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Tips to preserve your memory

After 20 minutes of searching, you found your glasses resting on your forehead. Memory loss is typically blamed on aging. People fear that memory lapses are signs of what's in store.

But take note. Dementia -- a mental decline advanced enough to affect daily activities, the most common form is Alzheimer's disease -- is more than forgetfulness. About 10 to 20 percent of people older than 65 get dementia, so most people who occasionally forget things simply have too much on their mind.

Though it is impossible to predict memory loss, follow these 10 steps to keep your memory sharp.

1. Exercise your mind. Regardless of age, an active brain produces new dendrites -- connections between nerve cells that allow cells to communicate with one another. This helps the brain to store and retrieve information more easily.

2. Stay Physically Active. Include stretching, aerobics and strength training in your fitness routine. Stretching increases the range in which you can bend and stretch joints, muscles and ligaments, helping to decrease stiffness and prevent injury. Aerobic activities such as brisk walking, bicycling and swimming increase endurance and decrease high blood pressure, reducing your risk of stroke, heart and kidney disease. Strength training can slow or even reverse the loss of muscle mass and slow bone loss.

3. Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. These contain antioxidants -- substances that protect and nourish brain cells. As an added bonus, these foods may reduce your risk of cancer, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, diabetes and osteoporosis. Drink water. Lack of water leads to dehydration, which can leave you feeling tired, making it hard to concentrate.

4. Develop a system of reminders. Write it down. Keep a diary, use calendars and make lists. Establish a routine. Store easy-to-lose items in the same place. Complete tasks in the same order and practice repetition.

5. Take time to remember things. Normal aging changes the brain, which makes your mind slightly less efficient in processing new information.

6. Learn relaxation techniques. Stress and anxiety can interfere with concentration, so it's important to take time to relax.

7. Keep a positive attitude. Studies show that optimists tend to live longer than those who are pessimistic.

8. Talk to your doctor. Many factors unrelated to aging or genetics can contribute to memory problems. These include the use of certain medications, poor vision and hearing, vitamin deficiencies, fatigue, depression and stress.

9. Check your levels. Know your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Also make sure your thyroid gland is functioning normally. These tests are good indicators of what's going on inside your body.

10. Keep your perspective. Everyone has difficulty remembering things at times. Don't lose sight of how much you do remember. Wisdom is built from a lifetime of memories.

Web posted on Thursday, April 28, 2005


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Updated: 04-Nov-2010 10:01

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