THE AGING BRAIN: Strategies for Sharpening Memory ~ Domenico Pratico, MD, FCPP

The global population aged 65 and above has surpassed 700 million, constituting nearly 10% of the world’s inhabitants. This demographic is rapidly expanding, with predictions indicating a rise to 16% by 2050. In the United States alone, approximately 10,000 individuals celebrate their 65th birthday daily, contributing to an unprecedented surge in the elderly population.

Growing older often prompts concerns about cognitive health, leading individuals to question if a momentary lapse is indicative of a more severe condition like Alzheimer’s disease. Forgetful instances, such as misplacing car keys or entering a room without recalling the purpose, can trigger anxiety. Common complaints among older adults involve challenges in remembering names and words.

Moreover, some seniors acknowledge a decline in multitasking abilities compared to their younger years. As aging affects memory processing speed, acquiring new information becomes more time-consuming, and retrieving old information may slow down. While these changes may cause frustration, they are generally considered normal and do not significantly impede daily functioning. Fortunately, adopting techniques to enhance memory skills can mitigate age-associated memory changes.

Here are some useful tips on how to reach this goal.

1. Be an active observer and think about what you want to remember. Use all your senses, and look at details more closely, smell, touch, and listen more carefully. In other words, pay attention to what or who you want to remember.

2. Make association or connect what you want to remember whit what your already know. For example, if you meet a new person named Anna, think about someone who you knew in the past named Anna. You may learn that Anna owns a cat or loves to play the piano. Associate the information you learn about Anna to other learned memories.

3. Have a visual picture in your mind of what you want to remember. Using the example of meeting Anna, build upon that by visualizing Anna playing the piano.

4. Think in active manner and work on the details that you want to remember. The more details you can gain by listening and asking questions will add more meaning and will likely be better remembered.

Table Try to use these or other strategies daily. In the meantime, here is a simple game you can play for fun by yourself, with your spouse or a friend. Allow yourself 3 minutes to study the following list of 20 words. Then write down as many as you can remember. The order is not important. Score 1 point for each word you recall correctly. Maximum point: 20. Honourable mention: 4 points or more Bronze: 8 points or more Silver: 12 points or more Gold: 17 points or more.

Check out the recent blog: “The vascular contribution to Alzheimer‚Äôs disease”

Domenico Praticò, MD, is the Scott Richards North Star Charitable Foundation Chair for Alzheimer’s Research, Professor and Director of the Alzheimer’s Center at Temple, and Professor of Pharmacology at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University

You can find out more information on Dr. Domenico Pratico’s research papers here.

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