Some memory loss is as a normal part of the aging process, but there are steps you can take at any age to keep your mind sharp.
Exercise daily. If daily exercise is too much, aim for three days per week. Exercise improves blood circulation to all parts of the body, including the brain. Some studies have shown that exercise may even promote the growth of new brain cells, as well as protecting existing ones. You don’t need to do anything fancy; a simple walk around the block is a great way to start.
Learn something new. Each time you puzzle out something new and different, you are strengthening and creating connections within your brain. So learn to tango or crochet, use an audio program to learn a new language, play a tricky board game, or ask your grandchildren to show you how that brand new gadget of theirs works.
Make your brain work. In addition to learning new things, make your brain work a bit each day. Watch a documentary, start a book club with friends, or do the crossword puzzle in the newspaper. Anything that forces you to think can strengthen your brain – think of it as brain exercise.
Pay attention to your diet. Some studies have shown that a diet high in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids can improve brain function. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fatty fish are good sources of these nutrients. Be certain to get enough water; being dehydrated can increase confusion and cause a “foggy” feeling.
Socialize. Make a weekly dinner date with a neighbor, take a class, or volunteer at church. Being involved in things can help you have a more positive, relaxed outlook, which will do wonders for your overall mental health.
Make sleep a priority. You have probably noticed that when you don’t get enough sleep, your mind feels a bit fuzzy. To feel your sharpest, get at least 7 hours of sleep each night; more if you need it. To help yourself get into a routine, try going to bed and getting up at the same time each day.
Use memory props. If you have lots of appointments and commitments, a calendar is a must. Write down each appointment as soon as you make it, and get in the habit of reviewing your calendar often. Keep a pad of paper by the phone to jot down messages and to-do list items. Writing things down frees up brain space, which allows you to concentrate on other things. Keep a list of frequently called numbers by your phone (or programmed into your phone). Get in the habit of returning important items, such as medication, eye glasses, and car keys to the same location. A large basket by the front door is handy for stashing things prone to being misplaced, like your wallet and checkbook.
Finally, if memory loss is interfering with your ability to function on a daily basis, be sure to check with your doctor. Further testing and assessment may be warranted.