We all have misplaced our keys or forgotten someone’s name more times than we probably want to admit. We tend to chalk up these momentary memory lapses to our busy schedules or maybe that round-number birthday we would rather ignore.
In many cases, we might not be entirely misguided in our assumption – fleeting memory loss is a normal and natural part of aging. In fact, 1 in 9 adults aged 45 or older report experiencing confusion or memory loss.
However, these episodes of forgetfulness have the potential to intensify with age.
The good news is there are some simple strategies you can implement to help combat memory loss and keep your mind sharp, no matter your stage in life.
Keep that brain in tip-top shape
We all have heard the adage “use it or lose it.” This is particularly prudent advice when it comes to keeping your memory and brain function in the best shape possible. The more the brain is mentally stimulated, the younger it may stay by fostering connections between nerve cells and even producing new brain cells.
Examples of activities that may stimulate your brain include crossword puzzles, painting, reading or online brain games. Select UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage members can unlock fun brain exercises through Renew Active, a fitness program for your mind and body, at no additional cost.
Maintain a healthy diet
It is undeniable that a healthy diet can have wide-reaching benefits on a person’s physical health; it also can be a boon to cognitive health. Research suggests that a healthy diet can positively impact the brain’s ability to remember and potentially stave off dementia.
To reap the benefits of brain-boosting foods, reach for items that are high in mono- and polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, nuts, avocados and olive oil. Try to stay away from foods high in trans and saturated fats, like cake, doughnuts and fatty cuts of beef.
Don’t shortchange your zzz’s
The brain is constantly busy during waking hours – even when relaxing on the couch, the brain can be firing on all cylinders. But while we sleep, the brain has a chance to relax and “detoxify” from the day. Scientists are learning that this process is critical to maintaining brain function and in turn helps keep the brain healthy and memory sharp.
Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Of course, everyone is different and medications can impact sleep. Consult your doctor if you are having trouble getting adequate sleep.
Exercise may slow brain aging by 10 years. Set realistic fitness-related goals — maybe there is a hike you have always wanted to do, or you feel motivated to finish your first 5k or hit a nice bike trail. If you like the atmosphere and social nature of a gym, Renew Active members receive standard access to participating fitness locations at no additional cost. At select locations, you even get a one-on-one fitness orientation to help you set personal fitness goals.
Stay curious and keep learning
Youth is wasted on the young, right? Well, maybe not anymore. Many colleges and universities offer free or discounted tuition to older adults. Additionally, there are many online learning options. So go ahead and take that college course you never had the time for.
Better yet, encourage a family member or friend to take a class with you and connect once a week to discuss. Staying socially active can help ward off depression and stress, both of which can contribute to memory loss.
Always be mindful of changes as you age. If you notice abnormal or rapid changes in memory or forgetfulness, talk to your doctor.
Practicing some or all of these strategies might help keep you ahead of the aging curve, but ultimately, it is important to embrace aging. While you might forget small details from time to time, the aging brain is actually better at understanding the big picture.
Plans are insured through UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or one of its affiliated companies, a Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract. Enrollment in these plans depends on the plan’s contract renewal with Medicare.
Participation in the Renew Active™ by UnitedHealthcare program is voluntary. Consult your doctor prior to beginning an exercise program or making changes to your lifestyle or health care routine. Equipment and classes may vary by location. Services, including equipment, classes, personalized fitness plans provided by fitness centers, and brain activities provided by BrainHQ, are provided by third parties not affiliated with AARP or UnitedHealthcare. AARP and UnitedHealthcare do not endorse and are not responsible for the services or information provided by this program. Availability of the Renew Active™ program varies by plan/area. Renew Active is not a standard benefit available on all plans. Some plans require the purchase of an additional fitness rider.