Memory Loss: Prevention and Treatment

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Prevention and treatment of memory problems

Is your memory playing tricks on you? Are you worried about it? There’s no need to panic, it’s probably just the normal effects of aging on your memory.

Research has shown that the healthier your lifestyle, the fewer memory problems you’ll have. A healthy lifestyle means a healthy diet, physical exercise, enough sleep, as little stress as possible, and no smoking. This is a great example of the slogan "use it or lose it!"

Here are some basic guidelines:

  1. Eat well
    A diet rich in omega-3 (such as salmon) and antioxidants (such as blueberries) helps keep your memory fit. Vary your diet, be sure to eat 5 to 10 portions of fruits and vegetables every day, and drink 6 to 8 glasses of water every day.
  2. Stay physically active
    Activities like walking or swimming help keep your brain (and your memory) in shape by increasing the flow of oxygen to your brain.
  3. Keep stress to a minimum
    Stretching and relaxation exercises help you manage and even reduce stress.
  4. Stay connected to family and friends
    Studies have shown that older women who have the company and support of family and friends live longer.
  5. Sleep well
    Sleep plays a role in being able to remember. A good, full night’s sleep (6 to 8 hours) will help you better retain the things you learn throughout the day. Here are a few tips for ensuring a good night’s sleep: don’t nap too much during the day; don’t read in bed (instead, read in an armchair and then get into bed when you’re ready to go to sleep); don’t exercise before going to bed; and, relax before you close your eyes.
  6. Don’t smoke, and limit your alcohol consumption
  7. Make sure you have good eye sight and hearing
    If you have hearing problems or cataracts, have them treated if possible.
  8. See your doctor regularly or if your memory problems are causing you concern.
  9. Make sure you get enough social interaction (chatting with friends, having people over for dinner), make time for leisure activities (crossword puzzles, reading, playing chess or cards, gardening, taking dance lessons) and cultural outings (going to the museum or away on a trip). Keep up your daily tasks (cooking, doing errands). All these activities help keep you intellectually active!
  10. Maintain a positive attitude toward getting older, and don’t accept negative stereotypes about aging… There are advantages to getting older! You have more time, better perspective on things and a wealth of life experience to share with others. It’s so important to continue feeling useful! There are lots of ways to volunteer: you can help your grandkids do their homework; join a social club for example.

Natural supplements

You may have heard that vitamin E or gingko biloba could have positive effects on the memory. So far, no research has been able to establish with any certainty that such benefits exist. Further research is needed in this regard.

There is no miracle cure for preserving one’s memory but it is possible to limit memory lapses, potentially delay the onset of more serious problems and maintain one’s functional independence by keeping your memory and body healthy. Healthy body, healthy mind, as they say!

When should you consult a doctor?

Everyone―young and old alike―is subject to memory lapses from time to time. However, if this forgetfulness becomes more frequent or negatively impacts your quality of life, you should consult your doctor.

It’s wise to discuss your memory problems with a doctor because certain medical causes can be treated. Be sure to take a list of your prescription medications to your appointment so that the doctor can evaluate what you are taking.

Don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor about your memory problems.

Next: Tips and Strategies

 

We are pleased to house this series of FAQs supervised by Cara Tannenbaum, from the Centre de recherche de l’Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal.

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