6 ways to sharpen and protect your memory
Brain Awareness Week*, held from March 11-17, is a global campaign that highlights the progress and benefits of brain and memory research. Here are some evidence-based strategies to help prevent memory loss and improve your ability to remember, given the changes in memory that may occur as a normal part of aging:

1. Draw to retain new information. Older adults recall new information better* when they use drawing rather than written notes, visualization or passively looking at related images, according to a 2018 University of Waterloo study. Seniors remembered information as well as younger people when they drew rather than using other methods because this involves using multi-sensory visual, spatial, verbal, semantic and motor skills.

2. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. People who ate lots of fruits and vegetables regularly over two decades were 34% less likely to have extensive cognitive decline* than those who didn’t, reported a 2018 Neurology study.

3. Walk to expand the brain’s memory region. Sedentary older adults who began doing brisk walks for 40 minutes a day, three times a week, increased the size of their hippocampus*, a brain region involved in forming memories, and they improved memory performance, reported a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A University of British Columbia study found walking three times a week* improved the cognitive abilities of seniors with mild vascular cognitive impairment.

4. Engage in mind-body exercises. Older adults who participated in dancing, tai chi or yoga* showed improvement in memory, verbal fluency and learning, reported a 2018 Journal of the American Geriatrics Society study. Healthy seniors and those with mild cognitive impairment benefited from 60 to 120 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week.

5. Space out repetition to improve recall. Repeating something you want to remember works best if you repeat the details after increasingly long periods of time*, says Harvard Medical School. Rather than repeating something many times in a short period, try repeating it once an hour, every few hours and then every day.

6. Restore hearing and protect memory. Older adults with mild-to-moderate hearing loss showed improved brain function and working memory* after wearing hearing aids for six months, reported a Clinical Neurophysiology study.

Chartwell Retirement Residences offers activities such as walking clubs, line dancing, yoga and tai chi that are good for the mind, memory and body. Chartwell’s memory care services and Memory Living program in select locations provide person-centred care and support for individuals living with cognitive impairment, helping to make every day a good day.

*The following sources provided references for this blog, in order of appearance:

1. The Dana Foundation. “Brain Awareness Week (BAW) is the global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research.” online: http://www.dana.org/BAW/
2. CBC News. “Brains remember more easily with drawings than written notes.” (2019) , online: https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/drawing-memory-aid-1.4963432 
3. Rapaport, Lisa. “More evidence fruits and greens can be good for the brain.” (2018), online: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-cognition-vegetables-idUSKBN1O52G3 
4. Alabaster, Amy. “Moderate Exercise May Improve Memory in Older Adults.” (2011), online: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/moderate-exercise-may-improve-memory-older-adults 
5. Nair, Roshini. “Walking can reduce memory loss in seniors, study says.” (2016), online: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/walking-can-reduce-memory-loss-in-seniors-study-says-1.3822020
6. Upham, Becky. “Study Shows Tai Chi and Dance Benefit the Brain in Older Adults.” (2018), online: https://www.everydayhealth.com/senior-health/study-shows-tai-chi-dance-benefit-brain-older-adults/ 
7. Hard Health Publishing. “7 ways to keep your memory sharp at any age.” online: https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/7-ways-to-keep-your-memory-sharp-at-any-age
8. University of Maryland Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences. “New Research Shows Hearing Aids Improve Brain Function and Memory in Older Adults.” (2018), online: https://hearinghealthfoundation.org/blogs/new-research-shows-hearing-aids-improve-brain-function-and-memory-in-older-adults