At one time or another, we’ve all forgotten what we went upstairs to fetch, lost our train of thought mid-sentence or misplaced our car keys. Although we know these random memory lapses are a normal part of life’s aging process — and we might even joke about having a “senior moment” — they can be unnerving.
“It’s only natural to feel uneasy about forgetfulness, especially since Alzheimer’s disease is reaching epic proportions in our country,” says Jill Curtis, education and outreach coordinator for the Erie, Pennsylvania Alzheimer’s Association. “But, memory lapses are probably not serious if they do not interfere with everyday life.”
In fact, according to a Harvard Medical School Special Health Report, there are many mundane — and treatable — causes of forgetfulness. The most common culprits include lack of sleep, certain medications (especially anti-depressants), underactive thyroid, drinking too much alcohol, stress and anxiety and depression. A visit to the doctor might be time well spent to learn if any reversible causes are at the bottom of a memory problem.
AARP offers members tips for promoting mental stamina and preserving a healthy memory with its Staying Sharp Brain Health program’s 5 Pillars of Brain Health:
Move: Regular workouts, both aerobic and strength training, enhance brain function.
Discover: Learn a second language, a new dance step, how to cook Mediterranean or conquer the latest software to challenge your brain.
Relax: Yoga, Tai Chi or meditation help to relax the mind while reducing stress and anxiety.
Nourish: Limit foods high in saturated fat, like beef and cheese, as these can lead to memory loss and cognitive decline. Instead, turn to monounsaturated fats like olive oil and avocados to keep your brain healthy.
Connect: Interacting with friends has lots benefits, including preserving cognitive abilities.