Aging and Memory
Darci Bell

Aging and Memory

What does the phrase “Healthy mind. Healthy body.” mean to you? This phrase can begin to take on a new meaning for adults 65 and older, as mental decline is commonly associated with aging.

For this reason, the third blog in our series on healthy aging will focus on memory and the mind! [1]

How much memory loss is due to the normal aging process?

The mind plays an important role in daily life and overall health. As discussed in the previous blogs in this series (What Does Healthy Aging Look Like?  and Healthy Aging for the Heart), the body goes through changes due to aging.

Some of these changes occur in the brain, which can affect mental function. Common changes that older adults experience include difficulty with multitasking and mild forgetfulness. It is also common for older adults to need a little more time to make a decision or recall names or events. [1,2] Research has shown that older adults can still live independent lives, learn new things, and make new memories well into their later years. [2]

However, if someone is repeating questions frequently or forgetting the names of everyday items or close family members, they could be experiencing a form of dementia. Dementia is aging of the brain that is not normal and can lead to loss of memory and independence. [1]

Note: If you have concerns about your brain health and function or that of a loved one, you should consult professional guidance from a doctor.

What can we do to promote brain health and reduce risk?

Lifestyle choices can support brain health and function in the present and for the future! Here are some ways that you can take care of your brain and reduce your risk of mental decline in the future:

  • Getting enough sleep. Older adults need 7-8 hours of sleep each night. [3] Sleep is essential for short-term memory, mental health, and performing daily activities. It has been shown to be effective in the prevention of long-term cognitive decline. [4]
  • Older adults need proper nutrition through a balanced diet. However, some foods are known for supporting memory.
    • Foods such as fish and walnuts contain a nutrient called Omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids have been shown to support long-term brain function by reducing the risk of mental decline. [5] You can find ideas for recipes like Baked Fish and Veggies or Summer Catfish in a Packet on our recipe page!
    • Eat your berries! (The darker, the better.) Blackberries, blueberries, and cherries contain nutrients that are important for maintaining memory. [6] Click here to try our delicious and refreshing recipe for Peach Blueberry Water.
  • Exercise. Physical activity supports brain function by keeping you moving and increasing alertness. [3] Check out the video linked here with a step-by-step tutorial on chair exercises. Chair exercises are a wonderful way to build strength and make for an easy, at-home workout!
  • Talk to a doctor if you start to notice changes in your memory or thought process. It’s important to seek a medical professional’s opinion and get recommended screenings when appropriate.
  • Keep your mind engaged. Socialize with friends and family, run errands, or play board games or card games. Daily meditation is mindful exercise.

Adults Playing cards

Written by Darci Bell, RDN, LD | Edited by Leslie Davis, RDN, LD, CDCES

References:

[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

[2] How the Aging Brain Affects Thinking

[3] Cognitive Health and Older Adults

[4] Dzierzewsk and Dautovich

[5] Omega-3 Fatty Acids

[6] Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, LD

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