When you hit your 50s, your memory will start to decline. It’s an annoying sign of aging that can cause some anxiety. After all, isn’t memory loss a sign of dementia? Well, not everyone with memory loss will suffer from dementia, but that doesn’t make the issue any less concerning or annoying.
Rather than just putting up with it, you can help to prevent this sign of aging. There are steps that you can take right now (or even in your 50s and beyond) to keep your memory sharp and your reflexes sharper.
Here are 12 things that you need to do right now that will help to keep your memory sharp in your 50s.
Start Using Chopsticks
If you don’t already, start using chopsticks to eat your meals. And not just when you order Chinese takeout or go out for sushi. Chopsticks require extra attention and brain power while engaging your nerve cells in stimulating your brain.
You’ll need to practice if you’re not used to them for any meals. Allow yourself to get used to the feel of them in your hand. There are plenty of YouTube videos now available to help you learn how to use chopsticks properly and eat with them for every meal. The more time it takes to practice, the better your brain power will be!
Chopsticks also have the ability to make you eat slower.This helps in other areas of aging, such as weight gain. Your metabolism slows down as you get older, so you don’t need to eat as much. By eating with chopsticks, you’ll find it easier to listen to your stomach and hunger needs.
Take Up Knitting
Knitting isn’t just for the old. Sure, it’s one of those stereotypes, but there’s a scientific reason to do it daily. Like using chopsticks, knitting will help to stimulate your brain cells by engaging your nerve cells in your fingers.
When you stimulate the brain cells, you help to avoid damage. It’s the damage to the cells that will lead to poor memory in the future. Your brain’s tissues and connectors just don’t work that well.
You also need to follow patterns to create items. Even just making a scarf will require some concentration.
Of course, there are also other anti-aging benefits. When you knit in front of the TV, you don’t have free hands to snack!
If you don’t like knitting, you could try crocheting instead. Rolling a pen between your fingers is also useful to stimulate the brain.
Engage Through Video Games
It’s time to pull out the Xbox or the Wii and start playing some video games. Your children and grandchildren will love to play the games with you, but look out for the smirks when they remind you not to spend too long on them.
Video games engage your brain. Even just a simple shooting game will require some concentration. You need to remember where you’re going on a map, follow the commands on the screen, and look out for enemies in the distance.
However, brain-training exercises are better for you. Look out for things like brain teasers, Sudoku for the computer, and math exercises. The Wii Fit has a number game that also gets you moving physically.
Pick up new video games now and then. When you play something new, you stimulate the different parts of your brain; areas that rarely get stimulation throughout the day.
Watch the Quiz Shows
Quiz shows are a good alternative. Do them while you’re knitting for double the help!
Watching quiz shows and playing along at the same time will help you stimulate areas of the brain that don’t get the help daily. It’s like playing a video game, without using the remote controls. You still must think about the answers to the question—or what the questions could be in the case of Jeopardy.
Make it a fun experience in the house. Get your spouse or kids involved and challenge them.
If you don’t want to watch TV, pull out quiz style board games and play together. The family time will also help boost other brain benefits, like endorphin release, to help support your cells.
Eat Brain Food
There’s no denying that some foods are better for your brain than other. The chances are that you know all fish being good for the brain. Oily fish is full of omega 3 fatty acids, which are known for their support for the cells within the brain.
However, you can also get benefits from blueberries, raspberries, red wine (in moderation), coffee (again, in moderation), asparagus, spices, and some nuts.
Studies show that the foods have antioxidants, which are essential for caring for cells. Antioxidants will prevent the free radicals damaging dying or damaged cells and help to ensure repair and regrowth are healthy.
Do More Exercise
I know you’ve heard it time and time again for your physical health, but how can physical exercise help your mental health? How specifically will it help your memory?
Well, studies show that exercise helps to boost the connective tissues within the brain. By being more active, you boost the amount of blood circulating your body, which means more oxygen. Your brain needs oxygen to survive, and needs the nutrients that pass through your blood stream. When you get more exercise into your daily routine, you will find that your brain gets all the nutrients needed to protect the cells and improve the overall health. Of course, this means better memory as the connective tissues and all parts of the brain are supported.
Exercise has also been linked to improving your other cognitive abilities. You’ll find it easier to learn new subjects (which is important for the next tip) and improve your muscle memory. Your brain will work more efficiently and find it easier to schedule tasks.
You don’t have to do a lot to improve your memory sharpness in your 50s. For the average woman, 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week is enough. If you want to do high-intensity workouts, you can half that! You’re doing 15-30 minutes a day of high to moderate exercise. This could be a walk on your lunch break or a fun exercise class at your local gym. Find a way to break up your exercise if you’re not sure how to fit it into your day.
Don’t forget to start off slow and build your endurance up. Try some weight training as well as cardio to improve your overall health, which in turn improves your mental health.
Learning Doesn’t Stop in Your 50’s
You may get the feeling that it’s too late to learn anything new. The truth couldn’t be any more different. There is no time to stop learning. In fact, learning something new in your 50s will help to keep your memory sharp.
