top of page

Healthy Brain Habits To Keep Your Memory Sharp At Any Age

3d-medical-figure-with-brain-highlighted
Image by kjpargeter on freepik.com

June is Alzheimer's and Brain Health Awareness Month. It's a time to discuss the disease and highlight ways to keep our brains healthy. So, what makes a brain healthy? Brain health is how well our brains work to:

  • Think, learn, and remember

  • Control our movement and balance

  • Regulate our emotions

  • Interpret pain, pressure, and temperature The health of our brain can be affected by age, an injury like a stroke or a physical trauma, substance or alcohol abuse, mental disorders such as Schizophrenia, and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, Huntington's, Parkinson's, and ALS. Dementia is the most common type of cognitive dysfunction as it affects 10% of people over the age of 65. That equates to about 6.7 million Americans. Of those 6.7 million, 60% of those affected suffer from Alzheimer's. Dementia is the 7th leading cause of death and a major cause of disability and dependency in seniors (WHO). While some causes of reduced brain health can't be controlled, you can make lifestyle changes and perform specific actions to maintain a healthy brain.


Lifestyles Changes That Promote Brain Health


Healthy Food

Eat A Healthy Diet - One study conducted in 2015 tracked participants who diligently adhered to the MIND Diet, short for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, reduced their Alzheimer’s and dementia risk by 53%(Phoenix).The MIND diet is filled with a variety of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean meats, nuts, legumes, and fish, and less sugar, processed foods, red meat, salt, cheese and butter, and fried foods. Good news is that cocoa, dark chocolate, and red wine have all shown that, in moderation, they benefit a healthy brain. So, you can treat yourself to them occasionally and not feel guilty.


Stay physically Active - Exercise improves oxygen and nutrient delivery to your brain. It also creates new brain cells and synapses for memory storage. Exercise doesn't have to be strenuous to be beneficial to your brain. Walking, dancing, swimming, yoga, and even gardening are great ways to stay active. Do something you enjoy, so exercising doesn't feel like a task, but rather a treat.

Close up of a book in a library

Go Back to School and/or Keep Learning - Just like muscle strength, your memory needs regular exercise to remain strong. Formal education is a wonderful exercise for your brain. Research has shown that academic learning can increase the brain's ability to resist and compensate for damage, help the brain develop more connections that relay information, sharpen the cognitive functions of memory and attention, and slow the overall aging process of the brain. Take a class at a local community college, community center, public library, or an online learning program. Some of the most popular online platforms are Coursera, Harvard University, Senior Planet through AARP, and TEDtalks. There are numerous applications available for download on your laptop or mobile device, with many offering free learning opportunities.


Get Adequate Amounts of Sleep. - During sleep, the brain recharges, reorganizes information, and removes toxic waste products that build up during the day. Sleep also helps the brain adapt to new information. Without enough sleep, you may have trouble learning, remembering, concentrating, and responding quickly. For optimal cognitive health, it's recommended to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night.


Avoid Tobacco and Limit Alcohol - People who smoke are more likely to develop Dementia or Alzheimer's. Although the precise reason is not completely clear, it is thought that metals such as iron, copper, and zinc present in cigarettes, along with changes in white matter lesions in the brain due to smoking, could play a role in the development of the disease. Smoking also affects vascular and circulation processes in the brain that can increase the risk of strokes (Williamson).

Brain of smoke

Excessive alcohol consumption increases a person’s risk of developing dementia. Drinking above the recommended limit of 14 drinks per week over a long period of time may shrink the parts of the brain involved in memory. Alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD) is a disorder which covers several different conditions including Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome and alcohol-related dementia. It is caused by regularly drinking too much alcohol over several years. (Alzheimer's Society)


Stay Social - Scientists have found that people with strong social ties are less likely to experience cognitive decline than people who spend most of their time alone. Socializing can stimulate attention and memory, and help to strengthen neural connections. One study suggests that when people are lonely, their risk of dementia goes up almost 40%. Talking to someone else at least 10 minutes a day has shown to slow cognitive decline and improve memory.


Specific Habits That Improve Brain Health


Don't Rely as Much on Technology - Don't google everything. It's fine to use a search engine to find information you have never learned or had access to. But before you ask Siri what that actor's name is that played in that movie, spend a few minutes to try to remember on your own. Attempting to access and retrieve information and memories strengthens the neural connections in your brain. Also don't use GPS every time you drive. Unless you have never driven to that location before or are completely lost, try to get there with your reasoning skills or a map. Another option is to use GPS on the drive there, but try the return trip home from your memory.


Play Games That Make You Think - Playing games like Scrabble, Crosswords, Sudoku, Chess, Trivia, and jigsaw puzzles can be enjoyable while also aiding in memory retention and enhancement. Games improve memory in a number of ways, including stimulating the brain, strengthening connections between brain cells, and increasing gray matter. Regular gameplay may lead to noticeable memory improvements. Different types of games

man with video game controller

can stimulate the brain in different ways, and some games can also improve other skills.

Video games, once believed to have a negative impact on the brain, have been discovered to have various benefits on brain health, hand-eye coordination, problem-solving, decision-making, critical thinking, and creativity. This is because players often need to retain information, recognize patterns, or remember locations in games, thereby enhancing memory skills. Additionally, they must devise strategies to solve puzzles, defeat bosses, or overcome obstacles to advance in the game or win. Playing video games can lead to an increase in gray matter, aiding in improved communication between different brain regions.


