Keep Your Memory Healthy
by Dedra Jize, OT, CSA
Geriatric Care Manager, Litherland, Kennedy & Associates, APC, Attorneys at Law
Who hasn’t gone into a room, only to stare blankly and wonder why you went in there? When we were younger, we would laugh it off and go back to where we started just to be reminded what we wanted in the first place. However, as we get older, these types of occurrences may trouble us and make us question our memory or even ask, “Am I getting Alzheimer’s?” Be assured that this is a normal part of living that occurs at any age, and it gets worse as we become tired, stressed, or are doing too many things at the same time.
Nonetheless, we still worry about our memory and want to do things to keep it intact or even improve it… if possible. Essentially, a healthy body makes for a healthy mind. Keep that in mind (no pun intended) and you and your brain will benefit.
Get Your Exercise: Exercise keeps the blood moving. Your brain is fed with the oxygen and nutrients found in the blood stream. Exercise will also reduce the risk of some disorders associated with memory loss, such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. All exercise is good, but aerobic is best. Studies show that seniors who walk 6 to 9 miles a week have more gray matter nine years later than their counter parts who didn’t exercise. Researchers say that those who walked the most cut their risk of developing memory loss in half. Keep moving!
Eat Healthy: We all know that consuming a lot of fruits and vegetables helps your heart, but it also helps your brain too (and thus memory). Experts recommend 5 to 7 servings a day of vegetables and fruits, from lettuce to blueberries and everything in between. In addition, eating foods rich in omega-3 fats (i.e. salmon, tuna, and walnuts) are particularly good for your brain. Caution, don’t over eat as this may double your risk for mild cognitive impairment (memory loss).
Reduce Stress: Stress releases a hormone in your body called cortisol which causes temporary memory loss. If stress continues over long periods of time, damage to the brain can occur. The most damaging stress is major depression. The effects of depression on the brain can last long after the depression lifts. Therefore, reorganize, prioritize or delegate those things that bring stress into your life.
Get Your Sleep: At least seven hours of sleep a night is important for the brain to consolidate memories, regenerate neurons and lower stress hormones. In addition, if sleep is compromised, this can lead to depression.
Drink Wine (red preferably) in Moderation: Studies show that controlled alcohol consumption has positive results on the memory. A French study of people over the age of 65 and who consumed up to 2 glasses of red wine per day showed they were 45% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than the nondrinkers. Remember though, too much alcohol can cause memory loss or confusion, and don’t even think about having a cigarette with that drink!
Get Socializing: Social activity has shown to prevent depression, and thus memory loss. In addition, studies show that those with strong community ties have less memory problems than those who have minimal engagement with family or friends.
Mental Activity: Giving your brain new information to store and retrieve is the best way to preserve your memory. There are plenty of ways to do this, from crossword puzzles, learning a new skill such as playing an instrument or learning a new language, or perhaps learning how to use a computer or other technological devises (research is showing that our brains are more adaptable than previously believed and that we can learn new skills at ANY age). Studies also show that regular ‘memory-training exercises’ improve the cognitive ability in seniors. These can be found in electronic games or special websites. Essentially, games that use as many of the senses as possible are best, but even action video games have shown to improve the ability to stay focused.
Your brain can be compared to a huge warehouse. Imagine a fork lift in that warehouse that is constantly moving ‘boxes of information’ from one place to another as they are being stored, retrieved, or reorganized for more boxes to come in. We need to keep that fork lift powered up (eating healthy and getting exercise), running well (reduce stress and have a glass of red wine), give it breaks occasionally (socialize and sleep), and keep stuff from getting in its way (mental activity). As we age, that fork lift may need to travel a little further or shuffle around the boxes more often which make that fork lift take a little longer to do its job. But put your mind at ease, regardless of age, it can still work as it has, and there is still boundless room for additional ‘boxes of information’.
ABOUT THE Litherland, Kennedy & Associates, APC, Attorneys at Law
Roy W. Litherland is an attorney whose practice emphasizes elder law and estate planning. Roy has practiced law in the greater Bay Area for the last 38 years and is certified as a legal specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law by the California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization. In addition to his extensive legal background, Roy was also previously licensed as a Certified Public Accountant. Although Roy has an extensive background in accounting, he retired his license to practice as a CPA to devote his time and energy entirely to the practice of law, specializing in estate planning, trusts, Medi-Cal planning, and probate. Roy is a noted speaker on living trusts, Medi-Cal Planning, and estate planning. He is a member and designated Fellow of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, an organization that fosters excellence in estate planning.
Dedra Jize joined the Litherland, Kennedy & Associates, APC, Attorneys at Law in February 2013. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy from San Jose State University and is a Certified Senior Advisor and Geriatric Care Manager. Dedra has worked as a Caregiver Support Coordinator and Activity Assistant for the Alzheimer’s Activity Center in San Jose, as a Foster Care Provider with Advent Group Ministries, and as an Occupational Therapist at Good Samaritan Hospital. Dedra works closely with our Director of Geriatric Care Management, Lois G. Tager, M. Ed., CSA, to help our senior clients and their families with Medicare issues, and Medi-Cal applications and representations. Dedra and Lois provide psycho-social assessments of health care needs, develop individualized plans for care, evaluate the specific needs of clients, and make recommendations when applicable for home care services, independent living communities, assisted living facilities, and nursing facilities. Their goal in working with clients is to advocate on behalf of the senior, and to enhance the quality of life of both the older adult and his or her family.
The Litherland, Kennedy & Associates, APC, Attorneys at Law is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform.