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Ways to Help your Memory as you Age

Changes in memory and thinking abilities occur in all of us with normal healthy aging.  So, does aging mean eventually you will get Alzheimer’s disease? A report by the Alzheimer’s Association entitled Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures 2013 states that only 11 percent of people over 65 have this illness and 32 percent over the age of 85 have the illness.  Although this statistic will continue to rise as the baby boomers age, a greater percentage will NOT get the disease.  In his book, The Alzheimer’s Answer, Marwan Sabbagh, MD, Director, Banner Sun Health Research Institute’s (BSHRI) Cleo Roberts Center for Clinical Research lists several risk factors for the development of Alzheimer’s, one of them being age. According to Dr. Sabbagh, you can never outlive some risk of getting this disease. However, he also states you can potentially reach the end of your life without experiencing Alzheimer’s symptoms.

Sometimes it can be difficult to differentiate between normal changes and symptoms of depression or early signs of dementia like Alzheimer’s disease.  Each person has their own set of mental strengths and weaknesses, but if you or an elderly loved one notices it is harder to do usual everyday life activities, or you notice major changes over a short period of time, it is important to bring it up to your doctor.  Specifically, becoming lost in places you know well, not being able to follow directions, getting very confused about time, people, and places, and not taking care of yourself (e.g. eating poorly, not bathing, or being unsafe) are some possible signs of a more serious memory problem.  Memory testing and evaluation done earlier can provide a jumpstart for those who are beginning to suffer from mild cognitive impairment and to establish a baseline for comparison later on. 

  Some ways to help your memory include:

  • Learn a new skill, e.g. new language, take a class.
  • Play mind games and board games that assist with word finding, e.g. Taboo, Scattergories, Catch Phrase, Balderdash, Scrabble.
  • Volunteer in your community.
  • Take advantage of new technology.  Use memory tools such as calendars, to do lists, and notes to yourself; visual imagery to remember. 
  • Get lots of rest and eat well.  Eat a diet rich in Omega 3 Fatty Acids, dark colored fruits and vegetables. 
  • Get assistance if you feel you might be depressed; this may rule out concerns over memory.
  • Socialize with friends and family.
  • Attend memory training group workshops to improve and enhance your memory.
  • Stay active both physically and mentally!
  • Stay and feel young.  The Longevity Study explored the answer to the following question asked of participants “How old do you feel most of the time?” On average individuals over the age of 80 feel 17 years younger than their actual age and perform better on cognitive testing than those who feel older than their actual age.   

The Longevity Study is a state-wide healthy aging study at BSHRI in Sun City, Arizona.  We are recruiting volunteers to interview our participants in their homes throughout the valley and at BSHRI.  For more information and/or if interested, please contact Kathy O’Connor, Coordinator, 623-832-7662 or Kathy.oconnor@bannerhealth.com.   

Editor’s Note: For more information on evaluation of memory concerns at BSHRI call 623-832-6500.   

1. Alzheimer’s Disease, Facts and Figures, 2013

http://www.alz.org/downloads/facts_figures_2013.pdf

2. Sabbagh, Marwan, MD, The Alzheimer’s Answer, 2008, John Wiley and Sons: New Jersey. 

3. Leonard et al, 2010, Younger Age Identities in Health Octogenarians, Nonagenarians, and Centenarians are Associated with Better Cognition and Work History, Arizona Geriatrics Society, Phoenix, Arizona. 

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