Exercising your mind and memory

All of us will experience memory loss in some form as we age. It’s part of getting older. Typically, memory efficiency begins to decline in our mid-40’s or early 50’s (Durbin, 2008).

One major reason memory loss happens is a decrease in brain cells. When this happens, people generally experience the phenomenon of “tip of the tongue” loss, such as not being able to recall an actor’s name or the name of a movie.

Bear in mind, normal memory loss is not the same as Alzheimer’s disease; a gradual loss of memory linked to dementia.

Another reason we experience loss of recall as we age is the shrinking of the hippocampus. That’s the portion of the brain that’s responsible for creating, storing and accessing new information.

As shrinking continues, the brain’s ability to process data slows. This leads to common mistakes such as misplacing keys, wallets, and paperwork.

Short-Term Memory

As we age, short-term memory is more likely to be affected than long-term memory. It is perhaps for this reason that folks in their 70’s are better able to recall details from their childhood than something that happened last month.

Short-term memory loss may be the result of increased multitasking; an activity that consumes much brain power. For example, people in their 40’s who work full-time and have family responsibilities are constantly trying to manage different life areas.

There’s no such thing as a silver bullet when it comes to ameliorating memory loss. There’s still much we don’t know about this topic.

That said, there are certain steps that can be taken to strengthen memory (short and long) backed by academic research (Gutman, 2001).

Tips for Strengthening Memory

What follows are five concepts and techniques designed to help you strengthen your memory. Consider employing one or all as part of a comprehensive strategy for keeping your mind sharp.

1. Learn something new

Many famous scientists, academics, and financiers are active well into their 70’s and 80’s. The common link? Most all of them stretch their minds by learning something new. This could be an activity, theory, construct or skill.

2. Get organized

Individuals who carefully organize their work areas and homes can compensate for short-term memory loss. Example: If you have a central place for hanging your car keys, you are less likely to lose them.

Focusing on one activity at a time helps to enhance learning and lessen forgetfulness.

3. Physical activity

We’ve long known that physical activity can boost mood. But did you know it can also help your memory? An extensive study showed that women who regularly walk are less likely to experience loss of memory.

Scientists tracked 5,925 women over an eight-year period and discovered that nearly 25% of participants had a significant decline in mental ability test scores.

4. Memory improvement techniques

You may already know this tip but it’s worth mentioning. By engaging your mind in various memory improvement techniques, such as writing down important dates and creating “to do” lists, you reinforce key material for later recall.

Another example might be creating a family tree; an activity that involves name recognition and new learning!

5. Take supplements linked to memory preservation

There are lots of over-the-counter food supplements that make memory improvement claims. Antioxidants, such as Vitamin E, are known to ward off neuron damage.

Ginkgo biloba, for example, is thought to help cognitive functioning (Rai, Shovlin, & Wesnes, 1991).

Herbal teas also may help boost concentration, focus, and general alertness. See this post that explores the benefits of tea over coffee.

Wrap Up

In addition to what has been listed above, various drugs and hormones are available that may help to slow mental deterioration.

If you have been experiencing memory loss, talk to your doctor. Doing so will lead to better insight into potential root causes.

Moreover, you can build a strategy for staying mentally sharp.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

References

Durbin, A. (2008). Applying psychology. Upper Sadle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Gutman, M. (2001, May 20). Are you losing your mind. Gannet News Service, p. 128.

Rai, G. S., Shovlin, C., & Wesnes, K. A. (1991). A double-blind, placebo controlled study of Ginkgo biloba extract (‘Tanakan’) in elderly outpatients with mild to moderate memory impairment. Current Medical Research and Opinion , 350-355.