Fighting Memory Loss

fight memory loss A recent study out of Duke University suggests teenage drinking may contribute to long term memory problems. Perhaps this explains the issues I’ve been having of late. Seems I am forgetting everything from where I parked my car to which children are mine. The cow is out of the barn on the teenage drinking — growing up in Queens, the legal age to buy may have been 21, but the bodegas sold to anyone who could ride a two-wheeler. I would love a do over in that department, but even if I got one, there are so many other factors affecting my memory.

Last week, I attended a lecture on Alzheimer’s Disease, hosted by Valley Hospital. While somewhere in the recesses of my aging limbic system, I store most of the information presented, it served as a great reminder — no pun intended.

Memory problems, when they are not the result of dementia, can be exacerbated by the following. If you are a parent, I am willing to bet you are experiencing the majority of these on a regular basis.

— stress/anxiety
— poor sleep/fatigue
— alcohol intake/medications
— over-scheduling/multi-tasking
— depression/mood problems
— aging
— having too many kids 😉

What can you do about it? We naturally lose brain function as we age. Just as the body ages in other ways — we can’t run as fast, we can’t see as well, we can’t jump without wetting our pants — the brain also ages, adversely affecting our memory. On top of this, pile on all the other causes listed above, and it is amazing most of us can get through the day.

You can fight back.

We are a society obsessed with exercising our bodies, but our minds need exercise as well.

Play Games
My boys are loving Memory right now, and I can literally feel the cobwebs falling off when I play with them. I just taught my 13 year old how to play chess. It is amazing the brain skills this game requires. Crosswords and Sudoku are not a waste of time. Think of them as weight training for your mind. My husband was doing a work out the other day and the trainer made them memorize words before starting, and tested them when they finished. I love this combination of mind and body exercise.

Reduce Stress
Try meditation. Headspace is a great app to help you get started. Yogis swear by the calming effects of their practice, and I’ve experienced it myself. Give it a try. Take some time each day to just sit and be. You will be surprised how effective this is at reducing stress.

Organize your things and stick to routines
Put your keys in the same spot every time you come into the house. Get your children’s essentials organized into one space and make them responsible for them. Can’t remember where you park? Get into the habit of snapping a picture of the nearest sign. The more you can take some of the pressure off your memory, the clearer your remembering will be.

Do things as soon as you think of them
This is my favorite tip. You need to buy a gift. Go online and do it now. You see something that needs to be put away. Do it now. You have an email to send or a call to make, do it now. The more efficient you are at getting things done, the less you will have to remember.

Make lists and keep your calendar up to date
Keep an ongoing list of things needing to get done, and cross off after completion. Not only does this feel so good, you won’t have the feeling of, “I know I’m forgetting something.” Even if you think it is something you will remember, write it down anyway.

Those are the suggestions you might be able to follow. Of course, cutting down on alcohol, getting more sleep, saying no to more activities and having fewer kids would be ideal, but I’m a realist.  You should know when memory loss signifies a real problem. For the most part though, small issues with memory are nothing to worry about. When you are feeling troubled by them, take stock of your life. How are you sleeping? How much stress are you under? How many hats are you wearing? Sometimes, just acknowledging the problem might be a side effect of a crazy, busy life, will reduce your anxiety about it. REMEMBER to be kind to yourself, and forgiving of your shortcomings. You are not alone. There was something else I wanted to add, but I can’t think of it right now.

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Author: Karen Latimer

Karen is a Family Doctor, mom of five and founder of Tips From Town.


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