We are our brains or, more specifically, our memories. Our memories are a four-dimensional slideshow of every experience we’ve ever had, and each one is a priceless masterpiece.
As we age, our brains begin to need more maintenance in order to keep our memories sharp—and for producing many more each day. For those reasons, knowing the early warning signs of age-related memory loss and how to preserve cognitive function is invaluable.
How Your Brian Changes with Age
First, we need to understand the difference between age-related memory decline and other reasons for memory loss from time-to-time. Things like forgetting why you walked into a room, misplacing keys, having a word on the tip of your tongue, and forgetting what you ate yesterday for breakfast are all normal—when they scarcely happen.
If you’re always struggling to find your keys or always seem to forget why you entered a room, it’s time to source the cause.
Warning Signs of Memory Loss
Things like being disorganized, absent-minded, tired, or hyperactive all affect memory, but shouldn’t cause any immediate concern. Keeping your environment clean and organized, staying focused, and getting good sleep are all smart ways to narrow the causes of memory problems. If, in the absence of the aforementioned possibilities, you still find yourself chronically forgetful then it’s time to visit a couple doctors. More specifically, a neurologist and psychiatrist.
The former will rule out physical damage to the brain—such as those from concussions, brain tumors, and Alzheimer’s/dementia. The latter to rule out psychiatric illness such as ADD/ADHD, schizophrenia, and depression, which may also impair memory.
Once each of these are checked off then we can finally infer that any experienced memory decline is probably part of the normal aging experience.
That’s not to say that your memory has to get worse as you age. In the same fashion someone could exercise at 60 or 70 and be stronger than a 20-year old, you can keep their memory sharp as a tack with some daily maintenance—starting with supplements, diet, and ‘brain training.’
Yes—there are some brain supplements that support healthy brain function. While many of these will be familiar to you, I hope I can provide some you’ve never heard of before, but definitely should know about. It’s always a smart idea to incorporate any new supplement into your daily regimen one at a time so you know what effects it had on your body.
- B12: a safe and harmless (water-soluble) vitamin that aids in treating anxiety, depression, and overall cognition.
- Calcium: plays a vital role in brain function—calcium is invaluable for releasing neurotransmitters in the brain. No calcium means no neural activity.
- CBD: cannabinoid oils provide both neuroprotection and anti-inflammation—which protects against Alzheimer’s disease.
- L-theanine—found in green and black tea, L-theanine is a very powerful anxiolytic with neurotrophic
- Zinc: the highest concentrations of zinc can be found in your hippocampus (the brain region largely responsible for storing memories). As a fat-soluble mineral, it’s important not to take too much, since it is possible to overdose.
Taking these (after speaking with your doctor) is probably the easiest step towards better brain health. Diet and exercise are likely more beneficial for your brain in the long-term but require more effort than taking a pill or drinking some tea every day.
There’s no point in having a healthy memory if it makes you miserable in the process, so adding rather than restricting our diets is usually a good compromise.
For example, adding certain foods like chocolate, fatty fish, beets, tea (L-theanine), and nuts will help keep your brain in great shape. We all know eating processed sugars, trans-fats, and consuming alcohol are bad for us, but if it improves your quality of life then who’s to say they should be completely absent.
Just remember to eat certain foods in moderation and you shouldn’t experience any significantly adverse reactions.
Get Plenty of Exercise
While physical exercise is also good for your brain, we’re going to be talking more about cognitive exercise.
The biggest reason our brain function declines as we age is due to atrophy. Around retirement many of us stop using our noggins and it makes our brains soft. Studies show that staying mentally active, even in the presence of degenerative diseases like dementia can keep your brain functioning close to 100% at any age—a startling result.
Some suggestions for cognitive exercises are:
- Crossword/sudoku puzzles
- Reading non-fiction books
- Learning new crafts/skills
- Playing cards with friends
- Writing in a journal or authoring a book
- Problem solving (real-world or imagined)
Performing any of the listed activities for just an hour a day in conjunction with eating well, taking supplements, getting good sleep, and doing things like hiking or cycling should keep your brain in great health. It’s always better to start sooner rather than later, so don’t put off your brain health until the last minute—start doing these now!
Victoria Ward is a freelance writer with a profound interest in psychology, holistic health, and fitness. Her hobbies include tennis, cooking, writing,and yoga. When she’s not working she can be found playing with her corgi,Milo.