Are you having problems remembering things? How do you improve your memory? Are you afraid you may have Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, even if you don’t think your are old yet? Your are not alone, but having a poor memory does not always mean you have dementia. It just may mean that you need a little memory training or brain exercise.
More than two-thirds of people over the age of 65 say they have trouble remembering details and learning new things. Many felt that getting old meant getting “senile,” and forgetting was just a natural part of that.
I laughingly and fondly recall the mother of a friend of mine, Esther, who was an amazing woman nearing retirement age, and her job was requiring her to take some classes. She was so afraid, and had made up her mind she couldn’t learn the lessons, so she kept saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Instead of taking the classes she quit her job and moved to Albuquerque to be with her sister.
Until her retirement she was an executive, and had worked her way up to becoming the State of Indiana head of a large division of the Federal government — all with only a high school diploma. After her move she didn’t want to sit idly by until her death so she put together some aerobic exercise routines and became the first, and only, senior citizen to teach exercise classes to senior citizens at all eight of the centers in the city. Her routines (quite different from her usual Lawrence Welk-type music), consisted of country and boot-scooting music and were creative and fun, and it got the seniors up and moving. That old dog taught herself new tricks, and inspired young and old alike with her energy and ingenuity until her death at 92.
Memory and learning are not lost when we get older. It is true that as we get older our brains, like other parts of our body, lose some of its connections and elasticity. Many researchers believe now, however, that although it is harder for connections to be made as we get older it is because of our lifestyle changes and not because of simple aging. It seems most of the memory problems in older people are because of a malnourished brain. If you are older and want to improve your memory perhaps investigate some good old memory training if for no other reason than to exercise the brain!
What is a malnourished brain? Simply, it’s a brain that is starved for oxygen and the right nutrients. Our brains, like our bodies, need oxygen and nutrition to survive. Our brains actually use up a large percentage of the oxygen we take in. If the flow of blood is constricted to our brain, through plaque build up in the arteries, the brain received less oxygen in order for the brain cells to make their connections. When the circulation is sluggish, and the blood is low in “brain food,” memory function is poor. Esther, who was afraid she would get dementia like her mother, did some research on the subject and found that keeping your body moving and the blood flowing lessened the chances of developing dementia — and it became her mission to fight and move all the way to her grave, and help others to do the same.
There are other factors that can contribute to memory problems as we age as well, such as medications — which alone or in combinations can cause memory problems. Illnesses, such as depression, thyroid problems, allergies to food, poor digestion, hormone imbalance and stress can also be contributing factors. Many of these problems can be helped with a regular exercise and balanced diet — and can even allow you to cut down on medications.
Don’t assume that old age brings memory problems. Do as Esther did and get up and move. You can teach an old dog new tricks — if they want to learn.
This is Ron White, two-time USA Memory Champion , memory training expert, and memory keynote speaker. It’s never too late to learn, and this story just goes to show that increasing your memory is tied to exercise and learning.