Memory Lame: Why You Keep Forgetting Things
Get Your Brain Back
"There's no Viagra for memory," says Dr. McDaniel. But you can make simple lifestyle changes to sharpen your memory and boost overall brain health.
"Exercise is Miracle-Gro for the brain," says Dr. Medina. "Some studies suggest that you cut your lifetime risk for dementia in half if you engage in some form of regular aerobic activity." Aerobic exercise boosts the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, which helps you concentrate and screen out distractions. It also triggers the formation of new neurons and the release of brain chemicals that ramp up your ability to learn and remember. You don't have to train for a triathlon to get that benefit, either. Aim for 30 minutes of aerobic training, such as walking, biking, or swimming, three times a week.
Just doing crossword puzzles won't cut it, Dr. Medina points out. "What you really need is cross-training for your brain by doing many different activities," he says. "Think of it this way: Using free weights to pump your biceps tones your arms, but it doesn't do a thing for your abs."
Some studies suggest you can preserve memory by doing intellectual activities that are not only demanding but meaningful to you. If you play piano, memorize a Bach concerto. Turn your girls' night out into a book club that inspires lively debate, plan a family sudoku tournament -- whatever makes you work hard and feel a connection.
What's good for the body is good for the brain, so aim for a balanced diet. Research shows a correlation between brain health and foods containing omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon, halibut, soybeans, flaxseed), antioxidants (berries, spinach, broccoli) and adequate levels of folate (orange juice, green leafy vegetables).
Yoga, meditation, exercise, listening to music, daydreaming, spending time with friends and family: Whatever gives your brain a rest will also sharpen your memory. So will maintaining a positive attitude. "If you think, 'I'm getting older, my memory is going to deteriorate, so why should I bother doing anything differently?' memory loss can become a self-fulfilling prophesy," says Dr. McDaniel.
When to Call the Doctor
We all forget names or misplace wallets. But see your physician if?:
-You have trouble with daily functioning because your brain is foggy
- You start to struggle with simple familiar tasks (preparing meals; using a toothbrush or household appliance)
-You consistently forget common words
-You become disoriented or lost in your home or on your own street
- You experience erratic behavior, mood swings, or personality changes