Keep Your Memory Sharp
by Karen Schroeder Kassel, MS, RD, MEd
Many factors can affect your ability to remember—a hectic lifestyle, aging, stress, chronic disease, and certain medicines. But, there are steps you can take to sharpen your mind and help preserve your memory.
Challenge Your Brain
Regularly challenging your mind may help to keep it in top shape. Mental exercises that you can try include:
Use Memory Aids TOP
There is no need to remember every detail on your own. These memory aids can help:
Live a Healthy Life TOP
Many actions that will keep your body strong will do the same for your mind. For example:
Among the many benefits of regular exercise are increased blood flow to the brain and decreased risk of certain diseases that can interfere with memory function. One study found that even moderate exercise has a beneficial effect. Examples of moderate exercise include:
On a daily basis, try to set aside 30 minutes for exercise. You can also break up the 30 minutes, so that you do three, 10-minute sessions.
It can be tough to remember what is important when your mind is cluttered. Make time for relaxation. Choose activities that calm you down, and make it routine.
Talk to your doctor about the medicines that you take. Some may be unnecessary. Also, healthy lifestyle habits may lower the need for certain drugs.
Talk to Your Doctor About Herbs and Supplements
Malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies can impair your mental function. For example, vitamin B12 deficiency can cause a range of symptoms, including confusion. But, what if your nutritional needs are being met? Can herbs and supplements still offer a benefit? Researchers have investigated a range of natural remedies, such as ginkgo, ginseng, and the supplement phosphatidylserine (PS). So far, though, the evidence is inconsistent as to whether these products can improve memory or thinking.
If you are interested in taking herbs and supplements, talk to your doctor first because they may interact with other medicines that you are taking.
Manage Chronic Conditions
Side effects of high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease can interfere with mental function. Many of the lifestyle steps discussed here can help manage these conditions. Strive to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, learn healthy ways to handle stress, and follow your doctor's advice for your condition.
Canadian Mental Health Association
Mental Health Canada
Enhancing memory and mental function. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary/. Updated August 2011. Accessed May 8, 2012.
Ginkgo. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary/. Updated Updated August 2011. Accessed May 8, 2012.
Ginseng. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary/. Updated August 2011. Accessed May 8, 2012.
Memory loss with aging: what's normal, what's not. Family Doctor.org website. Available at: http://familydocto.... Updated December 2006. Accessed June 16, 2008.
Mild cognitive impairment. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/. Updated February 22, 2012. Accessed May 8, 2012.
Moderate-level physical activities. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/hbp/prevent/p_active/m_l_phys.htm. Accessed May 8, 2012.
Phosphatidylserine. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary/. Updated August 2011. Accessed May 8, 2012.
1/11/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php: Snitz BE, O'Meara ES, Carlson MC, et al. Ginkgo biloba for preventing cognitive decline in older adults: a randomized trial. JAMA. 2009;302:2663-2670.
Last reviewed May 2012 by Brian Randall, MD
Last Updated: 5/8/2012