Keep Your Memory Sharp
Many factors can affect your ability to remember—a hectic lifestyle, aging, stress, chronic disease, and certain medicines. But, there are steps you can take to sharpen your mind and help preserve your memory.
Challenge Your Brain
Regularly challenging your mind may help keeps it in top shape. Good mental exercises include:
- Crossword puzzles—Use a dictionary if you need it; you will learn more that way.
- Brainteasers— ]]>Try some]]>!
- Crafts, such as wood working and sewing
- Hobbies, such as gardening and building model airplanes
- Socializing—Visit old friends or join groups to meet new ones.
- Learning a new language
- Taking a class, whether it be art history or ]]>tai chi]]>
- Traveling—Experience the food, history, and culture of your destination
- Learning to use a computer
- Going to museums, the theater, or thought-provoking movies
- Changing things in your daily life, such as reversing your pattern in the grocery store or brushing your teeth using your nondominant hand
Use Memory Aids
There is no need to remember every detail on your own. These memory aids can help:
- Calendars and day planners
- Electronic organizers to store all sorts of helpful information—These devices can "beep" to remind you of appointments.
- A book of days to record birthdays, anniversaries, and other occasions that occur on the same date every year
- Detailed "to-do" lists and strategically placed sticky notes
- Quick "study" sessions—Before a gathering, review who will be there so their names will be fresh in your mind.
- Establish routines—For example, keep your keys, wallet, and umbrella in the same place all the time or take medicine with your 8:00 AM glass of juice
Live a Healthy Life
Many actions that will keep your body strong will do the same for your mind. For example:
Talk to Your Doctor About Herbs and Supplements
Malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies can impair your mental function. For example, ]]>vitamin B12 deficiency]]> can cause a range of symptoms, including confusion. But, what if your nutritional needs are being met? Can herbs and supplements still offer a benefit? Researchers have investigated a range of natural remedies, such as ]]>ginkgo]]>, ]]>ginseng]]>, and the supplement ]]>phosphatidylserine]]> (PS). So far, though, the evidence is inconsistent as to whether these products can improve memory or thinking.
If you are interested in taking herbs and supplements, talk to your doctor first because they may interact with other medicines that you are taking.
Among the many benefits of ]]>regular exercise]]> are increased blood flow to the brain and decreased risk of certain diseases that can interfere with memory function. One study found that even moderate exercise has a beneficial effect. Examples of "moderate" exercise include:
- Playing 18 holes of golf once a week, without a cart
- Playing tennis twice a week
- Walking one mile per day
It can be tough to remember what is important when your mind is cluttered. Make time for relaxation. Choose activities that calm you down, and make it routine.
Manage Chronic Conditions
Side effects of ]]>high blood pressure]]>, ]]>diabetes]]>, and heart disease can interfere with mental function. Many of the lifestyle steps discussed here can help manage these conditions. Strive to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, get stress under control, and follow your doctor's advice for your condition.
Talk to your doctor about the medicines that you take. Some may be unnecessary. Also, healthy lifestyle habits may lower the need for certain drugs.
Canadian Mental Health Association
Mental Health Canada
Enhancing memory and mental function. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/thisTopic.php?marketID=15topicID=114 . Updated May 2008. Accessed June 16, 2008.
Ginkgo. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/thisTopic.php?marketID=15topicID=114. Updated September 2009. Accessed January 11, 2010.
Ginseng. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/thisTopic.php?marketID=15topicID=114. Updated September 2009. Accessed January 11, 2010.
Memory loss with aging: what's normal, what's not. Family Doctor.org website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/seniors/common-older/124.html . Updated December 2006. Accessed June 16, 2008.
Phosphatidylserine. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/thisTopic.php?marketID=15topicID=114. Updated September 2009. Accessed January 11, 2010.
1/11/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance: Snitz BE, O'Meara ES, Carlson MC, et al. Ginkgo biloba for preventing cognitive decline in older adults: a randomized trial. JAMA. 2009;302:2663-2670.
Last reviewed April 2010 by ]]>Brian Randall, MD]]>
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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