Improve Your Memory With Lifestyle Changes
We all have momentary memory lapses. If you’ve ever searched for your lost car in a parking lot, or stumbled for a name mid-conversation, you know that feeling of having an important fact right at the edge of your mind … somewhere. Of course, as we grow older, those temporary memory blips become more troublesome because we tend to wonder if we’re experiencing normal memory problems or bigger issues.
A Healthy Memory
There Are Ways To Improve Your Memory
Things That Can Affect Memory Function:
Shifts in hormone levels, particularly the drop in estrogen that can accompany menopause, can lead to molecular changes in the hippocampus that affect memory formation.
Poor Dietary Habits
Believe it or not, even germ exposure can affect your memory. Scientists have found that exposure to some viruses (in particular, the herpes simplex 1 virus that causes cold sores) can affect memory.
Many commonly prescribed drugs can actually harm your memory. Anticholinergics (often prescribed for cold symptoms, incontinence, or allergies) and benzodiazepines (used to treat things like anxiety and insomnia) carry particularly high risk. As always, be sure to weigh the potential negative side effects of any medication carefully.
Watching too much television
Recent research suggests that sleep is vital to “consolidating” memories. In other words, our brains aren’t just resting when we’re sleeping, but actually forming and protecting the memories we create during waking moments. When we’re not getting enough sleep, we lose that important processing time.
Ways To Help Your Memory
1. Practice mindfulness and minimize distractions
Regular meditation can actually alter the physical structure of your brain. Improved blood flow and the creation of more neural connections are some of the paybacks from a regular meditation practice.
However, you also want to make sure your brain isn’t overloaded during the rest of your day. Did you know that we check our phones an average of every 12 minutes? That constant shifting of attention can impact cognitive processes. If you feel uncomfortable when you’re separated from your phone, it may be time for a little soul-searching.
2. Eat for brain health
A great deal of research supports the importance of a healthy diet in protecting brain health. In general, avoid overly processed foods and focus on:
● Leafy greens
● Berries and other antioxidant-rich foods
● Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, walnuts and chia seeds
● Turmeric (studies have found its anti-inflammatory properties can slow memory loss.)
● Coconut oil (preliminary research points to a protective effect on memory)
3. Move for memory
Exercise helps more than your physical health. It can also boost your cognitive functioning. It doesn’t take marathon workouts for exercise to have a positive impact on your memory. Even short workouts can boost your recall powers.
4. Train your brain
It’s possible to train your brain to be more efficient. Try some of these simple “hacks” to improve your memory.
- Repeat important information. For example, if you’re introduced to someone, repeat their name back to them. That helps “check in” new facts.
- Play with mnemonics. You may have learned the names of the Great Lakes through the HOMES acronym. Why not create your own acronyms in order to remember lists of items?
- Draw maps. If you have a lot of info to keep track of, try creating a map on a piece of paper. Put the central piece of information in the middle, then draw all of the relevant connections from that point.
- Work with your environment. Don’t hesitate to place little reminders in strategic places. Some people have luck with post-it notes, but they can be more subtle, such as placing a photograph of a loved one who has an approaching birthday beside your bed.
- Press replay. Immediately after an event, replay the important elements in your mind. That will help imprint the things you want to remember.
- Create a memory palace. Try picturing a room that you know very well, and associating each object in the room with an important fact you want to remember.
Note that there are many programs out there that claim to help cognitive health and improve your memory. However, this is an unregulated industry so it’s important to do your due diligence before spending any money. And talking to a medical professional first is always a good idea.
If you’d like to discuss ways to support your memory, give us a call today! Together we can pinpoint potential problems and work on lifestyle changes that will boost your brainpower!