Improve memory and strengthen your brain

Everybody has memory lapses.

You know how it goes — you walk into a room and forget why you’re there, or you can’t quite remember the name of something or someone.

Normally, this is just a part of the normal aging process, said Delle Crowe, a speech and language pathologist and clinical specialist who gives seminars on how to improve memory.

Crowe, of Pawleys Island, often works with seniors, who worry that a troublesome memory could be a sign of dementia or Alzheimer’s.

“Memory is a hot topic,” she said. “People are very concerned with it.”

The first step is to determine whether there is a problem somewhere in the three stages of memory.

  • Encoding the message: Is the person having trouble understanding what is said? This could simply be the result of a hearing loss or visual impairment.
  • Storing the message: Ways to remember short-term items are to repeat what is being said or write it down. The inability to hold onto a new message could signal dementia, Crowe said.
  • Retrieving the message: This involves long-term memory, which can be impacted by a stroke or Alzheimer’s.

Next, people must understand that memory is a very individual thing, Crowe said. Each person must look at the risk factors in their lives, determine which are having a negative impact on their brain power, and set goals on how to improve it.

Three areas that can cause problems are:

  1. Nutrition: The best foods to eat for a healthy brain are salmon, blueberries and other fresh fruit, curry powder and spinach.
  2. Physical fitness: Get involved with cardio activities that pump blood to the brain.
  3. Mental fitness: Crowe said brains must be challenged. Working the same crossword puzzle or Sudoku doesn’t help, so switch it up.

“Anything different is going to exercise your brain,” she said.

Eating healthy can be tough for anyone, but it is the first step to a strong brain. Crowe said B-12 deficiency is a common problem for seniors and is a cause of memory loss.

Dehydration also causes memory lapses, so she encourages everyone to drink plenty of water.

Other factors that impact memory include:

  • Stress: This doesn’t have to be from jobs or children, it can be illness or friends who have died.
  • Medication: Crowe said many medicines have memory-related side-affects.

Aside from proper nutrition, she said people should remain active and social.

“By looking at all those areas you’re going to have the healthiest brain you can have,” she said.