5 Methods to Maintaining Mental Sharpness as You Age!


Author: Julie

Aging can be both a gracious and challenging process, and maintaining mental sharpness throughout it is an ability that plagues many. Studies have determined that the hippocampus, a location in the brain responsible for memory, tends to shrink as we age.3 The process of remembering new information can be hindered by this, as well as the ability to recall information that has already been stored in the brain.3 Recollection of a simple word, name, or even event could take some extra digging to get to as we get older. For some, this can be a real hurdle throughout the aging process! Fortunately, a variety of methods and tips have been shown to support memory and mental sharpness throughout aging when practiced regularly! Here are 5 methods that you can integrate into your daily routine.
 
  1. Put All of Your Senses to Use

One study revealed that when older adults were shown an emotionally neutral picture in combination with an odor, they had a strong recollection of the image later on, even without the odor present the second time. With multiple senses being integrated into a learning process, the brain has a stronger ability to form a memory of that process.2 Try introducing yourself to new hobbies or tasks that may require the use of multiple senses, such as pottery or painting while taking note of the smells throughout the activity. You can even try taking a new cooking class and pay attention to the smell and taste of the ingredients of the dishes.2
 
  1. Get Mental Stimulation

Mental stimulation contributes to brain health, so it is important to challenge your brain on an intellectual level whenever possible.4 Try activities like crossword puzzles, Sudoku, or even reading more educational literature. It’s never too late to learn new information or skills. Learning new skills are actually crucial to maintaining mental sharpness!

  1. Repetition

If you are attempting to remember new information like a name or a fact, repeating the information out loud may make it easier to remember.2  This introduces the new incoming information to you a second, third, or fourth time, which makes the likelihood of reinforcing the memory greater. You can also write new information down, which is a different way of practicing this same method!2

  1. Exercise

Although getting enough physical exercise may be seemingly unrelated to staying mentally alert and aware, it can actually support both physical health and memory.1 Consistent aerobic exercise was found to be not only beneficial to reducing the odds of acquiring diabetes, stroke, and more, but it also to thinking skills and memory abilities.1 Regular exercise may also support a healthy blood pressure, while a higher blood pressure has been associated with the risk of dementia.4

  1. Have Confidence in Yourself

With aging, at times, can come stigmas. Older individuals who have been subjected to negative stigmas about aging have been shown to perform worse on memory tasks compared to individuals confident they have an influence on their memory.2 Therefore, those who maintain confidence in their ability to influence their aging process are more likely to practice the methods that support their memory and physical health. Those who believe they have no control over their memory loss or aging process often do not practice methods which could support their mental and physical health. Ultimately, they uphold a self-fulfilling prophecy. Maintain the confidence that you can overcome the hurdles that come with the process of aging!2

Practicing some of the tips above may support memory through aging and allow you to experience the best of both worlds! Despite the common belief that all cognitive functions decline with age, recent studies show that some cognitive functions can actually improve overtime.3 Older individuals may experience an increase in the branching of dendrites in the brain, which may support the ability to better understand relationships between broad sources of information.3  Nevertheless, remembering specific, detailed information can get more difficult with age, but enriching habits and daily routines with these methods will allow you to exert your own influence on how well you age!  
References
  1. Godman, Heidi. “Regular Exercise Changes the Brain to Improve Memory, Thinking Skills.” Harvard Health Blog, 5 Apr. 2018, health.harvard.edu/blog/regular-exercise-changes-brain-improve-memory-thinking-skills-201404097110.
  2. Harvard Health Publishing. “7 Ways to Keep Your Memory Sharp at Any Age – Harvard Health.” Harvard Health Blog, health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/7-ways-to-keep-your-memory-sharp-at-any-age.
  3. Harvard Health Publishing. “How Memory and Thinking Ability Change with Age – Harvard Health.” Harvard Health Blog, health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/how-memory-and-thinking-ability-change-with-age.
  4. McCoy, Krisha. “How to Stay Sharp As You Age.” Everyday Health, Everyday Health, 19 Feb. 2015, everydayhealth.com/senior-health/staying-sharp.aspx.
 

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