Memory plays an important part in a person’s day-to-day life.
Memory loss, to some extent, is common. However, certain levels of memory loss and decline can be a sign of something more alarming.
There are memory techniques and lifestyle changes that can help boost memory processes.
It’s no secret that everyone struggles with remembering things from time to time. We can easily forget where we left our car keys, the password to an online account, or some much-needed items on a grocery list. While it’s true that everyone suffers from memory loss occasionally, sometimes we may notice it’s happening more frequently. So how do we improve our memory?
As Harvard University defines, “memory is the ongoing process of information retention over time.” Memory is described as working in a dual process, where regular day-to-day information that has been stored interacts with new situations, including problem-solving processes. Memory is often tested by studying how a person takes in/retains information and then how they are able to recall it later on.
Causes of Memory Loss
There are a few factors that can contribute to memory loss such as genetics, lifestyle choices, and various medical conditions.
Some aspects of memory loss can come from genetics, particularly if someone in the family has had a condition such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Studies have shown that a person’s lifestyle, such as a lack of physical activity or poor diet, can also have an effect on memory—foods with high sugar and high-fat content can potentially encourage overconsumption that can lead to alterations of the brain associated specifically with learning and cognition. Additionally, those who don’t have many social interactions can also be at a higher risk of experiencing memory loss due to a lack of stimulating mental activity and a lack of emotional support, leading to higher levels of stress.
Conditions such as dementia, amnesia, and Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) can be linked to circumstances such as a reaction to medication or other seemingly unrelated health conditions. Additionally, traumatic accidents, such as an intense car crash or a fall that results in damage to the head/brain, can also cause potential memory loss./amnesia.
Tips to Help With Memory Improvement
There are several memory techniques and lifestyle improvements that a person can make in order to boost their memory and prevent memory loss over time such as protecting their brain health and staying on top of their medical conditions.
Encourage Brain Health
In many cases, memory is improved simply by engaging in activities that stimulate the brain. Similar to other muscles in the body, if they aren’t often used, they will grow weak and not work as effectively as possible. Some ways to encourage brain health include:
Play Brain-Stimulating Games
Whether downloading games onto a cellphone/tablet, such as puzzles and matching games, or something more analog, like working a crossword out of a book, these activities can get you thinking and increase brain activity. Some particular games are even formulated to target memory improvement and boost brain power.
Learn a New Activity
Regardless of age, anytime is a great time to learn something new. Studies have shown that learning a new activity can stimulate brain cells by challenging them, and increasing memory improvement. Whether it’s learning a new language, attending a dance class, or even reading different types of books than usual, plenty of activities can help boost memory.
Eating Less Sugar
It’s not just certain activities that can affect brain health—it can also be connected to certain foods. While it is often advised to many to cut back on sugary foods to improve overall health, there have been studies pointing to a connection between high-sugar diets and lower cognitive health.
While eating a well-rounded diet is an ideal way to receive all the necessary vitamins and minerals a person needs, supplements can also be used to help a person get the appropriate amounts needed. Vitamins such as Vitamin D have been shown to connect to cognitive health—those who suffer from Vitamin D deficiencies often experience a higher rate of cognitive decline. Other options, such as fish oil supplements, have shown serious potential in slowing down cognitive decline, particularly in older adults.
Note: Talk to your healthcare provider about potential vitamin deficiencies for recommendations on dosage/appropriate supplements to take.
Drinking the appropriate amount of water is linked to plenty of health benefits, so it makes sense that it would also help with memory. Striving to drink 64 oz of water per day is ideal and can help the brain stay sharp, rather than loading it with sugary drinks or alcoholic beverages.
Drink Alcohol in Moderation
Speaking of alcohol, drinking a high amount of them has the serious potential to negatively affect memory and cognition. Alcohol works as a depressant and often slows down cognitive processes, meaning it can be difficult to recall information and result in poor memory. Choosing to only drink in moderation, and particularly abstaining a few hours before going to sleep, can make a difference in long-lasting memory and brain health.
Get Enough Sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep is often associated with better memory. Studies have shown that in several cases, sleep plays an important role when it comes to better recalling information and having a better long-term memory. Ensuring a person has proper rest and isn’t suffering from sleep deprivation can be a vital step in lowering the chances of memory decline.
Engage in Exercise
Keeping the body active and engaged is not only a great way to stay in shape but can provide additional memory benefits. Participating in regular aerobic exercise can help increase blood flow to different parts of the body, including the brain. Studies have even found that exercise can help strengthen the hippocampus (the part of the brain involved with verbal memory and learning). Stimulating and engaging the hippocampus can be extremely helpful in preventing diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Stay on Top of Medical Conditions
While it may not always be possible to know if a person will develop a memory loss disorder, it’s crucial to stay on top of medical conditions and be aware of their effects. Certain medications can include potential memory loss, so it’s important to speak with a healthcare provider to assess potential risk factors.
Additionally, if a person has a family history of diseases that affect memory decline, it’s vital for them to practice/engage in memory strengthening activities to help prevent or slow down chances of cognitive decline.
When to Speak With a Healthcare Provider
Experiencing memory loss can be a concerning experience, so when should a person worry about it becoming a more serious condition?
While it’s absolutely normal to forget items or events occasionally, a person should contact their healthcare provider if:
They find themselves asking the same questions over and over again.
If they get perplexed about time, people, or places.
If they become lost in places they are usually very familiar with.
If they struggle to follow directions.
If they struggle to care for themselves, such as forgetting to shower or to eat.
These types of memory issues can affect a person’s daily life and should be discussed with a healthcare provider to help determine the next steps.