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Planning Retirement Online


Keeping your memory

                                          March 2010  

 

Keeping your memory 

Keeping your memoryMost people over 50 will begin to notice that they are not quite as sharp as they used to be. It may be just that much harder to remember names of people, or details from a meeting. As we age further, it is common to experience increasing problems, perhaps not being able to recall the word you want to use or even why you have gone to a particular room or place.

Sometimes this is known as a memory lapse or a brain freeze, but whatever the name, it is annoying and can cause problems. There is also the fear that perhaps a memory lapse is an early sign that we might be developing Alzheimer’s.

Most of us will have heard of the phrase “short term memory” but in fact memory can be divided into many different categories. These include:

Short term memory. This covers remembering facts and information for brief moments, such as a telephone number so that you can dial it immediately. A few hours later and you will have no recall of it.

Recent memory. This is the ability to recall day to day events and recalling new information learned.

Sensory memory. This covers your ability to recognise smells, sounds and sights – the senses.

Long term memory. Sometimes this is known as remote memory; it is embedded deep in our memory bank and covers events from our past, memories that should stay with us for life.

Declarative memory is the ability to remember the meaning of words, facts and general knowledge.

Procedural memory covers motor skills, how we do things. This can include the ability to walk, ride a bike, drive a car or even to eat.

There are lots of causes of memory lapses before we need to panic about the onset of Alzheimer’s. Hormonal imbalances in women, can create memory problems. Vitamin deficiencies, lack of sleep, too much alcohol and some medications can all contribute to a risk of memory problems.

How can you tell if your memory lapses are minor or something serious? This is difficult as some people have a naturally better ability to recall facts and details than others. The key is to be aware of your own normal ability and then notice if this begins to change. If you have always been bad on names, but have a store of useful knowledge for pub quizzes, then if the latter starts to deteriorate you know things are changing.

Also the frequency of memory lapses is important. You will be aware if you are suddenly having real problems in recalling facts or events that used to come to mind instantly; and if this is the case, then the first step is to talk to your doctor.

Two key things in assisting memory are a good diet and brain exercise.

A balanced diet including additions such as omega-3 acids can help our ability to concentrate and recall; a good diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables are important; getting a good night’s sleep and regular exercise can all assist in ensuring your memory remains at a good level.

Fairly recent research shows that caffeine can help protect thinking skills although of course this has to be tempered with the fact that too much caffeine can also cause health problems.

The other key aspect to help concentration and memory is regular exercise of the brain. Like most parts of our body, use it or lose it is an apt phrase, and using our brain more stimulates activity and keeps it in top shape. Also, research from various eminent establishments including Columbia University in New York confirms that the more you use your brain, the less the risk of Alzheimer’s developing.

Anything that makes you think is a good way to exercise your brain; the ideal is to vary what you do so that you are assessing numbers, words, logical problems, a complete mix of tasks. Crosswords, word games, Sudoku, all these are excellent exercises. Physical exercise such as table tennis, where you have to think as well as act quickly, or darts where you have to subtract numbers quickly, can be useful.

There are also some on-line sites that offer fun “brain” games; some charge membership and some are free. One free site I have come across is www.lumosity.com You need to read the instructions carefully before you play, but there are lots of different games on this site and they are quick and easy to play.

Taking steps to keep your memory in top shape is certainly well worth thinking about!

 


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