You can do a number of things to improve the health, efficiency and quality of your memory. If you take time out to practise some of these ideas, you will be sure to notice improvement to your memory prowess!
Loss of sleep can impair both memory input and memory recall If you do not get a good night’s sleep, it will affect your mental and physical alertness, your learning ability as well as your concentration. Sean P.A. Drummond, PhD, of the University of California expressed succinctly : “If you have been awake for 21 hours straight, your abilities are equivalent to someone who is legally drunk.”
Research shows there is another benefit of a decent night’s sleep, that is, sleep provides the opportunity for the brain to process new memories, practice and hone new skills and even solve problems.
Smoking actually speeds up memory loss as it limits the oxygen that gets to the brain. Smokers score low on test of verbal and visual memory. The carbon monoxide in tobacco greatly reduces the red blood cells’ oxygen carrying capacity.
A 5 year study of 1,007 young adults in the Detroit area showed that daily smokers are nearly twice likely to suffer on depression which can adversely affect one’s memory.
Beside this, smoking also lowers the level of vitamin C, E several B complexes, zinc and the trace mineral selenium in your body tissues.
Physical exercise such as aerobic exercise and brisk walking are very important to memory because it help keeps blood vessels delivering optimal oxygen rich blood and nutrients to the brain. The brain uses about 25 percent of your total blood oxygen.
Besides reducing stress it also helps reduce cortisol levels which can harm your brain cells. They help increase the production of neurotransmitters especially acetylcholine important for memory and thought.
Research shows that senior citizens who walk regularly perform better on memory tests than their sedentary peers. Every extra mile a week has measurable benefits. Simply brisk walking for half an hour, 3 times a week con improve abilities such as learning, concentration and abstract reasoning by 15%. A research from the University of Exeter also shows that schoolchildren who exercise 3 to 4 times a week had better grades in the exams. Aerobic exercise may boost mental powers by getting extra oxygen to your brain.
There is another reason why your brain loves physical exercise – it promotes the growth of new brain cells. Until recently, researchers believe that we are born with a full complement of neurons and produce no new ones during our lifetime. Fred “Rusty” Gage from the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California in his research showed that even adults can grow new brain cells. He also found that exercise is one of the best ways to achieve this.
Drinking alcohol in excess can cause nerve damage to the myelin sheath, the insulation wrapped around nerve fibers. Irreversible damage to this sheath can destroy or reduce your memory capacity.
Many people with alcohol addiction have problems with learning, memory and being impulsive. Researchers say this could stem from alcohol’s effect on an area of the brain called the hippocampus, which is involved in learning and memory.
Diabetics are at ‘higher-than-normal-risk’ for memory problems probably because diabetes damages the blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the brain, heart and other organs. Even moderate drinking of alcohol will make your Alzheimer’s worse.
Besides this, drinking alcohol at night not only interferes with your sleep but also with the pattern of your sleep. Alcohol being a diuretic substance increases your need to go to the toilet.
Stress can impair your memory!
What is stress ? According to Dr Herbert Benson, author of ‘The Relaxation Response’ and a pioneer of stress management – “Stress is feeling that your ability to perform is exceeded by the demands you must meet.”
It is very important to reduce your stress level if you want to prevent aging of your brain. When you are under stress your adrenal gland responds by secreting the hormone cortisol. In excess this hormone can damage your brain cells in 3 ways:
Stress increases your nutritional needs as it depletes the store of magnesium and antioxidant vitamin C and E which play an important part in the health of our memory and brain function.
So, we need to learn to manage stress. Take control of stress by treating it as a challenge and not as a threat. Resist thoughts like jumping to negative conclusions or negative generalisations. control your own life and try not to be involved in other peoples’ problems. Just say no to stress if you see one coming. Be happy and learn to say no. Simplify your life.
However, if you so happen to be under stress, try to get support from friends, family members and trusted colleagues instead of letting the stress ‘eat’ you up. Learn how to release your stress either by physical action or verbally release your stress.
Changing your lifestyle, learning how to relax, and eating better is a better way of handling stress.
Work cross word puzzle, play word games such as scrabble, play board games like chess and checkers, take a language class, read, write, draw pictures, get involved in a hobby, play bridge-the list is endless.
Learn to use developed memory building techniques like visualization, story telling, rhyming, word games, chunking, Loci method, first letter cueing, pegging link system and PQRST method and many more. You can read about these various methods in any book on memory.
Inadequate hydration has an immediate effect on memory as it causes difficulty in thinking and confusion. It is recommended to drink at least eight glasses of clean purified water a day.