Not wanting to read this could signal cognitive decline – Best Life

As you age, maintaining your memory is crucial to your health, both mental and physical. But too often, memory can be compromised by bad habits that erode cognitive function over time. “We are what we remember” Richard RestackMD, a neurologist and clinical professor at the George Washington Hospital University School of Medicine and Health, recently said The New York Times. Restak has written more than 20 books on cognition and memory and says several subtle signs of cognitive decline can suggest memory loss, including one that may show up in your reading habits. Read on to find out which surprising sign could mean your memory is at risk and how to restore full cognitive function.

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Contrary to popular belief, Restak says memory loss is not considered a normal part of aging, adding that unless a brain disorder such as dementia is to blame, you have a good chance of reverse it. In his most recent book, The Complete Guide to Memory: The Science of Strengthening Your Mindit describes the 10 “sins” or “stumbling blocks that can lead to lost or distorted memories“-as well as the strategies that can counter them.

He also notes that most of the time memory problems are not memory problems at all, but attention problems. “Inattention is the number one cause of memory impairment,” Restak told the Time. “It means you did not encode the memory correctly.” Slowing down and taking mental notes throughout the day will help you remember things better later.

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Restak says that in the early stages of memory decline, many people no longer want to read works of fiction. “People, when they start having memory difficulties, tend to switch to reading non-fiction,” he told the Time.

Restak thinks it’s because fiction requires more active attention and engagement with the text. “You have to remember what the character did on page 3 by the time you get to page 11,” he said.

Senior aged man sitting and reading a book at the nursing home with a cup of tea in his hand
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It is precisely because the fiction poses a challenge to those with minor memory problems that Restak suggests reading it anyway. The neurologist is a big proponent of practicing “memory exercises that you can incorporate into everyday life,” and says reading complex works of fiction that stretch your ability to follow characters and plots could bring you cognitive gains.

If you’re struggling to retain these crucial story elements, Restak suggests trying to actively view the information. Pairing a picture with a word can improve later recall, he says.

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The neurologist says there are a handful of other ways to protect your working memory, the type of memory that sits between immediate recall and long-term memory, and which allows you to put new information into practice in everyday life. He suggests using mental exercises that stimulate your brain to sharpen your encoding and recall skills.

The New York Times describes a mental exercise recommended by Restak. “First, remember all of the American presidents, starting with President Biden and going all the way back to, say, Franklin D. Roosevelt, writing them down or recording them. Then do the same, from FDR to Biden. Next, name only Democratic presidents, and only Republicans. Finally, name them in alphabetical order. You can play this game using any topic that is familiar and engaging to you – athlete names or actors, for example – as long as there is a way to categorize or chronologize them.

By “holding information and moving it through your mind,” your cognitive function should stay sharper over time, Restak says. Of course, if you think there’s a deeper problem at work, talk to your doctor to assess your memory and cognition.

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