Health Info & Resources for Seniors
Never too late for one last resolution.
As we turn the calendar page to February, many people have already given up on their New Year’s resolution. But, it’s never too late to resolve to improve your memory. First, start by understanding what’s normal and what’s not. Alaa Mira, MD, Chief of Geriatric Medicine, St. Luke’s University Hospital says some absentmindedness, such as forgetting where you left your glasses, can be expected as we age.
Changes in the brain related to aging can lead to some forgetfulness. For example:
The hippocampus, the area of the brain involved in forming and retrieving memories, may decline.
Reduced levels of certain hormones and proteins may affect the ability to protect and repair brains cells and stimulate neural growth.
Decreased blood flow to the brain may influence processing and memory. This may be worsened by decreased activity.
In addition, emotional problems, such as stress, anxiety or depression, may cause memory loss and may mimic more serious problems like dementia.
“It’s important to determine the cause of the senior’s forgetfulness,” Dr. Eldin says. “Some memory loss may be a symptom of a more serious condition, such as Alzheimer’s disease. The sooner we know the cause, the sooner we can begin treatment to address symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. If you suspect that you or a loved one is experiencing significant memory loss, talk with your doctor and have a thorough evaluation.”
St. Luke’s Center for Positive Aging offers a comprehensive senior assessment program that provides a physical, mental and social evaluation. Seniors may also opt to have a Mindstreams® Cognitive Health Assessment, an advanced scientific computerized evaluation.
MindStreams® tests evaluate memory, executive function, attention, information processing, visual spatial, motor skills, and verbal function. Results of the test enable physicians to assess cognitive deficits earlier in the disease state, before it has progressed too far, and begin an appropriate course of treatment.
Five Tips for Improving Your Memory as You Age
1. Stay Active Mentally
Like any muscle, to keep your brain strong you have to use it. Continue to be involved in mentally challenging activities, such as bookkeeping, or playing chess, bridge or Scrabble. Continuously challenge yourself by learning something new. Take a math course, plan a garden, learn a new language or play an instrument.
2. Stay Active Physically
Decreased blood to the brain can cause cognitive decline and memory loss. As you age, continue to exercise.
An American Academy of Neurology study found that older adults who walked between six and nine miles per week had more gray matter in their brains nine years after the start of the study than people who didn’t walk as much.
3. Limit alcohol use
Heavy or binge drinking over time can cause memory loss and permanent brain damage.
4. Get adequate sleep
During sleep, the brain solidifies memories. Most healthy adults should strive for seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
Depression and stress both contribute to memory loss and both can be lessened through regular social interaction. Having a loved one or good friend to talk to goes a long way in improving your mood.