University of Iowa Health Science Relations and
Daniel Tranel, PhD, MA
Professor of Neurology/Psychology
First Published: 2004
Last Reviewed: November 2004
Peer Review Status: Internally Peer Reviewed
Facts of Life
How many times have you walked into a room and forgotten what you wanted? Slips of memory are part of life. Part of the reason you forget is that if you remembered everything you'd suffer from overload.
Cognitive fitness is just as important as physical fitness. You need to exercise your brain just as much as you need to exercise your legs. Here are some things to practice to keep your memory sharp:
- Concentrate - pay attention
- Focus - reduce distractions
- Slow down - don't rush
- Organize - a place for everything
- Write it down
- Repeat newly learned information
Memory loss is one of the early symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. While everyone occasionally forgets where you put the keys to the car, it's when you forget what color the car is that there may be a problem. Determining where forgetfulness ends and Alzheimer's begins is the challenge.
Alzheimer's is a form of dementia affecting memory, language ability, and rational thinking. More than four million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's disease today, and that number is expected to more than triple by 2050.
Research is making great strides in understanding the disease, but neither a cause nor a cure has been found.
Early warning Alzheimer's signs include problems with:
- Recalling recent events
- Making decisions or judgments
- Managing routine chores
- Expressing thoughts and feelings
- Processing what others say
- Handling complex tasks like balancing a checkbook
"Because there is no known cure for Alzheimer's disease, staying 'cognitively active' is all the more important," says Daniel Tranel, PhD, UI Hospitals and Clinics neurology department.
"Read books. Play cards. Join social groups. Don't watch too much TV and don't feed your brain too much alcohol. Old people may be slower, but they are usually wiser, and they have many important life lessons to share with younger generations," he says.
Stimulate Your Brain
- Keep your brain agile by learning to think in new ways.
- Use your imagination to solve old problems in a new way.
- Change your routine, don't always do everything the same way.
- Turn off the television and read a book or work a crossword puzzle.
- Try a new dish at your favorite restaurant.
- Start a journal.
Relax Your Body
- Get a massage to soothe tight, sore muscles.
- Learn Tai Chi.
- Learn relaxation breathing techniques.
- Take a bath with scented oils and soothing music.
- Take a walk in a park or along a nature trail.
- Learn yoga, it can:
- Improve your balance and flexibility
- Increase your strength
- Help your concentration
- Help relieve stress
- Give you energy