By still learning, you will keep your brain working. Think of your brain like a muscle. It needs to keep working if you want to keep it strong and supported. Being mentally active is the best way to do that.
This doesn’t mean you must start a new degree course! Pick up a small module that you can do throughout the year if you’d like, but you can also just learn a new fact or two daily. Pick up a hobby that involves reading and learning, such as a jigsaw puzzle group or a chess club. You could even pick up and learn a new musical instrument.
It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. They may try to tell you that you’re silly for learning now, but remember you’re doing this for your mental health.
If you don’t want to learn or join a club, make artwork or write in a journal every day. This helps you keep the nerves in your fingers active and will keep your brain active.
Use Each of Your Senses When Learning
The more senses you use, the better involved your brain is in the learning process. It requires more brain power to see, smell, and feel something than it does just to see and remember. By working more of the brain, you increase the ability to remember and recall later.
Other senses can also make it easier through emotional or muscle memory. You may not remember what the notes were on a piece of muscle, but your fingers may still remember the keys to strike on a piano due to the feel of rhythm and flow. The novel series about spy Jason Bourne who lost his memory was based on this idea that the muscles and brain retain some elements of memory, even if you don’t subconsciously know.
Certain scents can bring back a feeling or sense of déjà vu from your childhood. Textures can remind you of an event or of holding a book.
Studies have shown that this is possible. People were shown images while smelling a certain scent. When they smelled the scent again, they remembered the pictures much easier and clearer.
Get all your senses involved the next time you’re learning something. You’ll be surprised at the way they can help stimulate your brain and improve your mental sharpness.
Use Your Brain Only When You Need To
While you want to learn more, you also need to limit the use of your brain. It’s like a muscle, and muscles eventually get tired. By using your brain on unnecessary tasks, you risk tiring it out before you do need it.
So, use a diary to put birthday dates in. Put your keys in the same place all the time, so you’re not looking for them. Use planners, maps, and shopping lists to limit the use in everyday tasks. You’ll be surprised at how much you can organize and develop.
Don’t forget to look at the clutter around your home, too. This will use up brain power, as you try to see past it. Minimize the distractions around you and clear out the home to create more breathing space. Your memory will thank you.
Make Repeating a Habit
When you learn someone’s name, repeat it a few times. Use it as soon as they tell you their name and then say it again a couple of times in the conversation—making sure you finish with it. You’ll find it much easier to remember their name the next time you see them.
You can do this with everything else you learn. The more you repeat, the easier it is for something to stick in your brain. And saying something aloud makes it even easier to cement the idea within.
If you do need the information repeated to you, don’t be embarrassed to ask.
Watch Out for Medication Overuse
Sure, there’s a pill for everything but do watch out for overuse of medications. Stick to any prescriptions your doctors advise. If you’re worried about any side effects, talk to them about it.
When it comes to non-prescriptive medication, read all the side effects, warning labels, and instructions. Many can tell you that they cause cognitive impairment, which will mean side effects to your memory. This problem is extremely common with pills for sleeping. The idea is that they shut your brain power down to help you repair, but you can still be groggy the next morning as they need to wear off.
Some allergy or pain medications can also affect the memory. They contain an ingredient that blocks communication between brain and nerves. The idea is that they stop the brain from receiving the messages of pain, but this can also mean the brain doesn’t get all the benefits of movement and interaction. Even chopsticks and knitting needles won’t have the same benefits.
Cut Out Sugar from Your Diet
I touched on brain food, but there is one certain ingredient that you want to avoid: sugar.
Sugar is to blame for so many healthy issues. Wait, refined sugar is to blame. The natural sugar in moderation can be good for you. But you want to avoid the refined sugar that you get from candy, cakes, and cookies.
Did you know that 156lbs of sugar is consumed by the average American on a yearly basis? You may not even know you’re consuming it. It can be a hidden ingredient at atime.
Sugar causes the glucose levels to increase, which means the hippocampus in the brain doesn’t work properly. This is the part of the brain linked to the memory. Those who eat sugar are also more likely to suffer from learning disorders and depression. Irritability and attention span are also affected, which leads to poor memory functions.
There are still studies considering refined sugar and Alzheimer’s. For now, it’s best to avoid and switch to natural sweeteners like Stevia instead. You’ll boost your whole health, not just your brain.
Make Change to Support Your Brain Health
It’s time to look at your memory. Getting older doesn’t mean you must suffer from memory loss. You may forget where you put your keys, but who doesn’t? What you don’t have to deal with is constantly forgetting dates and the names of people you’ve just met. You won’t have to feel embarrassed asking people to repeat something they told you the day before.
Use the 12 tips above right now. There is no time like today to start, but start using them in your 50s and beyond. You’ll find these simple tasks will stimulate your brain and help you find enjoyment in life. You’re no longer using your brain power on remedial tasks and saving it for the things in life that count.