Four Ways to Improve Memory
By Alex Leaf
Memory refers to the process that is used to acquire, store, retain and later retrieve information. Here are the three stages of how memory is processed:
- Encoding, the first step of the process, allows perceived items to be stored within the brain.
- The next step is storing, the process of placing and modifying new information into memory.
- Lastly, recall or retrieval refers to the re-accessing of events or information in the past, which have previously been encoded and stored.
Forgetfulness can be frustrating and sometimes leave us feeling like we’re “losing it.” Memory loss can also be frightening because of its link to Alzheimer’s and various kinds of dementia. While Alzheimer’s and dementia can both be responsible for memory loss, there are other factors to consider that can account for memory loss.
Causes of memory loss
Memory loss can be triggered by emotional distress, such as depression, stress, anxiety and grief. Because such events require a lot of physical and mental energy, our ability to focus is often reduced. Memory can also be affected by physical and medical conditions. Fatigue, sleep deprivation, concussions and head injuries, strokes and sleep apnea, to name a few.
Aging is also another factor to consider. Naturally, with age, cognitive processing slows down and memory can decline slightly. It’s very important to understand the difference between normal forgetfulness and Alzheimer’s, and whether or not you should consult a doctor.
Although memory loss can be a completely natural processes, we can still take action to keep our memories as strong as possible for as long as possible. Here are four strategies for improving your memory:
Not only is exercise great for our physical health, but it is also beneficial for our mental health as well. Exercise boosts the amount of oxygen and nutrients that flow to the brain; thus, increasing brain performance.
Studies have shown that exercise can also increase the secretion of neuroprotective portients, which helps improve the development of neurons and brain health. Regular exercise in midlife is also associated with decreasing the risk of developing dementia later in life. However, exercise is encouraged across all ages for improving cognitive performance. To see results, exercise could be as simple as a fifteen-minute walk two or three times a week.
Mono- and polyunsaturated fats are dietary elements that help preserve our memory and improve cognitive performance. Fish, olive oil and nuts have been linked to lower rates of dementia and mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Limiting the intake of red meat is just as important for lowering these risks. For heart health foods that preserve your memory, eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
The value behind the above food groups are because of their effect on the health of blood vessels and blood pressure. Protecting blood vessels with a heart healthy diet will also protect the mind too.
Sleep is responsible for memory consolidation, that is, the process in which your brain turns short-term memories into long-lasting ones. Even short naps leave a positive effect on our mental and memory health.
Research has also found that sleep deprivation can affect your ability to learn new things and commit them to memory. Unfortunately, more than a third of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis according to a study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC).
If you struggle with sleep, there are a few additional things you may want to consider. Improper sleep structure, or sleeping on an aged mattress, may be a contributor to aches and pains that make it difficult to sleep comfortably throughout the night. Additional factors preventing sleep could be lack of exercise to burn off excess energy during the day, noise disruptions or harboring stress. Make sure to identify any issues getting in the way of your quality sleep to ensure you get the rest you need for your brain.
One of the largest factors for maintaining a healthy long-term memory is through memory retrieval, or recall. Exercising your brain works the same way as exercising any of your other muscles. Just as you would challenge yourself working out you should challenge memory with brain activities. Crossword puzzles, and word-recall games are excellent exercises to strengthen memory.
Practice these four strategies to keep your brain in shape and your memory functioning properly.