Did you know that as you age your brain shrinks? It’s one of the key things that leads to memory loss as we get older.
And let’s be honest, along with vanity aspects of wrinkles and sex appeal, it’s one of the things we worry about most, particularly those of us who have seen how dementia has affected sufferers and their loved ones.
Age Related Memory Loss v Dementia
Ever walked into a room and forgotten what you went in for? Or forgotten the name of the person you are talking to? Said hello to someone who waved at you in the street and thought “Who are you”? How about forgetting where you’ve put your keys? Perhaps you’ve missed an appointment?
You’re not alone and don’t fear – all of these things are natural symptoms of getting older. Everyone forgets things from time to time, and chances are your memory is no better or worse than any of your peers.
Dementia, used as an umbrella term for a range of conditions that affect the cognitive functions of the brain, has the potential to seriously affect normal functioning.
With an estimated 1 in 3 people born in 2015 set to develop dementia during their lifetime, it’s a very real concern.
As forgetfulness can be an early symptom of dementia, if you have serious concerns about yourself or a loved one, check out these resources here at Dementia UK.
Of course, if you’ve ruled out early onset dementia, being forgetful can be, well, blooming annoying. It can make you feel extremely unorganised and if you are trying to impress the boss or get a new business off the ground it can hinder progress.
If you think you are too young to be suffering age related memory loss, or simply want to delay brain shrinkage (who wouldn’t?), then try these tips for improving your memory.
How to Improve Your Memory: 5 Tips
Get More Sleep
While we sleep, our bodies go into recovery mode, repairing our bodies in preparation for the next day. This includes repairs to the neurons in the hippocampus, the part of our brains that are responsible for memory retrieval and formation.
Easier said than done for many of us who struggle to get the recommended 7 to 9 hours a night for a range of reasons including life commitments and sleeping disorders. It isn’t helped by the fact our bodies’ ability to sleep changes as we age. Those 12 to 15 hour sleeps, and day naps, we had as teenagers seem, well, like a dream now.
Change Your Diet
We all know that eating a balanced diet is good for our bodies in reducing instances of type 2 diabetes and lowering blood cholesterol. What scientists are now making a link to is improved cognitive function. Eating a diet high in fatty acids, and vitamins D, E and B, can maintain your brain volume.
You’ll be looking to include more eggs, salmon, kiwi fruit and dairy for the best effects. You won’t want to miss out the flavonoids either. So if you’re looking for another excuse to eat dark chocolate and drink a glass of wine with your evening meal (or telly) then you’re covered.
Get More Exercise
By exercising regularly, not only can you keep your weight at a good level but you are also in a good position to keep your blood pressure low.
High blood pressure has the potential to damage the blood vessels in your brain that can affect cognition and memory. Exercise makes your heart stronger, in turn improving blood flow to your brain and increasing the overall volume of the brain.
In addition, exercise is also seen to slow deterioration in people who are already developing cognitive problems.
The recommendation is for 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise, such as walking, weight training or cycling. Just don’t overdo it – stressing the body increases levels of cortisol which in turn can damage the brain.
Train Your Brain
When we train our bodies we have to keep momentum and be consistent, but we also have to keep changing the intensity so that we can continue to see results. If we are doing the same thing day after day without changing the challenge, our bodies get used to it and we fail to see any further change.
The same can be said of the brain. You’ve got to keep it challenged in order to keep that momentum. Otherwise your brain goes into comfort zone. It is now a habit not a challenge. This is great for things that we need to be able to automate but not so great when we need to find our keys.
It can be something as simple as brushing your teeth or hair with the opposite hand, or something more complex like learning to play an instrument or a more difficult piece of music.
So before you default to watching TV, why not try learning a language or playing Pictionary?
Drink More Water
It goes without saying that water is essential for all of our functions so try to get your 6-8 glasses a day to get those cognitive functions going again.
Of course you could just stop using your brain as a filing cabinet and start using external aids to up your productivity. That way you only need to remember one thing not all the things.
In part 2, I’ll be sharing 5 more tips to tell your brain who’s boss and stop it tripping you up.
What tips do you have for improving memory? How do you stop forgetfulness interfering in your day? Share in the comments below.
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Until next time, remember, if the excess baggage is weighing you down, you can always leave it in lost luggage.