Tips to Improve Your Memory

How often have you forgotten where you placed your keys? Or your sunglasses? How often have you lost your train of thought? It happens to most of us, at most ages.

Memory loss becomes a serious issue when it affects daily activities.

That’s when it’s time to consult your doctor, who may refer you to a specialist.

“Memory lapses that disrupt daily life should be a concern,” said Brad Herskowitz, M.D., a neurologist and medical director of EEG at Baptist Hospital. An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a test to measure the electrical activity of the brain.

If you have chronic conditions, there’s more caution that is needed.

“Always control your medical risk factors,” Dr. Herskowitz said. “Specifically, to help prevent the possibility of stroke, monitor blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.”

For older adults with regular memory lapses, an MRI and full lab work will be recommended to rule out reversible causes — if early Alzheimer’s or dementia is suspected.

Otherwise, most lapses, like forgetting where you put your car keys, are not matters of urgency.

The good news is that there a many ways to help improve your memory and sharpen mental acuity. Many of them are obvious and apply to overall good health. Other suggestions may require challenging the mind more than usual.

Here are some tips for keeping the mind sharp.

Challenge yourself
Just as physical exercise keep your body fit, new activities for the mind help keep memory loss at bay. For example, try more reading and activities such as crossword puzzles or word games like Scrabble. Read up on topics about which you are not too knowledgeable, forcing the analytical side of the mind to work harder. Taking alternate routes when driving is another example. Learning to play a musical instrument or starting to learn a new language are ideal examples of challenging the mind in a bigger way.

Control stress, get enough sleep
Your brain needs downtime to stay on top of things and it can suffer from stress much like your overall health. If you don’t get enough sleep, you will start to forget things. Similarly, if you can find ways to relieve stress, you will stay sharp and alert. Studies have shown that exposure to the stress hormone cortisol at levels associated with major physical or psychological stress can have a significantly negative effect on memory. Other studies have found that poor sleep habits can cause memory loss, especially in older adults.

Get organized
You’re more likely to forget things if your home and office are cluttered. Mark down tasks, appointments and other events in a special notebook, calendar or planner, on electronic devices or old-fashioned paper. Establishing a documented routine for daily tasks is as important in sharpening the mind and preventing mental lapses as is coming up with challenges that disrupt routines.

Eat a healthy diet
Many foods can improve your memory because they are filled with special antioxidants and vitamins. Even if they don’t have that effect, they are good for overall health. Always consult with your physician if you have conditions that requires special diets, such as diabetes. Otherwise, try more green tea, blueberries, salmon, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. A heart-healthy diet may be as good for your brain as it is for your heart. The main ingredients: fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Choose low-fat protein sources, such as fish, lean meat and skinless poultry. Studies have shown that those who ate relatively high amounts of vegetables over the years had less age-related decline in memory.

Manage chronic conditions
Follow your doctor’s treatment for any chronic ailments, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and depression. The better you take care of yourself, the healthier your memory. And it’s important to review your medications with your doctor regularly. Various medications can affect memory.

Physical activity
Much has been established about the benefits of exercise for weight management, heart health and overall well-being. Regular exercise, especially a combination of aerobics and strength-training, also helps the mind relieve stress and stay focused throughout the day. Feeling better about yourself because you are physically fit improves self-esteem, your actual health and sharpens the mind.

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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