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Memory Wellness

Research

We would all like to know how to preserve and improve our memory and thinking abilities as we age. Observational studies that correlate naturally occurring lifestyle and health conditions with brain health or disease are giving us many clues about factors that may promote brain fitness. However, controlled studies of interventions based on these factors are still in very early stages.

 

WAI is committed to achieving a better understanding of the many factors that may reduce the odds of developing Alzheimer's disease and increase the chances of successful brain aging. The Wisconsin Registry of Alzheimer's Prevention (WRAP) is studying risk and protective factors in children of persons with Alzheimer's disease.

 

If you are interested in learning more about current research on brain fitness, we have provided reviews of recent research articles on factors that may be brain-protective and on intervention programs to maintain or improve cognitive skills and a review of research on cognitive stimulation and cognitive training. We will update this link with additional summaries as new studies are completed.

 

For further information on brain fitness, please contact Asenath La Rue, PhD, at the WAI, larue@wisc.edu.

 

To the right is a list of other brain fitness resources. These resources may or may not prove helpful for a particular person, but they provide a good starting place for keeping your mind active and engaged.

 

 

Tips for Better Memory

Our ability to remember is a link to our past and a bridge to the future. Memory enables us to learn new things, adapt to changing circumstances, and complete essential tasks. At least one out of every four older adults report problems with remembering everyday things such as names or where they put things. Usually this forgetfulness is just annoying and doesn’t affect a person’s ability to do important things. Most people…regardless of age…can strengthen their everyday memory. Below are some tips for a better memory.

 

Economize your brain use
Use written notes on calendars or make lists to reduce the amount of detail you need to remember. Pick a place in your home for objects like keys and glasses and always put them there when not in use. Create and use files for paperwork. And most of all, decide for yourself what is important to remember and devote your mental energy to those things.

 

Practice and repeat
There is truth to the old saying “Practice makes perfect.” If you meet a new person and want to remember her name, repeat it softly to yourself a few times, or find a way to say it out loud in conversation. To remember what you’ve read, stop and repeat the main points to yourself after every few paragraphs, or make notes as you go along.

 

Use your imagination to make things memorable
Make a picture in your head about a person’s name. The more colorful and dramatic the picture, the more likely you are to remember the name…e.g., for Jim King, think of King Kong standing in the center of your high school gymnasium.

 

Pay attention to your health
Many of the things you may be doing to keep your heart healthy are also good for your brain. Maintaining a good weight, exercising, and keeping your blood pressure in check are all associated with better memory performance. Regular check-ups with your doctor to make sure that your blood sugar, thyroid, and folate levels are normal are also important.

 

Get a good night’s sleep
Sleep is important for consolidating new information into memory, and sleep problems such as apnea can be a cause of memory lapses.

 

Believe in yourself
Stereotypes about inevitable loss of memory with age can be harmful. Believing that you can make your memory stronger is an important first step. See your doctor if you find yourself feeling discouraged in general…about memory and other things. Feeling persistently “down” can be a sign of depression which can also undermine memory.

RESOURCES

Brain fitness blog:

www.sharpbrains.com

 

Brain games available on the web for free:

www.aarp.org/fun/puzzles/

www.thirdage.com/living/games/sbt1/

 

Commercial brain fitness programs:

www.mybraintrainer.com

www.cogmed.com

www.positscience.com

www.calibex.com/nintendo-brain-game

www.lumosity.com

 

Books and other materials that take a holistic approach:

The Healthy Brain Kit, Andrew Weil & Gary Small, 2007

The Memory Prescription, Gary Small, 2004

Keep Your Brain Young, Guy McKhann & Marilyn Albert, 2002

Total Memory Workout, Cynthia Green, 1999

Whole Brain Workouts, Marge Englemann, Elizabeth Ragsdale, and Tom Kinney, 2006

 

For friends or relatives with mild Alzheimer's disease or other dementias, here are some memory support programs inWisconsin:

Crossing Bridges, Meeting of Minds & Learning Among friends, Alzheimer's & Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin, Patricia Wilson, 608-232-3404 or patricia.wilson@alzwisc.org.

Early Bird Club, Lutheran Home, Wauwatosa. Stephanie Leanes, 414-258-4192 or stephanie.leanes@thelutheranhome.org.

HAART Program, Alzheimer's Center of Excellence, ThedaCare Behavioral Health, Appleton. l-800-236-2236 and www.thedacare.org.

 

For programs in your area, please visit www.alzwisc.org and www.alz.org.

 

Brain Fitness Research:

Reviews of recent articles