One of the things that people fear most about aging is losing memories or mental sharpness. No one wants to experience the feeling of fogginess or forgetting special memories and loved ones. The good news is that there’s much you can do to enhance your memory and sharpness as you age. Even if you’re experiencing memory loss already, you can make some reversals.
Am I Losing My Memory?
Everyone forgets things or loses items from time to time – regardless of age. So how do you know if it’s becoming a problem? There are several things that can indicate you have something serious going on with your mind.
Some examples include:
- Forgetting common words frequently
- Having difficulty following a recipe or doing another routine task
- Asking the same questions over and over again
- Putting objects in an inappropriate place, such as putting something in the freezer instead of your purse or wallet
- Getting lost in familiar areas
- Mood swings
These are signs of possible dementia and you should speak with your healthcare provider if you’re experiencing them.
Along with lifestyle changes, you may be a candidate for medication that can protect your memory. In less serious cases, you may just feel that your short-term memory isn’t what it used to be. For example, you may need to write down reminders of tasks that were once easy to remember. You might forget where you left things or even find yourself walking into a room, but forgetting why you went there in the first place. These are less serious issues, but still things you want to reverse if possible.
Possible Causes for Memory Loss
Before you jump to the conclusion that you’re experiencing serious problems, it may be that there’s a simple solution for some of your issues. By making a change or two, you may completely reverse what’s going wrong. For example, some medications have side effects that cause changes in the function of the brain. These could be over the counter or prescription drugs. If you’re taking medications regularly, talk with your healthcare provider about their side effects and see if there are alternatives.
Alcohol use is another common behavior linked to memory problems. If you’re drinking more than one or two drinks on a daily basis, this can lead to problems with memory and increase your risk of dementia. If alcohol is the culprit, limiting your intake to one or two drinks per day can reverse the problems you’re having. If you suspect that you have an alcohol problem, it’s important to seek professional help so that you can detox safely.
Many people experiencing memory problems simply have a vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 is an important nutrient for the brain because it protects the neurons. As you age, your body doesn’t absorb B12 as quickly, so you can develop a deficiency that leads to memory problems. If you supplement with this vitamin, you can reverse the associated problems. Some people take a B12 vitamin capsule or sublingual formula that goes under the tongue. You can also get vitamin B12 injections to give you an extra boost of the nutrient each month. You’ll need to speak with your healthcare provider to get your levels tested.
Your thyroid could also be causing your issues. Your thyroid controls your metabolism and when it malfunctions your metabolism can be too fast or too slow. Either situation can cause problems with memory and concentration. Treating the thyroid condition can reverse the memory problems you’re having and help you feel better overall. A blood test can indicate if your thyroid is functioning properly.
If you become dehydrated, it can cause you to feel confused and drowsy. It can also lead to memory loss. As you get older, your risk of dehydration increases. By drinking at least 8-10 glasses of water daily, you can reverse these problems.
Depression can also cause you to have problems with concentration and memory loss. We’ll talk more about depression later, but for now it’s enough to know that as you get older, this can become a problem that affects your ability to retrieve memories. Making changes in your life and taking medication (in some cases) can help you conquer depression and improve your mental clarity. It can give you back your life.
In addition to these specific issues, poor nutrition, lack of sleep, stress, smoking and lack of exercise can also lead to memory problems. Improving your lifestyle can help reverse your memory problems.
Reversing Memory Loss through Healthy Lifestyle Choices
The lifestyle you lead can specifically affect your memory and concentration. There are many things you can do to improve your overall health and reverse memory loss.
When it comes to nutrition, it’s critical that you eat a diet high in foods that contain antioxidants such as fruits and vegetables. You especially want to eat foods that are also high in omega-3 fatty acids. These foods include salmon, flaxseed, walnuts, tuna, and other oily fish. Many people find that taking a fish oil supplement helps with cognitive function and improves mood and focus.
Exercise is critical to reversing memory and concentration problems. Exercise helps improve circulation to the brain – allowing cells to get the oxygen and nutrients they need. You don’t have to live at the gym to get this benefit. Taking a 30-minute walk each day will help you reverse these problems. Exercise is also known to be as effective as antidepressants for mild to moderate depression and can also reverse memory problems due to depression.
Stress causes the body to go into a state of inflammation because of increased cortisol. Cortisol is the hormone your body produces in response to stress. In short bursts, it can be beneficial – but over time, this hormone causes the body to go into an inflammatory state. This increases the rate of aging and can cause memory problems. When you reduce your stress levels, cortisol levels go down and your body begins producing a hormone called human growth hormone. This allows the reversal of many age-related problems. You can reduce stress by eliminating stressors from your life, improving your time management, exercising, and by learning techniques such as meditation and yoga.
Smoking causes many age-related health problems. When you quit smoking, your body begins to repair itself. Smoking deprives your brain of oxygen and can cause problems with your cardiovascular system that further limit nutrition to the brain.
Sleep is also a critical habit that will reverse the aging process. This is because when you don’t get enough sleep, your body produces more cortisol leading to inflammation. Most people need at least 7-10 hours of sleep each night to feel well rested and reduce the production of cortisol. You’ll be amazed by how much this simple change can improve your memory and concentration.
Keep Up Your Social Life
As you get older, there can be a tendency to lose touch with friends and family members and become socially isolated. This can lead to depression and can lead to problems with focus and memory. Participating in regular social activities can help you reverse this problem. For example, going to a regular game night or joining a book club can help you stay connected to others socially and keep your mind sharp.
Exercise for Your Brain
As you get older, you can also help sharpen your mind by exercising it. Completing crossword puzzles and logic puzzles such as Sudoku can help you reverse memory and concentration problems. Scientists now say that video games stimulate your brain and contribute to memory retention. Researchers at UC San Francisco conducted a study with older citizens and discovered that the more they played video games, the better they got at multi tasking and performance.
And experts are working on a medical fix, too. Dr. Eric Kandel of Columbia University in New York is conducting a study to help re-energize our brains so that they can more easily retrieve memories. They discovered that a gene known as RbAp48 is silenced more as we grow older. But when that gene was increased in mice, the mice regained their memories – so they’re working on a reversal of this aging issue for humans, too.
Reading and even working at a challenging job can help you reverse any problems you’ve begun to experience. You can also find online sites that specifically provide exercises to improve your memory and focus. Your brain needs regular stimulation to stay healthy.