Memory: Part 3- Brain Exercising
The old adage "use it or lose it" is not only true for our muscles, it also applies to the brain. Study after study has shown that the folks who use their brains, have less difficulty later in life. So what can you do? First, here are some typical brain exercises: cross word puzzles, taking a class, visiting friends. The more mental stimulation you get, the more you are actually exercising your brain. The general idea is to expose yourself to something new everyday. For some folks, they will read a daily paper and follow a sports or political interest. Others will explore new designs for quilting or make a dish that they have not cooked before. The great thing about our brains, is that we take them wherever we go. Even sitting in the car can give you the opportunity to do something different. Look at the sky (while stopped of course), listen to a radio station that you have not heard before, think of funny stories of your youth. Think, Think, Think.
Jigsaw puzzles are marvelous in beefing up your brain. This activity requires visual-organization skills (your brain has to make sense out of pieces of a design) and motor skills. Remember, the more you use, the more you gain. Take a walk, exercise is good for everything, including the brain. Go meet with friends, each interaction is more stimulation for your mind and will make you smile as well.
Of course, no matter how much you do, there may be a time when you experience memory loss. If you notice memory difficulties in yourself or a friend, putting more structure into your daily life can help tremendously. For example, make sure you place your keys in the same place everyday. Do you have trouble learning new names? Every time you meet someone new, say their name in conversation at least three times ("Good to meet you, _______; That was interesting __________; It was a pleasure meeting you _________"). The more you say their name, the more you are likely going to recall it. Make lists. These lists could be for grocery shopping or a daily reminder list of all that you would like to accomplish that day. If you are concerned about forgetting something on the stove, place a fork in your pocket as a reminder that you were cooking in the kitchen. For many people, medications can be particularly confusing. If that is true for you or a loved one, get a pill box that has the day of the week and compartments for your morning, afternoon, and evening medications. These boxes are available at all pharmacies and are marvelous in keeping track of medications.
As with all physical changes, please discuss memory changes with your doctor. As we previously discussed, there are many reasons why memory changes. This means, there could be many options available to help you.