Memory Loss and How to Maintain It in the Mature Years
Everyone has mild memory lapses from time to time. You go from the kitchen to the bedroom to get something, only to find yourself wondering what you needed. You can't find your car keys one day and your reading glasses the next. This situation has happened to all of us. Lapses such as these are usually just signs of a normal brain that's constantly prioritizing, sorting, storing, and retrieving all types of information.
Although a decrease in your capacity to remember is a normal part of aging. As part of the normal aging process, it can be harder for some people to recall some types of information, such as the names of individuals.
Other causes of memory loss include:
- Medications, including over-the-counter medications such as antihistamines,
- Alcohol and illicit drug use
- Head injury
- Thyroid dysfunction including an under-active or overactive thyroid can interfere with remembering recent events
- Sleep deprivation.
- Nutritional deficiencies such a Vitamin B1 and B12
- Dementia, a term used for a condition in which there is increasing impairment of memory with the most common being Alzheimer's disease
Normal age-related changes in the brain can slow some cognitive processes, making it a bit harder to learn new things quickly or to stay focused. The good news is that most of us can sharpen our minds with proven, do-it-yourself strategies. Here are some ways to boost your ability to remember as you age.
- Economize your brain use with calendars and planners, maps, shopping lists, file folders, and address books to keep routine information accessible. Designate the same place at home for your glasses, keys, and other items you use frequently.
- Organize your thoughts and break down large amounts of new information into smaller chunks, such as the hyphenated sections of a phone number or social security number, is easier to remember than a single long list, such as financial account numbers or the name of everyone in a classroom.
- Use all your senses since the more senses you use when you learn something, the more of your brain will be involved in retaining the memory.
- Use repetition when you want to remember something you have just heard or thought about. Repeat it out loud. For example, if you've just been told someone's name, use it when you speak with him or her:
- Space out your learning by repeating the name or number frequently with longer time periods between each repetition.
- Use mnemonics to remember lists.
Mnemonic devices are creative ways to remember lists. For older learners, a particularly helpful system is a story mnemonic — that is, a brief narrative in which each item cues you to remember the next one.
- Challenge yourself.
Engaging in activities that require you to concentrate and tax your memory will help you maintain skills as you age. Do Soduku and crossword puzzles, try new recipes, travel, and undertake projects or hobbies that require skills you aren't familiar or comfortable with.
Bottom Line: All of us are going to experience some element of memory loss. But your memory is like a muscle. It needs constant and ongoing exercise to maintain it in tip-top condition. Truly the advice of “use it or lose it” applies to your memory as well as your muscles and other organ systems!
Reprinted with permission from Dialog Medical, dialogmedical.com.
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