“Where did I put my keys? I was just holding them a minute ago!”
“Where did I park my car? I swear it was on this level.”
“What’s your name again? I know we’ve met several times already but I’m just so bad with names!”
Any of these “senior moments” sound familiar to you? It’s true that people’s memory changes as they age. Even a photographic memory can eventually deteriorate with age. The speed and amount of information recollected may decline gradually. People are more prone to experience what some like to call “absentmindedness,” which is something that typically occurs when one is multitasking and not giving full attention to the task being done.
Being forgetful can stem from a wide range of factors. The worst possible causes are degenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and Parkinson’s disease, that severely affect that part of the brain that controls the memory. Other causes include depression, stress, over-medication, diabetes, problems with kidney, liver or thyroid, sleep ailments, alcoholism, nutritional deficiencies and dehydration.
Except for those with degenerative diseases, other aspects of the memory like language skills, logic and reasoning and acquired skills are usually not affected. The good news is there are certain things you can do to protect your memory health. Even though memory varies from one individual to another, there are steps that you can do to ensure that your memory won’t fail you in the near future.
Practice Good Nutrition
Having a memory-smart diet is not as difficult as you think. To protect your memory, you just have to follow the standard guidelines on diet: eat your breakfast, have plenty of fruits and vegetables and stay away from bad cholesterol such as saturated fats and trans fat. Nourishing meals can enhance memory health, improve alertness and help retain memories. It’s also important to note that skipping breakfast can be detrimental to your memory.
A study conducted in the Tufts University revealed that people who ditched carbohydrates especially in the morning performed more poorly on memory-based tasks than their counterparts who consumed carbs. That’s because the brain cells need carbohydrates that are converted into glucose. Go for whole grains and complex carbs, which are digested more slowly and deliver steady glucose.
Get Off Your Sedentary Lifestyle
People think that exercise only benefits the body. But the truth is, it’s also good for the brain. Aerobic exercises for instance have been found to help in decreasing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and other conditions that may impair the memory. Obesity, which is risk factor for dementia, can also be avoided by maintaining healthy weight through exercise.
There are plenty of opportunities out there that would allow you to get off your sedentary lifestyle. You may go for the usual route and enroll in a fitness program in your local gym. Or you may choose to attend dance, yoga or Pilates class. At home, you may do stretching exercises when you get up in the morning and then jog around the neighborhood after work.
Have a Good Night Sleep
You may have already noticed that when you don’t get enough sleep, you find it hard to focus the next day. Not only does sleep recuperate the brain, it's also during this time that memories of what happened during the day are stored and filed away. That’s the reason why people who have sleep disorders experience various problems with memory. It’s imperative to consult a doctor if you have any sleep ailment.
If you don’t have any but still have trouble getting the eye-shut every night, it may be due to your environment. Strive to make your bedroom conducive to rest and engage in relaxation techniques before lying down. It would also help to keep the room dark as this helps in the production of melatonin, a brain chemical that signals the body that it’s time to sleep.
Keep Stress and Unhealthy Habits at Bay
Stress, depression and other emotional problems can take a toll in your memory. These cause chemical changes in the brain that affect its ability to hold and recollect memories. People who are stressed or depressed can get the help they need through counseling, meditation and various relaxation techniques. Also, it’s crucial to limit alcohol consumption and quit smoking. Many substances in the cigarette can impair memory and damage brain cells.
As for alcohol consumption, a little drink won’t harm you. In fact, a new study says that drinking a little, particularly a glass of red wine a day, may actually lower risk of problems with the memory. Be wary though, if you down more drinks than recommended, this can lead to heavy memory loss.
Challenge Your Mind
Mentally stimulating activities are obviously good for the brain and the memory. Instead of using your free time doing passive activities like watching the tube, it would be better to read a book, learn an instrument, study a foreign language, do crossword puzzles, play mental games with the kids and many more.
All these memory-enhancing techniques will prove to be helpful in protecting your memory health.