10 Practical Ways To Improve Memory
Do you often forget car keys or names of the places you have visited recently? Here are a few tips on how to improve memory.
Sometimes people in their 20s or 30s can have a hard time recollecting certain information like where they’ve kept their debit card or often struggle to recall the name of their new favourite restaurant. How many times do you search for your car keys, cell phone or try remembering the show you just binge-watched? In case you are wondering what is wrong, know that you might be having poor memory. Good news is, such a memory lapse can be fixed by exercising your mind by solving puzzles, changing lifestyle routine and opting for a healthy diet.
Is your child’s academic performance not upto the mark because he/she has trouble memorising? According to a 2020 systematic review published in Nutrients, iron is an important supplement in growing kids for their brain development, speed of processing, learning and memory. Some children or adolescents who have working memory shortages may have poor attention and easy distractibility due to neurological issues or lack of proper nutrition.
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The same cannot be said for elderly people. It's typical for people to forget things for varying lengths of time as they grow older. But, things might be serious when your grandma doesn’t recognise you at all or doesn’t even remember her own name. Senior citizens who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease can have a hard time storing new memories as well as recalling old ones.
Everyone irrespective of their age can have forgetful moments amid a busy life, but poor memory can cause problems. Let’s understand how memory works and what triggers memory loss in children and adults alike.
Memories help us make sense of who we are—they make us who we are. Memory is a neuro-chemical process in the brain which stores and retrieves information. It is divided into three categories: sensory, short-term and long-term. Each has different functionality of its own, for instance sensory is not controlled consciously, short-term memory can hold definite information and long-term memory can keep unlimited recollections, reveals a 2019 study published in Frontiers in Psychology.
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Causes of Memory Loss And Forgetfulness
There can be several reasons behind memory loss such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia, says the American Academy of Neurology, 2016. Besides, overdose of drugs, medications and alcohol can also trigger memory loss by creating a stressful lifestyle, as per a 2016 review issued in Frontiers in Psychiatry.
Mild Cognitive Impairment
As people age, their cognitive abilities begin to decline and some suffer from mild cognitive impairment where they have trouble in recollecting names and things earlier than other people of their age, says National Institute On Aging, 2021. Although mild cognitive symptoms are not severe as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, people can face certain memory lapses like forgetting names of family or friends in ongoing conversation, and missing important events and appointments to attend.
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According to a 2015 study mentioned in Ulster Medical Society, dementia is progressive memory loss accompanied by difficulty with reasoning, judgement, language, and thinking skills. People with dementia can also display behavioural problems and mood swings. Dementia begins gradually between 30-65 years of age and gets noticeable as it progresses.
A study issued in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 2018, points that Alzheimer’s disease affects remembrance ability and impairs reasoning, judgement, and the ability to learn, and communicate, and hinders everyday functions. People with Alzheimer’s disease can quickly become confused and disoriented. Long-term memories are usually stronger and last longer than memories of recent events.
Difference Between Dementia And Alzheimer’s
Group of signs associated with a decline in memory, reasoning, or other thinking skills.
It is a degenerative brain disease that causes difficulty in remembering new information.
Dementia is caused by damaged brain cells that impair people’s ability to think and talk.
Alzheimer’s disease is caused by complex brain changes followed by cell damage.
Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia.
The symptoms worsen with age leading to severe lapse of memory, confusion, behaviour changes and disorientation.
Memory lapses can emerge at any age. Many memory problems that people experience are reflected in the structure and function of the brain minimises some cognitive ability making it a bit harder to learn new things quickly or screen out distractions that can interfere with memory and learning. There are various ways we can use to protect and sharpen our minds.
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Ways on how to improve memory
1. Make time for physical activity
According to a 2021 study issued in the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, exercise is effective in improving memory performance in older people who are vulnerable to neurodegenerative disorders. Any form of physical training or yoga triggers development of brain cells and production of neurotransmitters which boosts memory.
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2. Learn something new every day
Practising mindfulness to increase focus is one way to improve your memory. The more you use memory, the stronger it gets. A 2016 study in the American Psychological Association found that word-learning experiments or practising retrieval enhances long-term, meaningful learning and memory. One can try puzzles, crosswords or learn any musical instruments to keep the mind engaged.
