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Lending a helping hand
People who devote time to helping others are often happier than those who don't. Serving others also helps brain health by increasing social connections, which can protect against loneliness and depression, and improving executive function skills like planning, attention, and remembering tasks. Common ways to help others include volunteering, mentoring, random acts of kindness, and seeing life from another person's perspective.
Mastering memory maintenance
Memory loss is a pervasive worry. Dementia will affect an estimated nine million Americans by 2030 and 12 million by 2040. A 2023 study suggests six healthy lifestyle factors can significantly slow memory decline: eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, not smoking, not drinking alcohol, being socially active, and engaging in brain-challenging activities. Another 2023 study suggests regular Internet use may be linked to a lower risk of dementia.
When to worry about your memory
Most older adults experience occasional "senior moments" when they forget names, misplace objects, or have difficulty following conversations. While these types of memory issues may come and go, it's when they become more frequent or severe or if new problems emerge that signals a potential issue. A doctor can help determine if underlying issues may be causing memory problems and whether further neuropsychological evaluation is needed.
Can a healthy lifestyle ward off memory decline?
A 2023 study involving more than 29,000 older adults without dementia, followed for 10 years, suggested that people who stuck to at least four healthy lifestyle habits had significantly slower memory decline than people who didn't practice any healthy habits.
Can electrical brain stimulation boost attention, memory, and more?
Therapies using an electric current for brain stimulation are not new, but marketing devices for home use is a relatively recent phenomenon. While claims include better energy, focus, mood and more, current evidence doesn't support this and the FDA hasn't cleared these devices.
Bring a fuzzy memory back into focus
Keeping the brain as healthy as possible might help slow the fuzzy thinking that develops with age-related brain changes. The best way to stay sharp is by living a healthy lifestyle: exercising regularly (at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise, like brisk walking), sleeping for seven to nine hours per night, eating a Mediterranean-style diet, managing stress, socializing, and learning new things. Doing crossword puzzles may also help sharpen cognition. So might treatment for underlying health conditions, such as depression or thyroid disease.
How can I tell if I have a concussion?
Concussions occur when the brain bumps or twists inside the skull after a blow to the head. Signs of concussion include headache, eye pain or fatigue, neck pain or stiffness, imbalance, impaired depth perception, difficulty remembering, or sleep pattern changes.
Can these approaches really improve memory?
Scientists are studying two novel approaches to improve memory. One approach centers on molecules in the blood and spinal fluid that appear to help improve memory. So far, experiments have been limited to lab animals. Another approach involves exposing the brain to electrical currents. A study in humans, published online Aug. 22, 2022, by the journal Nature Neuroscience, found that electrical stimulation directed at specific areas of the brain improved both working memory and long-term memory for at least a month.
Taking it slow
While an active life is a healthier one, there are times when people can benefit from embracing a slower pace, an approach commonly known as "slow living." Slow living isn’t about doing less, but doing more with greater focus and purpose and at the right speed. The approach can help people lower stress, increase concentration and memory, and become more engaged in activities they enjoy.
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