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

Don’t buy into brain health supplements

About 25% of adults over age 50 take a supplement to improve their brain health. While these products promise benefits like enhanced memory and greater attention and focus, research has not found solid proof they work. People can get more brain benefits from doing regular aerobic exercise and adopting a plant-based diet. More »

Rehiring your business mind

Soft skills people used during their earlier work career, such as making decisions, being a good listener, and having a positive attitude can help older adults with everyday memory tasks like following directions and solving problems. One way to improve soft skills is to practice the three Ms: mindfulness, meditation, and mantras. These can help strengthen the weaker parts of a person’s soft skills and help improve memory. (Locked) More »

Can you boost your memory by walking backward?

A study found that walking backward may improve short-term memory. It’s not clear why this is the case, but people may associate reverse motion with a return to the past, which may trigger a memory response. More research is needed to determine if walking backward should be used as a memory aid. More »

The buzz about caffeine and health

For most people, consuming caffeine from coffee, tea, or chocolate poses no serious health risk if taken within safe amounts. Healthy people who have never had a heart attack or currently manage high blood pressure should consume no more than 400 mg per day, which is about the amount in four cups of coffee or 10 cups of black tea. However, people who have had a prior heart attack or have heart disease should keep their dosage to about half that per day. (Locked) More »

Straight talk about your sex life

A recent survey found that even though many older adults enjoy an active sex life, few talk about their sexual health with their doctor or other health care provider. It’s important to have an open line of communication because in general, sexuality changes over time, and many older men encounter problems that can interfere with performance, such as erectile dysfunction or problems with arousal, energy, and stamina. (Locked) More »

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 »

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 »