It’s no secret that the aging brain is a changing brain. According to the National Institute on Aging, certain parts of our brains shrink as we age, especially the parts that are essential for learning and complex mental exercises. Some regions may even have decreased blood flow and communication between neurons making it tough to recall information we already know. Even in aging adults who show no signs of mental decline, Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, these physical changes can present some challenges when it comes to remembering names, words, locations, or even information we know, we know. Fortunately, treatments are available that can slow this steady decline and even enhance your ability to recall information well into your later years.
Neurofeedback has been around for nearly half a century but is a relatively unknown therapy for a variety of neurological conditions. This non-invasive process monitors your brainwaves in real time as you play games, watch a movie or listen to music. Anytime your brainwaves deviate from what is considered normal activity, the computer alerts you with an audio or visual cue. These cues are received by the brain which automatically adjusts itself back to a normal pattern. Do this enough times and the brain eventually stays within normal range without the help of a computer. You experience better recall of information already stored in your brain, more alertness, greater mental flexibility and a larger capacity for learning without pills or invasive therapies. Best of all, neurofeedback patients report that the process is relaxing, even fun.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
More than 50 million Americans have some form of a sleep disorder that prevents them from getting enough rest. Unfortunately, studies have shown that sleep deprivation has been linked to cognitive difficulties, learning problems and memory decline. In fact, the process of consolidation, converting short-term memory to long-term memory, tends to happen most frequently when we are asleep. Getting a good night’s sleep may be enough to not only slow the effects of aging, it may even reverse any recall problems you may be experiencing.
Learn a New Skill
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. In reality, learning a new skill, taking up a new hobby, or becoming more adept at something you can already do has been shown to improve memory recall in every other aspect of your life. However, be aware that the more active the skill, the more profound effect it will have on your brain. One study showed that cognitive benefits of learning something new were greatest when that skill required a physical process, like learning to quilt, swim, or do digital photography.
When in Doubt, Work it Out
We all know exercise is good for us, but did you know that a sedentary lifestyle has been shown to actively shrink the parts of your brain that allow you to recall long-term memories? Not only does exercise help keep your weight in check, help you sleep better and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, improved blood flow can make it easier to recall information long after you are done working out.
Even if you are struggling to recall what you age for breakfast yesterday, these simple activities can help you not only retain your memory but help you actively use it no matter your age.