Preventing Memory Loss: It’s Not Just for Seniors Anymore!

It’s not just seniors who struggle with memory issues and forgetfulness. Even children and teenagers can have a hard time remembering—as any frustrated parent can tell you on being informed the night before that an important project is due the next day, or that the season’s third jacket has been lost, or that no, their youngster forgot to feed the cat.

Although there can be many reasons for memory loss, particularly as we age, one of the most common and universal is brain overload. Whether we’re 19 or 91, there is simply too much information coming at us at all hours of the day and night. These distractions rob us of the ability to focus and, if we haven’t been able to focus, it’s even less likely that we’ll be able to remember. This constant overload is part of the stress of modern living—or, what I call, Cultural Stress.

Two, stress itself makes it difficult to focus and remember. Acute stress literally “hijacks the brain,” diverting resources from thought-processing activities so that the body is ready to “fight or flee” in response to danger. Over time, Cultural Stress, though less intense, results in chronic cortisol production, which can erode the brain’s ability to function properly. Studies show that chronic stress can even kill brain cells and reduce the size of the brain. Chronic/Cultural stress also can shrink the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning.

In addition to stress, anxiety and depression can also take a toll on our brains, which may be why they are linked to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. This is yet another reason why social and emotional self-care are so essential to overall health and well-being.

The good news is that you can literally exercise your mind with all kinds of puzzles, games, and brain work-outs—and best of all, they’re fun. Here are links to some of the most popular brain games—for teens, adults, and yes, seniors.

Brain Teasers, Puzzles and Games for Teens and Adults – SharpBrains

BrainHQ

This is an online brain-training system built by Posit Science that improves attention, memory, brain speed, intelligence, navigation, and people skills. Studies found that the BrainHQ platform significantly reduced the risk of dementia among older adults over a 10-year period. And you’re not competing against anyone else; you’re simply working to improve your own speed of visual and auditory processing.

Cognifit

This brain training program also works to improve memory, concentration, and other cognitive skills. The tests and tasks from CogniFit are validated by independent studies, showing enhancements in cognitive performance in healthy older adults.

Nevertheless, you don’t need an app or an internet connection to keep your brain sharp. Here are some real world ways to improve your cognitive functioning:

Learn something new: a language, a craft, a sport, a musical instrument. Learning new skills creates new neural connections in the brain. If the skill involves movement, you improve physical coordination too. And if the activity involves other people, you’re building social connections and reducing stress!

Travel—even if it’s only a different route home. Avoiding the repetitive and immersing the brain in new sights and sounds keeps it engaged and paying attention!

Build on the Four Pillars of Modern Wellness:

Eat your water (a diet full of water-rich foods)

Move your body. Just 45 minutes of exercise three days a week can actually increase brain volume!

Nourish your skin. A recent study by scientists at UCSF has shown that twice-daily use of moisturizers protects against Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. That’s because the skin, being such a large organ, elevates circulating cytokine levels if even slightly inflamed. These inflammatory cytokines are associated with Alzheimer’s—and a range of other illnesses, as well.

Be kind to your mind! Manage your Cultural Stress by unplugging from constant connectivity, practicing positive self-talk, journaling, meditating, or engaging in other forms of stress reduction such as yoga, tai chi, or massage.

Remember: a sharp mind can be yours at any age! That’s Modern Wellness.

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