Many of us feel that our memory is not as good as it should be.Worrying about your memory is common as you get older, but people often get it out of proportion.
Stuart Zola, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Emory School of Medicine and director of Yerkes National Primate Facility in Atlanta says Experts say that mild memory loss is perfectly normal — especially as we age.
“If we have forgotten an appointment, we begin thinking, ‘Uh oh, is this the first sign of Alzheimer’s disease?’ and we become much more conscious, and it gets kind of a disproportionate amount of attention when it really may be something quite benign.” via Is Your Memory Normal? – WebMD
When you’re younger, you may have forgotten where you put your keys or found that you can’t remember someone’s name, but it isn’t seen as significant.
Once I was out with a friend on a bike ride, she saw someone she knew, so we stopped. She spent some time talking to him, without introducing him. This seemed a bit rude. As we got back on our bikes and rode away, she said: “Sorry that was my cousin. I couldn’t introduce you, because I couldn’t remember his name!” We both laughed. Because we were in our early fifties, we didn’t assume this was the first sign of dementia. Can you imagine what we would have thought if we’d been in our seventies?
So forgetfulness is normal a lot of the time, but there are some simple tricks to improve your memory, particularly if you are older – you can improve your memory with age. Here’s how.
Improve memory by improving your focus
This will help whatever your age. Often the reason we don’t remember things is because we did not lay down the memory properly. Maybe we were thinking about something else at the same time. Maybe we were doing something else at the same time. If you need to remember something, you need to give it your focus at the time you are committing it to memory. If you find that you’re often unfocussed and distracted, try mindfulness. I recommend the Headspace app. It teaches you to stay focussed and in the present. It teaches you to be able to catch yourself when you are thinking about something other than the thing you need to be thinking about.
Improve your memory by reducing stress
Stress interferes with memory recall. If you are anxious or feeling overwhelmed, remembering things becomes more difficult. I definitely find that when I’m stressed, I forget more words or stop because I can’t remember what I was going to say. My brain is fighting overload and memory recall suffers. Check out this simple self-help technique for reducing stress.
How to improve memory recall
Sometimes you know you have something to remember, but you can’t remember what it is. You know you need to buy something but can’t remember what it is. You may know you need to phone someone but can’t think who it is.
I have found a simple technique that works well in these situations. I cast my mind back to where I was when I decided on the task. I think about the exact spot – where I was and what was happening around me. Often the task immediately pops into my head.
How to remember to pack everything
Are you like I used to be? You go on holiday or travel for business and realise (too late) that you have forgotten something. This used to happen to me all the time. So frustrating. Then I discovered a really simple trick. I would stop for a few minutes while I was packing. I’d imagine myself driving in the car or on the bus or on the train or plane – about half an hour into my journey. This Jane-in-the-future would ask herself – “Have I packed everything?” Very often I immediately remember something. Sometimes I remember several things. Since I have been doing this I have very rarely forgotten anything important.
Can drugs affect your memory?
AARP lists 10 types of medication that may cause memory loss:
- Anti-anxiety drugs
- Cholesterol drugs
- Antiseizure drugs
- Antidepressant drugs
- Narcotic painkillers
- Parkinson’s drugs
- Hypertension drugs
- Sleeping aids
- Incontinence drugs
If you feel that they are having an adverse effect, consult your doctor before discontinuing.
Can memory improve with age?
This may seem a strange question, because many people think your memory has to deteriorate with age. Is that really true? Researchers have looked at what happens when older people are reminded about memory loss and aging before they take a memory test. They do not do as well as people who have not been reminded about these stereotypes. If you are an older person, you need to guard against these stereotypes.
Some people do have memory problems. Some people have profound memory problems, but it doesn’t apply to everyone. When you forget things, don’t automatically assume it’s because you are getting older. Young people forget things too.
Research has also shown that a diet rich in vegetables and fruit, physical exercise and a life that stimulates the mind can play an important part in Alzheimer’s prevention. Learn more at the wonderful nutritionfacts.org website.