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Wayne Adult Community Center

Feature article from the December, 2001 Newsletter

Help for Your Memory

Remember how when you were young, you never used to forget anything?  Of course you don't, because you've never had a perfect memory.  Neither has anyone else.  But when you forget something in your twenties, you think nothing of it, whereas when you forget something after fifty, you worry that you're rapidly going downhill and may even be developing Alzheimer's disease.

It's true that as we grow older we lose some recollection ability, and it's also true that some people do develop Alzheimer's disease or some other form of the mental decline known as "Dementia".  However, most of us (about 9 out of 10) don't develop Dementia.

Furthermore, you probably have an exaggerated idea of your memory loss.

Notwithstanding all that, we've listed nine things below that you can do to preserve and even improve your memory.

If you remember to practice them.

1. Like your muscles, your brain benefits from use.  (This is actually a physical phenomenon.)  So, do or learn something new on a regular basis: a language, a new skill, even just an unfamiliar way of doing something.

2. Your brain also benefits from the effects of physical exercise.  Even a brisk walk is beneficial.

Thirty minutes of exercise a day is often recommended, but lesser amounts also have an effect.  Exercise not only improves mental abilities, it contributes to your general health.

3. It is now universally recognized that your choice of foods is vitally important to well-being, and that includes brain function.  Make fruits and vegetables a major component of your daily diet.  Also, drink lots of water.

4. Develop reminders for important things:  For instance, establish a standard location for your keys.  Keep a small pad and a pen with you, and write down things that you need to remember.  (Don't use the classic string-around-the-finger as a reminder, because although you'll remember that it's there to remind you of something, you're likely to forget just what that something was.  Unless it was to buy string.)

5. When you can't remember something, don't fret about it and don't be in a hurry.  It will often occur to you later (I call that phenomenon "senior's sticky memory").

6. Learn to reduce tension: Stress and anxiety are major impediments to recollection.  Be aware of how you sit and move:  Notice whether you keep some muscles tense, or whether you grind your teeth.  Many people find meditation to be a marvelous help, and it has other benefits as well.

7. Don't focus on the things that make you unhappy, but instead, develop an appreciation of the good things and the good people in your life.  Studies have shown that happy people have better mental function, are healthier overall and, as a bonus, they live longer.

8. If you take medications, find out whether memory loss is one of the possible side effects of what you're taking.  Your pharmacist and your doctor both have that information.

9. Monitor your health.  Check your blood pressure periodically, and pay attention to warning signs of disease.

This article is based partly on information from the Mayo Clinic Web site.  Thanks are due to Anton Oswald for bringing that site to our attention.


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