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

A word about balance

Imbalance is a leading cause of falls. It occurs when the system that provides balance information to your brain breaks down. Input comes from five balance organs in each ear (three that detect rotational movements and two that detect linear movement), vision, muscles, and joints. Obesity, vision problems, peripheral neuropathy in people with diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, medications, multiple joint replacement, and inner ear problems can all cause imbalance. Addressing those issues, exercising, and getting physical therapy can help improve balance. (Locked) More »

Better memory: Use these simple tricks to help you remember

With aging, the brain processes information slower and it becomes harder to form new memories. Two types of memory tasks that most people notice slipping with age are remembering the location of possessions in the home and remembering the names and faces of new people. By being mindful of such age-related changes and compensating for them, most individuals can still perform daily memory tasks to their satisfaction. To remember the location of car keys or a wallet, it helps to place the items in the same place every day. To remember names and faces, it helps to mentally associate the person with someone else or to make up rhymes involving the new person’s name. These tricks form many new interconnections between brain cells to create more lasting memories. (Locked) More »

The four horsemen of forgetfulness

Alcohol, medication effects, thyroid problems, and many other things can contribute to forgetfulness. Especially in older adults, the most common causes of forgetfulness are stress, anxiety, depression, and sleep deprivation. It is not uncommon to experience uncharacteristic memory slips after a big life change or stress. But it's important to see a doctor about problems getting enough sleep or about fatigue, which could be the result of inadequately addressed health issues. Multitasking can also contribute to forgetfulness. More »

Mind and memory supplement scorecard

People take a variety of dietary supplements to improve mental functioning and memory, but trustworthy scientific evidence is lacking. One exception is vitamin E, which at high enough doses may slightly slow the progression of dementia. Supplements that people often ask their doctors about include B vitamins (folic acid, B6, and B12), antioxidants (vitamins C and E, coenzyme Q10), herbal supplements (huperzine A, ginkgo biloba), and nutraceuticals (omega-3 fatty acids, curcumin, coconut oil). Exercise and a heart-healthy lifestyle can help to maintain your mind and memory. More »

Healthy brain aging: No strain, no gain

As we age, mental exercise can keep mental skills and memory sharp. Relatively difficult mental activities can help the most. Physical exercise also helps to preserve mental skills with aging. Experts recommend that you remain a lifelong learner; take on mentally challenging tasks like learning a language; be willing to try things that get you out of your comfort zone; and staying socially connected. More »