a bedtime routine (go to bed at the same time each night and wake at the same time each morning, turn off electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime and avoid drinking caffeinated beverages at night).

  6. Stay on top of chronic health conditions. If you have a chronic health condition (e.g., diabetes, heart condition), make sure to take your medications as prescribed by your physician and keep your physician informed of any changes in those conditions. If you are experiencing any memory problems, talk to your physician to see if your medications are affecting memory function.

Many people don’t even realize they are having memory deficits, so discussing the issue with a loved one who is struggling may be difficult. Some signs that memory loss may be more serious than the occasional complaint of not being able to find the car keys or forgetting a name include:

  • Asking the same questions or telling the same story repeatedly; sometimes in the same conversation
  • Being at a loss for words or forgetting common words in conversation
  • Getting lost while walking or driving in a familiar area
  • Placing items in inappropriate locations, such as putting the car keys in the refrigerator
  • Unexplained mood changes

If you notice any of these signs in a loved one or have concerns about them, talk with your loved one and their physician.

Dr. Charles Lawler is an internal medicine physician who specializes in geriatrics. To learn more about Dr. Lawler or to schedule an appointment online, visit his online profile.

Older adults have unique medical and psychological needs. Learn about our geriatric services at Linden Oaks Behavioral Health, including an inpatient program for adults aged 60 and older, and an inpatient Generations program for ages 50 and older.

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