Raise your hand if this has ever happened to you.
You’re telling a story and suddenly you can’t remember the right word for something. You know what the thing is. You can even see it in your mind’s eye. But you just can’t get your brain to spit out the word.
These tip-of-the tongue moments can be so frustrating you feel like spitting nails. Sometimes, they might even give you a moment of anxiety.
Rest assured they’re quite common. In fact, nearly everyone suffers from word finding troubles from time to time.
These annoying brain burps become more frequent with age. But now a new study has revealed one way seniors can significantly reduce these glitches.
And the good news is it’s something you should already be doing anyway.
Tip-of-the-tongue word finding problems & exercise
Researchers at the University of Birmingham divided a group of volunteers into two groups. In the first group, everyone was between the ages of 60 and 80 and didn’t have any signs of cognitive problems. And in the second group, everyone was in their 20s.
The researchers had the volunteers ride special stationary bikes designed to measure their aerobic fitness levels. Everyone then sat at a computer as definitions of words that most folks wouldn’t use very often—such as decanter—popped up on the screen. This assured that the volunteers had to engage their brains as they worked to recall the uncommon words.
They were then asked to indicate if they knew and could say the word which matched the definition. And, as expected, the folks in the younger group had both smaller vocabularies and far fewer tip-of-the-tongue moments.
28% fewer word finding issues in fit seniors
But when the researchers did some number crunching, they discovered something that surprised everyone. The more aerobically fit folks in the older group had less word finding troubles too.
And we’re not talking about a single digit percentage here. The most fit seniors were 28 percent less likely to say something like “I know this word, let me think,” than their peers who were not in such good shape.
More research is needed to figure out the exact relationship between being more fit and memory. But it’s clear there’s a connection.
Experts believe it may have something to do with the brain shrink we experience as we age. As strange as it sounds, everyone’s brain gets a bit smaller as we age. But the more brain atrophy we have the more memory problems we have.
Aerobic exercise may help us hold on to more gray matter in the cerebellum area of our brain, which is responsible for language, verbal skills and writing ability. In other words, it could help us dial back our brain age and reduce those word finding troubles.
3 tips to help beef up your brain
But while aerobic exercise—such as fast-paced walking, water aerobics or dancing—is critical for a healthy brain there’s no reason to stop there. There are other ways you can beef up your brain and avoid word finding problems as you age.
1. Everyday activity:
It’s true that “formal” aerobic exercise is great for your thinker. But it’s not the only path to a beefier brain. Researchers say everyday activities stave off brain shrink too. Which means staying out of your chair and active during the day doing everyday chores such as gardening, housework and even walking the dog count too. In one study, researchers found seniors who kept moving during the day had far more gray matter than their couch potato peers.
Experts say choosing the right foods can help ward off memory problems and even dementia as we age. And lucky for us some of the tastiest foods are some of the best for our brains too.
- Walnuts – Walnuts provide your brain with the fats, fiber and antioxidants it loves. And packed with neuroprotective vitamin E and the brain-friendly omega-3 fatty acid DHA, walnuts could help improve cognitive function and age-related cognitive decline.
- Blueberries – Antioxidant rich blueberries can help protect our brains against aging oxidative stress. In fact, researchers say they can directly affect our neurons, improving their function. In one study, seniors who were suffering with cognitive decline had significant improvements in learning ability and word finding after drinking blueberry juice for 12 weeks.
- Peanut butter – Peanut butter is full of brain-friendly fats and vitamin E. Higher levels of vitamin E are associated with less cognitive decline as we age. Just be sure to choose organic, all-natural peanut butter to avoid unwanted additives and unnecessary sugar.
The cerebral cortex is the largest part of your brain. It plays a vital role in memory and language. And it turns out not getting enough sleep could harm this critical part of your brain. In one study researchers found that when the body doesn’t get enough shuteye it begins to gobble up healthy neurons in the cerebral cortex destroying important synaptic connections. Commit to getting seven quality hours of sleep a night to protect your memory and help stave off tip-of-the-tongue word finding moments.
Get more aerobic exercise and cultivate a steel-trap memory with these beefy brain tips.
She is an advocate of self-education and is passionate about the power of group knowledge sharing, like the kind found right here on HealthierTalk.com. Alice loves to share her views on holistic and natural healing as well as her, sometimes contentious, thoughts on the profit-driven inner workings of traditional medicine.
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