General Wellness

Protecting your memory

Do you struggle to remember the names of people you have just met? Or where you placed your keys? While memory tends to decline over time and does include a genetic component, there are many things you can do to keep your mind sharp, no matter what your age.

“The good news is there are a lot of things we can do to protect and preserve brain health over the years,” said Physician Assistant Sarah Brock. “Fortunately, many of them are enjoyable activities that will keep you sharp and entertained.”

Not surprisingly, memory and brain health start with a healthy diet. The food you consume can impact your cognitive function so a balanced diet is best: Incorporate foods rich in omega-3 fats, which can fight inflammation, including fish and nuts, and antioxidants—colorful fruits and veggies and green tea are great examples—while reducing your consumption of processed foods.

In addition, these tips can help with memory and focus:

  • Become a lifelong student. Learning new things supports overall brain function and it can be a lot of fun. You can take classes, read up on new subjects, write your life story, learn to play a musical instrument, do puzzles and take an interest in topics you haven’t studied before.
  • Keep in touch. Social interactions can keep us sharp and connected. On the flip side, isolation can lead to loneliness and forgetfulness. Even short conversations with others can support better memory.
  • Engage all five senses. When you engage more senses, you involve more of your brain in creating vibrant memories. Pay attention to how things look, feel, smell, taste and sound and you’ll also get a richer experience.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise supports the creation of new neural connections which can reduced age-related memory issues. Find ways to move your body (maybe some strength training?) on a regular basis.
  • Get your zzz’s. Lack of sleep can impact your mental function (not to mention stress levels, energy, focus and a whole host of other issues); prioritize a regular bedtime as well as a dark, cool place to sleep.
  • Believe in yourself. In addition to supporting self-esteem, believing that you have control over your cognitive health can actually lead to increased memory and brain functioning, according to studies. Negative perceptions about aging and memory, however, can lead to anxiety and depression, which can contribute to further decline.

It is also important to address any ongoing health issues, which can contribute to memory impairment. Review current medications with your doctor to ensure they are all supporting your overall health and wellness.

Finally, repetition is your friend: Repeat the above good habits as well as the information you want to retain aloud (or write it down) to reinforce it. And don’t be afraid to ask someone else to repeat their name, directions or anything else you are interested in remembering for the long term.

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