They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but when it comes to the brain this old adage simply isn’t true. With age your brain becomes overstuffed with information. There’s room for only so much, and when you go to squeeze something else in, especially something as mundane as where you put the TV remote, other things often get temporarily displaced.
But not to worry. To show us how to improve our memory was the Kiwanis Club speaker Courtney Davis with the Denton County Extension Agency, Family and Consumer Science division. This department, supported by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, offers a wide variety of educational programs involving health and nutrition. We all have to learn to deal with our temporary forgetfulness, and Courtney showed us a number of ways to help improve and retain our memory.
Give your brain a boost. Sticking to the familiar, well-worn ways for daily routines doesn’t stimulate your brain enough to keep it growing and developing. Shake things up a bit. Break your routine in challenging ways, thus enhancing your ability to process and remember information.
Don’t skip physical exercise. Physical exercise helps your brain stay sharp. It increases oxygen to your brain, reduces the risk of disorders leading to memory loss (diabetes and heart disease), enhances the effect of helpful brain chemicals, reduces stress hormones and stimulates new neural connections.
Get your ZZZZ’s. Adults need 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep every night to avoid sleep deprivation. Skimping on sleep compromises memory, creativity, problem-solving abilities and critical thinking skills.
Make time for friends. A life full of friends and fun comes with its own cognitive benefits. Researchers found that people with the most active social lives had the slowest rate of memory decline.
Keep stress in check. Stress is one of the brain’s worst enemies. Over time chronic stress destroys brain cells and damages the region of the brain involved in the formation of new memories and retrieval of old ones and is linked to memory loss.
Have a laugh. Laughter is the best medicine, and that holds true for the brain and memory by engaging multiple regions across the entire brain. Listening to jokes and working out punch lines activates areas of the brain vital to learning and creativity.
Eat a brain boosting diet. Just as the body needs fuel so does the brain. A diet based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and lean proteins improves memory.
Identify and treat health problems. If your memory has taken an unexplainable dip, a health or lifestyle problem may be to blame. Diseases (heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, hormone imbalance, thyroid disorders), mental health disorders (depression), and prescription and over-the-counter medications can interfere with memory.
The basis for a strong memory is a healthy mind and body, and you can take practical steps to support and improve your memory. Hey, do me a favor, will you? Forward this to everyone you know because I can’t remember who I sent it to!