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Tips for maintaining a healthy memory well into old age

Tips for maintaining a healthy memory well into old age

People nearing he age of 65 years are often concerned about memory lapses.

It is not unusual for little things such as forgetting where the keys are or misplacing a pair of glasses to lead to a fear of getting Alzheimer’s disease or some other type of dementia.

What we do know is that the neurons in our brain are capable of regrowth and learning well into old age. This does not mean that some things don’t slow down a little. For example, information processing or doing more then one task at a time often becomes a little more challenging as people age.

There are a lot of other contributing factors that impact on our ability to recall and process information that are more likely to be responsible for those little glitches that occur from time-to-time. The following common conditions are well known causes of memory problems:

  • Stress;
  • Depression;
  • Anxiety;
  • Substance abuse;
  • Medication side effects;
  • Poor nutrition;
  • Some medical conditions such as thyroid imbalance.

It may be important for some people to discuss these and other health concerns with their GP as identifying and treating these conditions can help improve memory.

The good news is that studies have identified a number of ways to help minimise age-related everyday memory problems. Hence, you will find below a number of strategies that, if used on a regular basis, will help support your memory functioning well into old age and, just so you know, it is never too late to start.

  1. Be physical. Even a small amount of daily exercise activity can help boost and maintain healthy brain functioning.
  2. Be social: Yes it’s true, catching up with friends and family will improve your mood and your memory. It’s also fun.
  3. Be organised: Forgetting things is often a product of poor organisation. Having a routine and making lists is a fantastic way to free your mind so you can think about other things.
  4. Be positive. A number of studies have shown that having positive beliefs about aging can improve memory performance in older adults.
  5. Eat and sleep well. Good brain health starts with good nutrition, good sleep and regular activity.
  6. Use a calendar. We all live busy lives so keeping a calendar of important dates will ensure you don’t miss a thing.

It might also be important to remember that normal memory development does not impact on everyday life even if you are getting a bit older. For example, normal memory development does not include forgetting how to do everyday tasks such as paying the bills or brushing your teeth. Memory problems that impact on everyday functioning do require further investigation and it would be worth talking this over with your GP.

By Ros Herriman, Counselling Psychologist

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