Forgetfulness is a common occurrence that plagues many of us in our hurried and stress-filled daily living. It is bothersome and we feel horrible when we forget a person’s name, only one minute after we were introduced.
Or we have it in our mental “to do” list to pick up a gallon of milk on the way home, but we realize two hours later that we are still out of milk. I’m sure you can come up with many other examples, like these, on your own.
I recently read about a scientific study that tries to let our forgetfulness “off the hook.” It basically said that our brain is working properly by not remember everything, because our brain only chooses to remember memories that it thinks are most relevant. It went on to say that our brain does this to lessen the cognitive load, and prevent confusion. Well, maybe this serves as a good cognitive function, but does it really serve you and me in our day by day living?
Our forgetfulness takes on a more ominous tone after we turn the fifty and then sixty year-old corner. We start forgetting stuff that we are embarrassed to even talk about. Like the password to access our computer – one day it’s just “not there.” (But it will be there the next day!) Or we can’t recall the name of a friend that we haven’t seen in a while, but we are shocked that her name just wasn’t there like it always has been.
So has this moved from simple and ‘forgivable’ forgetfulness into the dreaded and feared area of memory loss – which is then a quick slide into dementia and Alzheimer’s disease? Hold on – I don’t think so.
Dementia is basically memory loss that doesn’t improve. Many people over the age of 40 are beginning to suffer from some form of memory loss. So by the time you reach 50 or 60 there may be even more memory loss.
As people age, losing some bodily functions is just plain normal. After years of use, our joints don’t move as well, our bones are more brittle, and our muscles are not as strong. When it comes to our brain, it is again normal to lose some brain functioning including memory loss.
But we never have to accept “normal.” There are many people in their 50’s, 60’s and up into their 90’s who still have strong and thriving bodies, because they have worked hard and have worked consistently to build their strength. It hasn’t been easy, and has been much harder than when they were 20 or 30 years old.
When we talk about memory loss, we don’t have to accept “normal” either. There are a number of different things we can do to ‘interrupt’ our “normal” memory loss.
- Exercise and Diet- no talk about health and aging can avoid these two topics. What we eat and how much we exercise can play a huge part in how are body and our brain responds to the needs of the day.
- Drugs and alcohol – Daily alcohol use can have a severe negative impact on your whole health – not to mention your cognitive functioning. Alcohol used in moderation or not at all is your best defense against premature aging.
- Do you have a positive outlook? Depression and anxiety can put your memory loss in a downward spiral. Working on getting rid of your negative outlook can open the door for increased awareness of new and exciting discoveries.
- Your brain cells CAN be replaced – and you can build new pathways! Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks! New discoveries show that this can actually happen.
- Exercise your brain’s muscle! – There are a whole lot of simple things you can do to get your brain active. Things like crossword puzzles, doing math problems in your head instead of on a calculator. Take a new class on something you enjoy. Read, read, read. I challenge you to read a new book each month. That’s only about 10 pages / day.
So if you are 6o years old and find yourself worried about forgetfulness, don’t throw in the towel. Get active and get your mind and body in motion. You will be pleasantly surprised at how good your memory recall really is.