Improving Memory

In many ways, our memories shape who we are. They make up our internal biographies—the stories we tell ourselves about what we've done with our lives. They tell us who we're connected to, who we've touched during our lives, and who has touched us. In short, our memories are crucial to the essence of who we are as human beings.

That means age-related memory loss can represent a loss of self. It also affects the practical side of life, like getting around the neighborhood or remembering how to contact a loved one. It's not surprising, then, that concerns about declining thinking and memory skills rank among the top fears people have as they age.

What causes some people to lose their memory while others stay sharp as a tack? Genes play a role, but so do choices. Proven ways to protect memory include following a healthy diet, exercising regularly, not smoking, and keeping blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar in check. Living a mentally active life is important, too. Just as muscles grow stronger with use, mental exercise helps keep mental skills and memory in tone.

Are certain kinds of "brain work" more effective than others? Any brain exercise is better than being a mental couch potato. But the activities with the most impact are those that require you to work beyond what is easy and comfortable. Playing endless rounds of solitaire and watching the latest documentary marathon on the History Channel may not be enough. Learning a new language, volunteering, and other activities that strain your brain are better bets.

Improving Memory Articles

4 tricks to rev up your memory

Forgetting things from time to time is probably related to either brain changes that come from aging or from underlying conditions. Treating underlying conditions can help boost memory. Other strategies can help, too. Tricks include repeating something out loud to increase the likelihood that information will be recorded and retrieved later when needed; creating a list of errands or appointments to give the brain additional hints to retrieve information; and making associations between old and new information, such as connecting a person’s first name to something familiar. More »

3 easy ways to boost your brain

Studies have indicted that caring for a dog, creating art, and spending time with a grandchild can boost different aspects of memory and reasoning. (Locked) More »

Another way to think about dementia

Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia. It often gets confused with normal aging since symptoms can mirror everyday “senior moments,” like forgetting a name or just-learned information. Several factors put people at a greater risk for vascular dementia, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, being overweight, and smoking. Making lifestyle changes offers the best protection against the condition.  More »

Do omega-3s protect your thinking skills?

For people who are healthy and who don’t have a decline in memory and thinking skills, it appears that dietary omega-3 fats may help preserve thinking skills. It is unclear if omega-3 fats from fish oil pills offer the same protection. Eating omega-3s in fish may also be linked to a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, because omega-3s may help to ease inflammation, maintain a steady heartbeat, and prevent blood clots. Both the federal government and the American Heart Association recommend eating two servings each week of fatty fish such as salmon or mackerel. (Locked) More »

Need to remember something? Exercise four hours later

Research suggests that exercising four hours after learning may improve your memory of the new information. People who exercised four hours after a learning session retained information better than those who exercised immediately after the lesson and those who did not exercise. More »

Do we lose memories forever?

Scientists used to assume that memories lost to dementia were permanently lost. Now, some research suggests that memories aren’t lost but are buried deeper in the brain. (Locked) More »

Need a quick brain boost? Take a walk

A 20-to-30-minute bout of moderate exercise before performing mental tasks may quicken reaction speed and sharpen decision making in people of all ages. A dose of caffeine may have similar effects. (Locked) More »

Over-the-counter drugs may be linked to memory decline

A class of drugs commonly used in over-the-counter and prescription drugs to treat such problems as insomnia, diarrhea, high blood pressure, depression, and urinary incontinence may be linked to cognitive impairment. Scientists believe the drugs block the neurotransmitter acetylcholine that helps process information, which scientists believe is responsible for the effect.  More »