Feeling Forgetful? Improve Your Memory With These 9 Invaluable Tips

improve your memory

by Ellen Blake

Suggestions to improve your memory

Everyone forgets things once in awhile. But are you feeling like it happens more often than usual these days? Lately I find I can’t remember names of actors. As a movie buff, I enjoy following the careers and personal details of many different actors and used to  recall names and roles easily. Not so much these days, though and it really bothers me. I also lose track of my phone often and sometimes my car fob. 
I know there are no guarantees to preventing memory loss, according to the Mayo Clinic, making some positive lifestyle changes helps alot. Here are there seven tips to help keep your memory sharp.

Engage in some type of physical activity

Stay active! Physical activity increases blood flood throughout the whole body including your brain. Increased blood flow might help keep your brain in good shape! You don’t need to do vigorous cycling or weightlifting; do what works for you. Just do something! If you currently don’t engage in exercise, try walking every day. Start with ten minutes at a time and increase gradually.

Stay mentally active

Activities that engage your mind help improve your memory and keeps your brain healthy, just as exercise helps with your body. Crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, reading, suduko, volunteer gigs, whatever. Find something you love so you want to do whatever you choose on a regular basis.

Make sleep a priority

Sleep is underrated. Unfortunately, many of us have sleep issues as we grow older. Did you know that inadequate sleep is linked to memory loss? So has restless sleep and sleep that gets disturbed often. Adults need 7 to 9 hours a night on a regular basis. You might need to establish a bedtime routine to help get yourself on a good sleep schedule. And remember that using electronics interfere with sleep; turn off the tv, cell phone and kindle at least an hour before bedtime. If you snore and disrupts your sleep (and likely others if you share a room), see your physician. Snoring could be a sign of a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, which can be a serious problem. Whatever you need to do, make getting enough healthy sleep a priority.

Interact with friends and/or family

Isolation is a major cause of depression and stress, and both contribute to memory loss. It’s important to stay connected, especially if you live alone. Find opportunities to engage with loved ones and other people. Go out to lunch, take a class or check out the activities at the local senior center. If it’s difficult to get out of the house, find an online community in which to participate. A good example of one that people seem to really like is GetSetUp, an online platform with classes and social hours created specifically for older adults. Staying connected is one great way to help improve your memory issues.

Keep your home organized

Disorganization is not good for your memory. I don’t know about you, but when my house is disorganized and cluttered, my mind is disorganized and cluttered. How can you find your things when there is so chaos around you? It’s also difficult to find things when they are not put away in a designated spot. Every item should be put away in the same place every time you use it so you know exactly where to find it. How can you remember where it is if it’s in a different place every time you look for it? And keep your notes and appointments organized too in order to keep track of them more easily. If you forget an appointment, it may be because you didn’t write it on your calendar.

Limit your multitasking

I pride myself on being a good multitasker and getting a lot done in a day. However, I realized lately I make mistakes more often when I do too many things at a time. I need to slow down to limit distractions and focus better. I noticed when I do step back and consciously try to do less, I am more likely to recall later what it is I am trying to remember.

Limit distractions. Don’t do too many things at once. If you focus on the information that you’re trying to remember, you’re more likely to recall it later. It also might help to connect what you’re trying to remember to a favorite song or a familiar saying or idea.

Eat healthfully

We’ve all heard the expression you are what you eat. Healthy dietary habits are good for your brain. Include fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your diet and choose low-fat protein sources, such as fish, beans and skinless poultry. Limit the amount of sugar you ingest through food and drinks. Avoid foods with empty calories such as regular. And don’t forget to limit your alcohol as too much can result in confusion and memory loss.

Manage chronic health issues

Do you have chronic health problems? Conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, hypothyroidism, Vitamin B12 deficiency, hearing loss, stress and anxiety and depression can significantly affect your memory. It’s likely the better you manage your health, the more quickly you can improve your memory.

Review your medications

Some medications affect memory. In addition, the interactions between medications can cause issues. For those reasons, it’s a good idea to regularly review your medications with your physician or health care provider, especially if feeling more forgetful than usual.

When should you get help for memory loss?

Some memory loss is normal as we age. While frustrating, common age-related memory issues are not very serious and certainly not cause for alarm. We can remedy many of these common memory problems with healthy lifestyle habits and taking better care of ourselves.
Other types of age-related memory loss, such as transience, where the brain simply forgets some memories over time according to Harvard Medical School, are also normal and it’s best to accept them and move on. Transience may not actually be a bad thing according to the school; it could mean our brains are removing old and unused memories to make room for new ones.
So, when is it time to seek help for memory loss? See your health care provider if you notice your memory getting worse or if family members or friends voice concerns to you. Generally, your provider will conduct a physical exam and tests to check your memory and problem-solving skills.

Potential signs of dementia

Memory loss linked to dementia is progressive, unlike normal age-related memory issues. The problems worsen over time eventually making it difficult for the individual to live independently.  The symptoms are beyond normal forgetfulness such as losing your keys or missing an appointment and likely will be noticed by family and/or friends. Here are some symptoms to watch for:

Forgetting important information
If you are unable to remember names of loved ones and are unable to remember words previously used often, it’s a good idea to see a doctor. This degree of extreme forgetfulness is not considered to be normal age-related memory loss.

Personality change
A significant change in personality often signals dementia.  For example, a difficult person may become docile and sweet, while a passive and kind person may become aggressive. Paranoia or impulsiveness often accompany personality changes in people with dementia.

Disorientation

The tendency to become disoriented in new environments is another common symptom of dementia. For example, moving to a new location, or even remaining in the same location where the furniture is moved around, disrupts the normal routine and can cause feelings of insecurity and disorientation.

The bottom line

Know that age-related memory loss and dementia are very different conditions. Yes, they share some overlap in symptoms, but generally normal forgetfulness results from a lack of focus or poor lifestyle habits. It’s very possible to improve your memory with simple tools, new activities and a healthy lifestyle.  This type of forgetfulness is not unusual and does not progress into a serious situation. In contract, dementia worsens over time. You may worry and/or find family members voice concern over symptoms they observe.  A trusted health care physician that you see regularly can help you determine and potentially treat the cause of your memory issues.

originally published December 15, 2022
updated June 10, 2023

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