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Confusion, Memory Loss, and Altered Alertness - Prevention

You can sometimes reduce the impact of age-related memory problems. The saying "use it or lose it" applies to your memory. Your best defense against a memory problem is to stay healthy and fit.

  • Eat a balanced diet camera.gif. A balanced, low-fat diet with ample sources of vitamins B12 and folate will help protect your nervous system.
  • Drink plenty of water. This helps to prevent dehydration, which can cause confusion and memory problems. For more information, see the topic Dehydration.
  • Get plenty of rest. Being tired can impair your memory.
  • Do not smoke or use other tobacco products. Tobacco products decrease blood flow to the brain, raise blood pressure, and increase your risk of stroke. For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.
  • Exercise regularly. Regular exercise can improve the blood flow to your brain. For more information, see the topic Fitness.
  • Reduce your stress. Being anxious can impair your memory. For more information, see the topic Stress Management.
  • Socialize with family and friends. Research has shown that people who regularly get together with family or friends are less likely to lose mental function. Socializing also helps you stay connected with your community.
  • Try to learn new things. This may help increase your attention span and ability to focus.
  • Play stimulating mind games, such as Scrabble, or do a crossword puzzle or word jumble.
  • Limit your alcohol intake, and do not use illegal drugs such as cocaine, crack, or amphetamines. For more information, see the topic Alcohol and Drug Problems.
  • Decrease your use of nonprescription medicines. Overuse of medicines may be the single biggest cause of memory loss or confusion in older adults.
  • Keep your blood pressure at or below 130/85 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Untreated high blood pressure can cause memory problems and affect problem-solving abilities. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, take your medicines as directed. For more information, see the topic High Blood Pressure.
  • Seek treatment for depression if you think that you may be depressed. Memory loss may be a symptom of depression. For more information, see the topic Feeling Depressed.

Prevent accidents and injuries that might lead to memory problems.

  • Wear your seat belt when you are traveling in a motor vehicle.
  • Do not use alcohol or other drugs before participating in sports or when operating an automobile or other equipment.
  • Wear a helmet and other protective clothing whenever you are biking, motorcycling, skating, skate boarding, kayaking, horseback riding, skiing, snowboarding, or rock climbing.
  • Wear a hard hat if you work in a construction job or in an industrial area.
  • Do not dive into shallow or unfamiliar water.
  • Prevent falls in your home by removing hazards that might cause a fall.
  • Do not keep firearms in your home. If you must keep firearms, lock them up and store them unloaded and uncocked. Lock ammunition in a separate area.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: July 31, 2013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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