Many things can affect memory—being too busy, aging, stress, illness, and certain medicines. But you can take steps to sharpen your mind and memory.
Challenge Your Brain
Your brain is like your body. It needs exercise to stay in shape. Keep learning and challenging your brain. Here are some ways to get more mental exercise:
Do crossword puzzles and brain teasers
Try crafts, such as wood working or sewing
Have hobbies, such as gardening or building model airplanes
Socialize—visit old friends or join groups to meet new ones
Read the daily news, a good book, or a magazine geared toward your interests
Take a class, or learn a new language or how to play an instrument
Travel —Experience different food, history, and cultures
Learn to use a new electronic device
Go to museums, the theater, or thought-provoking movies
Change some daily routines—for example, try brushing your teeth with your other hand
Use Memory Aids
There is no need to remember every detail on your own. Use:
Calendars and day planners
Electronic organizers that send alerts to remind you of appointments
A book of days to record birthdays, anniversaries, and other yearly occasions by date
To-do lists and sticky notes in places where you will see them
Quick study sessions—before a gathering, review who will be there so you remember names
Establish routines—for example, keep your keys, wallet, and umbrella in the same place, or take medicine with your morning juice
Live a Healthy Life
Many actions that keep your body strong will do the same for your mind. For example:
Do Regular Physical Activity
Regular physical activity
increases blood flow to the brain. It also lowers the risk of certain diseases that can affect memory. Even moderate physical activity may help. Examples of moderate activities are:
Doing water aerobics
Walking 2 miles
On a daily basis, try to set aside 30 minutes for physical activity. You can also break up the 30 minutes. You could do three 10-minute sessions instead.
It can be tough to remember things when your mind is cluttered. Make time for relaxation. Choose activities that calm you down. Try listening to soothing music, meditation, or yoga. Deep breathing is also a good choice. Make them part of your daily routine.
Talk to your doctor about the medicines that you take. There may be some that can affect your memory. See if they can be changed, limited or stopped. Healthy habits may lower the need for certain drugs.
Talk to Your Doctor About Herbs and Supplements
Poor nutrition can impair your mental function. For example,
vitamin B12 deficiency
can cause a range of symptoms, including confusion. It is important to eat a well balanced diet. This includes plenty of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and lean proteins. If you have questions, speak to a dietitian. Your doctor can give a referral if you need one.
Talk to your doctor before taking any herbs or supplements. They may interact with other medicines you are taking.
Manage Other Health Problems
High blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease can interfere with mental function. Many of the lifestyle steps discussed here can help manage these conditions. Eat a healthy diet,
exercise regularly, and ease stress. Be sure to follow your doctor's advice for your condition.
Another way to protect your brain is to prevent injuries. Falls and accidents can lead to concussions or more severe head injuries. Head injuries can affect brain function. Here are some ways to reduce your risk of injury:
Always wear a seat belt.
Use safety devices at home. Get rid of tripping hazards. Improve lighting.
Wear a helmet when you ride a bike, motorcycle, or go skiing.
Wear proper fitting shoes, especially if you walk or run.
Ask for a ride—if you have trouble driving in certain conditions. Do errands during the day if you cannot drive at night.
Some changes are not easy. You may not like doing some of them. Start slowly and choose activities that interest you. Changes are also easier if you have a friend who comes a long with you.
Enhancing memory and mental function. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: https://www.ebsco.com/products/research-databases/natural-alternative-treatments. Accessed June 10, 2021.
Enhance your memory. American Psychological Association website. Available at: https://www.apa.org/topics/learning-memory/enhance-memory. Accessed June 10, 2021.
Exercise may lower the risk of cognitive decline. Alzheimer's Association website. Available at: https://www.alz.org/news/2020/a-mental-workout. Accessed June 10, 2021.
Important facts about falls. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Falls/adultfalls.html. Accessed June 10, 2021.
Mild cognitive impairment. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/mild-cognitive-impairment-mci. Accessed June 10, 2021.
Last reviewed June 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 6/10/2021
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