Healthy Living

What to Do About Memory?

Are you worried about memory – for yourself or others? Here are the steps to take.

It’s no secret that as people get older, cognitive and motor skills begin to start to decline. Every physical task becomes increasingly difficult to do, and mental faculties begin to experience a decline as well. How do you recognize these signs and what can you best do to mitigate their effects?

What Happens?

Cognitive impairment may start around retirement age, although it can be much later.  There are three stages of cognitive impairment: the one brought on by aging, which is natural and unavoidable; mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is the next level of cognitive impairment and still doesn’t interfere with day-to-day activities. Dementia, the most severe form of cognitive impairment does interfere with day to day activities. Some symptoms of MCI include forgetting things more often, such as important events like appointments or social engagements.  Additionally, one can lose a train of thought or the thread of conversations, books or movies. One can feel increasingly overwhelmed by making decisions, planning steps to accomplish a task or interpreting instructions. One can start to have trouble finding the way around familiar environments. One can become more impulsive or show increasingly poor judgment. Last but not least,  family and friends notice any of these changes.

What Can I Do?

Other existing conditions can exacerbate MCI, such as smoking, hypertension, high homo-cysteine levels, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, hyper-cholesterolemia, and obesity. However, changes in diet and lifestyle can help mitigate it. Dietary measures, such as high intake of fish, fruit and vegetables have a positive role for their omega-3 fatty acids (docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid), antioxidants (vitamin E and flavonoids).  B group vitamins, such as folate, B6, and B12, are essential to controlling MCI.

Regular exercise is also key to mitigating the effects. According to one study, women seem to be more affected by exercise than men because of changes to the body’s use and production of insulin, glucose and the stress hormone cortisol which differ in the sexes. The study noted that both light exercise such as bowling, slow dancing or golfing with a cart and vigorous exercise (including jogging, skiing and racquetball) were associated with reduced risk for mild cognitive impairment. That means that exercise can be done in moderation. Those who did mild exercise were able to slow or mitigate the effects, while those who remained sedentary had it progress normally or become worse, depending on other existing conditions.

Keep Social and Family Connections

While there is so much that one can do to slow or mitigate the effects of cognitive impairment, there is also something others can do. Older people need to see those they know and care about—studies show that regular visits from family and friends can help mitigate cognitive impairment.

Older people tend to go through more surgical procedures, and one of the biggest side effects is delirium—a state of confusion that might lead to cognitive impairment.

Conclusion

Cognitive impairment is a normal part of aging, but with the right diet and exercise one can still live life to the fullest, even at a very advanced age.  If other conditions exist, you should take extra care to be sure the right steps are being taken.

by: Felicity Dryer

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