7 memory boosting tips | Auburn’s Dr. Petter

It is not normal to lose your memory as you age. Rather, in a healthy older adult, there is a natural slowing of the brain's ability to absorb, store and retrieve new information.

It is not normal to lose your memory as you age. Rather, in a healthy older adult, there is a natural slowing of the brain’s ability to absorb, store and retrieve new information.

Aside from the natural aging of the brain, anything that can slow or interfere with the blood supply to the brain can contribute to memory loss. Examples include high blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol build-up on the vessels that feed the brain. In addition, smoking can damage vessels and contribute to memory loss.

7 tips

1. Exercise. As you exercise your muscles you also exercise the brain. This improves you ability to process and remember information.

2. Nap. If possible, consider talking a daily mid-day nap for 10 to 20 minutes. Brief resting can improve your short-term alertness.

3. Break your routine. Brush your teeth or comb your hair with your non-dominant hand; shower or dress with your eyes closed. This helps activate brain pathways that were not being used.

4. Use it or lose it. Challenge your mind on a regular basis. Take a class in a new subject. Play “brain teaser” games like Sodoko, cross-word puzzles, or solitaire.

5. Sleep. The average adult needs 7 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. Appropriate nightly sleep is needed for memory consolidation and for the brain to properly concentrate the following day.

6. Manage your stress. The stress hormone cortisone can damage part of the brain called the hippocampus, if your stress is prolonged and not relieved. Stress also interferes with the ability to concentrate.

7. Eat a healthy diet. Specific nutrients are known to stimulate brain function.

B vitamins help protect neurons (nerve cells) in the brain by breaking down homocystine, an amino acid known to be toxic to nerve cells. Foods rich in B vitamins include green leafy vegetables (lettuce, spinach), beans and broccoli.

Antioxidants such as vitamin A, C, and E, help prevent free radical damage, and can improve the flow of oxygen in the body. Examples of foods rich in antioxidants are nuts (almonds), brightly colored fruits (i.e., blueberries, cantaloupe, apricots) and vegetables (i.e., tomatoes, sweet potatoes, squash).

Omega-3 Fatty Acids are associated with improving cognitive function (i.e., thinking, reasoning, remembering) and decrease inflammation. Examples of foods rich in fatty acids are fish, walnuts, and flaxseed.

Be sure to see a doctor promptly if you experience a sudden memory change, with or without a severe headache, blurred or double vision, fever, speech changes, balance and/or cordinations problems. These symptoms can be a sign of something more serious occurring within your body.

Dr. Linda Petter is a weekly feature on KOMO TV/News Radio (1000 AM & 97.7 FM) every Sunday live at 7:45 a.m., and a columnist for the Auburn Reporterr.  She trained at the Mayo Clinic and the University of Illinois, Carle Hospital. Dr. Petter is chief of the Department of Family Practice at St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way. She is a consumer healthcare advocate, and her books, “Healthcare On a Budget,” and “Common Medical Sense,” are available on Amazon.com. Please visit her website, www.DocForAll.com, or call her office at 253-568-0841.