Do You Remember When?

Yesterday when I was riffing on Thanksgiving, and gratitude, I mentioned that I arrived to work, logged on to my computer, looked at my screen, and had absolutely no idea where to begin. I flat couldn’t remember where I left off on Friday, before taking off for the long weekend.

This actually got me to thinking about something fairly serious regarding living well as we age; cognitive decline and memory loss. My Grannie had a bad fall in her mid 80s, and steadily declined, both mentally and physically, from then until her death, about 5 years later. By the end, she didn’t know who I was, and would introduce me as my older brother.

Fortunately, by that time I was old enough to understand and wasn’t greatly hurt. Which is not to say it didn’t sting, I just never blamed Grannie for it.  It did, however, have a profound effect on my worldview. I plan on hanging around as long as possible, but I’m also planning to keep my marbles while I do; for me, losing my mind is a far scarier prospect than losing my life.

This is particularly pointed now. Back then I was single and childless, but now I’m married with 3 kids and the most terrible thing I can imagine is losing them. In a way, my grandmother lost me; I’m pretty sure she was somewhat aware that I wasn’t my brother, but that I was related, and it was the best she could do. Equally, I lost her (though she was physically present) because our shared history was gone.

Simply put, I don’t want this to happen to my boys and me. I would rather die, hale and healthy, faculties intact, than suffer that slow decline, aware all the while that something is being lost. Live long, live well, live healthy, then flick the switch.

Whoa, heavy, Dude.

Yeah, I know, but fret not, the general light hearted smartassery found around these parts will return soon. But meantime, let me say this, there are things you can do about memory loss and cognitive decline.

First, and I know this is going to shock you, get off your lazy butt and exercise. From Scientific American:

…mounting evidence is revealing a robust relation between physical fitness and cognitive function.

While the underlying mechanism controlling how exercise helps with cognitive function is not understood, the science is pretty simple. Working your body improves your brain.

Second, treat your brain as a muscle, and give it appropriate exercise. What do I mean? I mean tax your brain. For instance, do puzzles; word puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, Sudokus, whatever. Again, going back to Scientific American:

Older adults who regularly take part in word and number puzzles have sharper brains, according to the largest online study to date.

So pick up a Sudoku, put Wordscapes on your phone, get a jigsaw puzzle, build a Lego, slave over a Rubik’s cube,