Now, what was it I wanted to remember to tell you?
As we grow older most of us forget more often than we once did. Although memory loss is a natural part of the aging process, experts say it usually isn’t problematic for most people until after age 70.
This doesn’t mean that you might not be forgetful, even though 70 still may be a ways off. We all have memory lapses, regardless of our age. Even as teenagers we forgot things (cleaning our rooms! that English assignment!), but as we get older we notice more the frustrations that forgetting can bring.
Fortunately, if you find your memory really does seem weaker and more troublesome, there are steps you can take to combat the problem.
A health check is your starting point. Talk with your physician about all drugs you are taking (over the counter and prescription), and have your cholesterol and blood pressure checked. These things, as well as some diseases, have been linked to memory problems.
Researchers report smoking and heavy alcohol use can also affect memory. Harvard Medical School studies found that smokers perform much worse than non-smokers in memory and thinking skills tests.
Staying physically and mentally active can also combat memory loss. When you exercise regularly you’re increasing blood flow for better brain health and function. Studies have found that 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, like walking or jogging five times a week, may even reverse some memory issues.
There’s also some evidence that an active brain performs better. A full social life, interacting with family and friends, is one way. Anything that challenges your brain, from puzzles to playing games to reading and writing, also appears to stimulate brain cells and their connections.
A healthy diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, but low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may also benefit brain health. And yes, fish really may be brain food, especially when it’s fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon and tuna .
Occasional forgetfulness isn’t a reason to worry. Simply writing down things you want to remember can reduce memory frustration, but do pay attention if your memory issues are more severe.
If you forget things much more frequently, have difficulty learning new tasks, repeat phrases or stories in the same conversation, or forget how to do things you’ve done many times before, there may be a more serious problem. Talk with your doctor or professional counselor for an evaluation.
Counseling Corner is provided by the American Counseling Association. Comments and questions to ACAcorner@counseling.org or visit the ACA website at www.counseling.org.