White middle-aged woman and an Asian middle-aged woman holding yoga mats talking after a tai chi class.

5 steps to a better memory as you age

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If you’ve ever forgotten your email password, you’re not alone. If you occasionally misplace your car keys, that’s not too bad either. Drawing a blank on your children’s names or how to brush your teeth, however? These may be signs of age-related memory loss.

Preetivi Ellis, MD, geriatrician on the Methodist Dallas Medical Center medical staff, says a decreased attention span and memory loss (both long- and short-term), typically affect adults in their 60s or 70s. They may also experience a decline in the ability to plan, organize, pay attention, multitask, and manage time.

“Attention span decreases with even simple attentive tasks,” Dr. Ellis explains. “In particular, there is a decrease in the ability to focus on a task in a busy environment, as well as the ability to perform multiple tasks at one time.”

The only way to prevent memory loss is by adopting a healthy lifestyle, Dr. Ellis says, adding that it’s never too late to take steps toward preserving your memory.

Keep your memory sharp with these five activities:

  1. Get moving with regular exercise. Physical activity pumps blood to the brain and creates new neurons. Methodist Generations, a program providing education and activities tailored for older adults, offers several programs to get people moving. Adults 55 and older can try tai chi and mindful movement classes or join an organized walking group.
  2. Eat a balanced diet. The MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet may help to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. In one study, people who committed to the diet of vegetables, beans, berries, fish, seeds, and nuts lowered their Alzheimer’s disease risk by 54 percent.
  3. Learn something new. Methodist Health System Director of Healthy Aging Jerri Locke, MS, says she has seen how acquiring a new skill improves Generations members’ attention span and concentration. “Whether they’re learning some healthy cooking skills or taking a vision board class, it helps people sharpen their minds,” she adds.
  4. Get plenty of sleep. It’s no secret that lack of sleep affects many parts of our lives —weight, diet, and motor skills, to name a few. Did you know it also affects memory? Research shows that when getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night, your brain is better able to retain and recall memories.
  5. Spend time with others. Ellis says depression and stress can affect memory, and socialization is one of the best ways to combat both. Locke agrees. She’s seen how connecting with peers through Methodist Generations gives members “a reason to get up and out of the house. Isolation makes them depressed. When they can socialize, they have a better outlook and better health overall.”

If you’re worried about memory loss, Dr. Ellis advises seeing your physician, who can rule out medical conditions that can mimic dementia, such as hypothyroidism, depression, and low vitamin B12. Your physician can also identify any symptoms related to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Are you 55 or older? Check out Methodist Generations’ health and wellness programs at Methodist Charlton, Methodist Dallas, and Methodist Richardson Medical Centers.