Diet & Nutrition
Mental & Emotional Health

Get the Most From Your Memory

These days, it seems, you’re more and more frequently trying to remember where you left your keys. Or your glasses. Maybe you’ve forgotten your new neighbor’s name. But, say, Harvard Medical School experts, those glitches aren’t inevitable.

"Most people get a little more forgetful with aging, but there are some simple things you can do to prevent memory slips and help your brain to learn and remember better," says Dr. Anne Fabiny, chief of geriatrics at Cambridge Health Alliance and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Among Fabiny’s tips:

Make sure to establish and follow routines. Always leave your keys, glasses and phone in the same place every day. That way, Fabiny says, finding them will be a “no-brainer.”

Pay attention to what you’re doing, Fabiny says. Slow down so your brain can create an enduring memory.

Don’t try to multitask. Although some people may think multitasking is valuable, it can also disrupt concentration. Additionally, avoid distracting or noisy surroundings. That way, you can focus on your task.

Get enough sleep, reduce stress, and check with your doctor to see if any of your medications affect memory — all three are potential memory spoilers.

Although many people may worry that minor memory slip-ups are a signal of demential, Fabiny says that’s not the case. Research shows that the ability to learn new information and to recall it may drop after 50.

Worried that your minor memory slips mean you are headed toward Alzheimer's disease? That's probably not the case. Like it or not, science shows that the ability to learn new information and recall it may decline somewhat after 50.

But forgetfulness can be a serious issue if it's starting to interfere with daily tasks and routines, the Harvard experts say, such as managing your healthcare and finances.

Your daily habits and lifestyle — what you eat and drink, whether you exercise, how stressed you are, and more — affect your mental health every bit as much as your physical health, the Harvard experts say. Research indicates that regular exercise and a healthy diet can help protect your memory from aging-related decline.

Some moderate exercises include brisk walking, stationary bicycling, water aerobics, and competitive table tennis. More strenuous activities: jogging, high-impact aerobic dancing, square dancing, and tennis.

The Harvard experts say exercise helps the memory by reducing the risk of developing several potentially memory-robbing conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. Exercise is good for the lungs, and people who have good lung function send more oxygen to their brains.

Here are some ways to build physical activity into your daily routine:

Walk instead of driving.

Set aside time each day for exercise. For extra motivation, ask your spouse or a friend to join you.

Use the stairs instead of the elevator.


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