Since taking on the title of great-grandfather last year, I have become more conscious of my age and many of the symptoms experienced with aging. While I imagine that many of the changes we old folks experience are not preventable, I wanted to see if some can be mitigated or delayed, especially memory loss.
Most of what I learned has been gleaned from a 2009 article printed in the Harvard Health Publications Health Report. What I found was a common-sense strategy that makes good sense at any stage of life. The Health Report says, “No matter what your age, it's not too late to take steps to prevent memory loss.” The report goes on to recommend seven preventive steps including taking vitamins.
It’s not surprising to learn that people who get regular exercise tend to stay mentally sharp in their 70s and 80s. At our age, the exercise shouldn’t be strenuous, but done regularly, like walking, gardening or joining a health club. The effects are interesting:
• It's good for the lungs; people whose memories remain strong in old age generally have good lung function.
• Exercise helps reduce the risk for diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and stroke, illnesses that can lead to memory loss.
• Exercise increases the level of neurotrophins that nourish brain cells and help protect them against damage from stroke and other injuries.
“Reading regularly, keeping up with current affairs, learning a new hobby, and playing challenging games all exercise your mind,” the report says. My personal recommendation is to do the BibleStudy CrossWords puzzles that appear in this paper each Saturday.
Enough said! If you are still smoking, you better get some help.
Get a good night's sleep
This is another obvious tip that may require some help from a physician. Here are a few tips from the Harvard Health Report:
• Six to eight hours of sleep a night is ideal. Perhaps even more important than the amount of sleep is the quality of sleep.
• Establish and maintain a consistent sleep schedule and routine. Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning.
• Plan to do your most vigorous exercise early in the day.
• Avoid coffee and other sources of caffeine after noon.
• Don't take sleeping pills unless nothing else works; sleeping pills can cause memory loss.
Cultivate social support
Social support can improve the mental performance of older people. Stay in touch with friends, relatives and caregivers who make you feel good about yourself.
Maintain a healthy diet
A healthful diet rich in fruits and vegetables — as well as healthy fats from fish, nuts, and whole grains — is vital in maintaining the health not just of your body but of your brain as well. Eating a lot of fruits and vegetables can be especially beneficial because many are good sources of antioxidants, nutrients that may protect against diseases and age-related deterioration throughout the body. Another personal recommendation is to discard the white sugar, salt and cooking oil other than Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Consider taking vitamins
Finally, take antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamins C and E and beta carotene, which is said might benefit memory by neutralizing free radicals, destructive molecules that damage healthy tissue in the body. And a large study suggested that vitamin E may help slow the rate of age-related mental decline.
Bob Meister is a certified care resource specialist who has been studying America’s aging demographic and has been involved in caregiving and health care since 1989. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.