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3. Socialise often
Mingling with people and socialising is a great way to keep your mental health on track. According to Medical News Today, 2018, social interaction impacts mental health as face-to-face encounters cause the nervous system to trigger production of neurotransmitters that suppresses anxiety. Social involvement helps in improving memory formation and protects the brain from neurodegenerative diseases.
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4. Take a power nap
A 2021 systematic review, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, found that a short, daytime nap improved cognitive performance in terms of alertness, executive function, and memory for at least two hours after the nap. Moreover, taking naps around 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. resulted in better cognitive performance.
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5. Remove clutter
Decluttering and cleaning your personal workstation or home can help your mind become clearer. Too many things at one place can cause a wave of anxiety and confusion. According to a 2010 study issued in the Sage Journal, women having unorganised and cluttered homes were found to have higher levels of stress hormones, cortisol.
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6. Eat a nutritious diet
The Mediterranean diet, DASH (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) and MIND (Mediterranean-DASH intervention for neurodegenerative delay)are found to decline incidence of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson's disease, reveals a 2015 research in the paper Alzheimer’s Dement. Another study in Archives of Neurology shows that consuming omega-3 fatty acid products such as fish oil, walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds or canola oil lowers the risk of memory loss. Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are polyunsaturated fats that promote healthy development of the brain, protect cell membranes in the brain, and facilitate communication between nerve cells.
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7. Ditch the GPS when you can
A study cited in the paper Frontiers in Ageing Neuroscience, 2013, shows that counting on GPS for navigation all the time can shorten hippocampus, a segment in the brain responsible for conceptual memory. Decreased volume of the hippocampus is linked with the prevalence of dementia and memory loss.
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8. Manage chronic conditions
Certain prolonged illnesses can make you rely on medications for a significant part of your life. However, some prescribed drugs such as antidepressants, sleeping pills or statins used to suppress high cholesterol can lead to brain fog and acute memory loss if continued for a long time, says a 2018 report published in Translational Neurodegeneration.
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9. Drink caffeine
As per a 2016 study issued in the paper Practical Neurology, drinking coffee 200mg in one sitting or 400mg per day has shown to enhance alertness, concentration and memory capacity. Further, the same study also reveals that lifelong consumption of coffee is effective in prevention of cognitive decline, risk of stroke, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
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10. Reconnect with nature
A morning or evening walk in the park or around nature is excellent for your physical as well as mental health, says The Psychological Science, 2008. Another study in The Medical Journal Of Australia, 2006, reveals daily gardening reduces risk of dementia by 36 per cent.
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Foods to Improve Memory
1. Green tea: The caffeine in green tea has been found to be effective in improving focus, alertness and memory. It contains L-theanine, an amino acid that boosts neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin and reduces anxiety. Green tea is also abundant in polyphenols and antioxidants that prevent cognitive decline, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, reveals a 2019 systematic review in Nutrients.
2. Eggs: Eggs are rich in Vitamin B6, B12, folate and choline that supports good brain health. Choline is found in eggs in higher concentration which produces neurotransmitters to boost mood and memory. Also, Vitamin B present in eggs can help decline the progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in elderly, shows a systematic review and meta-analysis in Drugs & Ageing, 2019.
3. Oranges: According to a 2018 review in Current Medical Science, Vitamin C is an effective antioxidant that protects the neuron against oxidative stress, alleviates inflammation, regulates the neurotransmission, affects neuronal development and controls epigenetic function. Also, Vitamin C has a potential preventive and therapeutic effect on mental illness, such as major depressive disorder (MDD), schizophrenia, anxiety and Alzheimer's disease (AD).
4. Nuts: All nuts, especially walnuts are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin E that fights against free-radical damage and helps slow cognitive decline, as per The Journal of Nutrition, 2019.
5. Chocolates: Dark chocolates contain flavonoids, a group of antioxidant plant compounds that produce dopamine and oxytocin commonly known as ‘happy hormones’ enhance memory, boost mood and concentration. The neuroprotective effects of flavonoids have been suggested to be due to interactions with the cellular and molecular architecture of brain regions responsible for memory, according to Current Nutrition Report, 2018.
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