Read - Daily reading keeps your mind sharp. It can increase your vocabular and assist in learning new topics. Whether it's the newspaper or the latest novel, reading helps your:

  • Episodic memory: following the story and keeping track of information. You're using your verbal recall and keeping your short-term and long-term memory active.

  • Working memory: holding information in your brain while working on other tasks, such as remembering characters, settings, and plot points.

  • Attention span: focusing on a task without getting distracted.

Listen to Music - Have you ever noticed how a specific song can trigger memories of a particular event from your past? This demonstrates the close connection between music and memory. Music stimulates the limbic system, responsible for memory and emotional processing. Given that music evokes powerful emotions and memories are often tied to strong emotions, it is no surprise that certain songs can bring back associated memories.

So listen to your favorite songs to recall memories or unfamiliar songs to create new ones.

man listening to music

Do Some Neurobics - Originating roughly 10 years ago from neurobiologist  Dr. Lawrence Katz, neurobics are mental exercises performed by using the senses in unconventional ways designed to create new neural pathways in the brain. Simply by mixing things up and doing things in new and different ways we can challenge our memory, attention, logic to use of underused nerve pathways and make new neuron connectivity. Some examples of nuerobic exercises are to try to do a task using your non-dominant hand, use a different route than normal to get to your destination, read aloud or a different genre than you usually read, do your morning routine in a different order, or sit in a different seat at the dinner table. The idea behind neurobics is to experience the unexpected or new and use all of your senses daily in creative ways. 


While these changes, habits, and tips can help to keep your brain healthy, they will not reverse and Dementia and memory loss. Some signs you may be experiencing memory loss that’s beyond what’s normally seen with aging include:


  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life- forgetting recently learned information, forgetting important dates or events, asking the same questions over and over

  • Challenges in planning or solving problems - trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills, difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things

  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks  - trouble driving to a familiar location, organizing a grocery list or remembering the rules of a favorite game

  • Confusion with time or place - losing track of dates, seasons and the passage of time, forgetting where they are or how they got there

  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships - vision changes such as difficulty with balance or trouble reading, problems judging distance and determining color or contrast, causing issues with driving

  • Problems with words in speaking or writing - trouble following or joining a conversation, stopping in the middle of a conversation, repeating themselves, struggling with vocabulary, having trouble naming a familiar object or use the wrong word or name

  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps - putting things in unusual places, losing things and being unable to go back over their steps to find them again, accusing others of stealing when they can't find an item

  • Decreased or poor judgment - experiencing changes in judgment or decision-making, using poor judgment when dealing with money or pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean

  • Withdrawal from work or social activities - withdrawing from hobbies, social activities or other engagements, having trouble keeping up with a favorite team or activity.

  • Changes in mood and personality - becoming confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious, being easily upset at home, with friends or when out of their comfort zone.


If you or a loved one is experiencing these symptoms, memory loss or other cognitive symptoms, talk to your doctor. To learn more about Alzheimer's and Dementia visit the Alzheimer's Association at https://www.alz.org/.


To see how Absolute Best Care Home Solutions can help you or a loved one dealing with Alzheimer's or Dementia, call us at 443-736-7823, email us at info@abchs.org, or click the link below.

References

  1. Phoenix, Kaitlyn. “13 Brain-Healthy Foods That Will Help Protect Your Memory and Cognition.” Prevention, 20 May 2024, www.prevention.com/food-nutrition/g32905337/brain-healthy-foods/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=arb_ga_pre_md_dsa_prog_mix_us_19931675023&gad_source=1&gclid=Cj0KCQjwvb-zBhCmARIsAAfUI2sOzre5PxMhrG-CC6gcbLkA2Wk5LsFVEtz1zGymlFLhBhwZy1hfh7EaAha5EALw_wcB.

  2. Dementia. 15 Mar. 2023, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dementia.

  3. Vevers, Sarah. Everything to know about how smoking affects the brain. 21 July 2023, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/smoking-effects-on-the-brain#tips-on-cessation.

  4. “Alcohol and the risk of dementia.” Alzheimer’s Society, www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/managing-the-risk-of-dementia/reduce-your-risk-of-dementia/alcohol#:~:text=Alcohol%20consumption%20above%20recommended%20limits,skills%20as%20people%20get%20older.

  5. Cafasso, Jacquelyn. “25 Ways to Improve Your Memory.” Healthline, 18 Sept. 2018, www.healthline.com/health/how-to-improve-memory#13.-Eat-more-of-these-foods:

  6. Bilodeau, Kelly. “3 ways to build brain-boosting social connections.” Harvard Health, 8 Sept. 2021, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/3-ways-to-build-brain-boosting-social-connections-202109082585#:~:text=But%20you%20may%20have%20forgotten,most%20of%20their%20time%20alone.

  7. Head, Record. “10 Reasons Why Playing Video Games is Good for Your Brain - Record Head.” Record Head, 26 Feb. 2024, recordhead.biz/10-reasons-video-games-is-good-for-you.







,


3 views1 comment

1 Comment

Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
Guest
Jun 18
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Great blog! Loads of valuable information.

Like
bottom of page