There is no one magic pill that a person can take to prevent memory loss. But the combination of several lifestyle changes that are balanced in safety and science may yield the most benefit.
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As an Alzheimer’s specialist with a family history of Alzheimer’s disease, I recommend some practical tips to my patients — and my own family — to help prevent memory loss.
Increase physical activity as tolerated and as approved by a physician. This will help to preserve brain function as well as benefit the rest of the body.
Mental activity is also important, especially increasing socialization, joining activity programs, adult education classes, and social groups. Learning a new language, a new subject, or taking up new hobbies, especially in group settings, may be especially useful. Puzzles, word games, reading books, crosswords and other games requiring thought may also be helpful to improve specific brain skills.
Remember the power of music in improving brain function. Music therapy for memory can help to stimulate the mind and exercise memory, research has shown.
Life stress can also lead to a variety of negative consequences, including memory impairment. So, de-stress! First, identify and then reduce life stressors.
Think positively, try to keep life in balance, and see a qualified medical professional for help and guidance if needed.
Finally, you are what you eat. The importance of diet and nutrition in memory functioning is essential. Consider these 10 simple steps, which over time may make a positive impact on memory skills.
1. See your doctor regularly for advice and monitoring, and do not make any dietary changes without your physician's supervision and approval.
2. Minimize carbohydrates with a high glycemic index — especially added simple sugars, high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup in general. Decrease dietary carbohydrates slowly over several weeks with physician supervision.
3. Try a Mediterranean-style diet, including fruits and vegetables, lean protein (fish, chicken, turkey), low-fat items, nuts and seeds. Avoid excessive red meat and processed foods.
4. “Good” fat (unsaturated) vs. “bad” fat (saturated and trans fats) — learn the difference and avoid the “bad” fats!
5. Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids — like wild salmon, mackerel and walnuts.
6. Load up on antioxident-laden super foods like dark green leafy vegetables, berries and beans.
7. Don't forget to include vitamins like vitamin D in your diet.
8. Read nutrition labels! In general, the fewer ingredients listed on the label, the better.
9. Choose low-fat dairy products when possible.
10. Coffee: a few cups or perhaps several earlier in the day may be helpful (after physician approval).
(Excerpt and diet plan recommendations from Treating Alzheimer’s Preventing Alzheimer’s: A Patient and Family Guide, 2011 Edition, by Dr. Richard Isaacson.)
© 2012 MSNBC Interactive. Reprints