We all forget things at some time. How often have you misplaced your car keys or forgotten the name of a person you just met? Our lives are jam packed with information coming at us 24/7, so it’s not surprising that our brains have to “catch up.” Some degree of memory problems, as well as a modest decline in other thinking skills, is a fairly common part of aging. Mild cognitive impairment is a notable change in thinking skills, that’s limited, for the most part, to a narrow set of problems, such as impairment only in memory.
Changes in concentration, attention or mental quickness may also be observed. There's a difference, however, between normal changes in memory and the type of memory loss associated with Alzheimer's disease and related disorders. Some memory issues can be a result of medications used to treat other health conditions.
COMMON CAUSES OF MEMORY LOSS INCLUDE...
Stress can bring on anxiety, restlessness, lack or motivation, focus and attention.
Lack of sleep is a common problem for many people and it does affect concentration and motivation - even focus and information retention can be impaired.
A single mediation or a certain combination of medications may result in forgetfulness or confusion.
Minor head trauma or injury
A head injury from a fall or accident - even an injury that doesn't result in a loss of consciousness - may cause memory problems.
Depression or other mental health disorders
Depress can cause forgetfulness, confusion, difficulty concentrating and other problems that disrupt daily activities.
Chronic alcoholism can seriously impair mental abilities. Alcohol can cause memory loss by interacting with medications.
Vitamin B-12 deficiency
Vitamin B-12 helps maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells. A Vitamin B-12 deficiency - common in older adults - can cause memory problems.
An underactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) slows the processing of nutrients to create energy for cells (metabolism). Hypothyroidism can result in forgetfulness and other thinking problems.
A tumor in the brain can cause memory problems or other demential-like symptoms.
Many medical problems can cause memory loss or other dementia-like symptoms. Most of these conditions can be successfully treated, and your doctor can screen you for conditions that cause reversible memory impairment.
The brain’s incredible ability to reshape itself holds true when it comes to learning and memory. You can harness the natural power of neuroplasticity to increase your cognitive abilities, enhance your ability to learn new information, and improve your memory. Try some simple and enjoyable memory management strategies:
Don't skimp on exercise.
Treating your body well can enhance your ability to process and recall information. Physical exercise increases oxygen to your brain and reduces the risk for disorders that lead to memory loss, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Exercise may also enhance the effects of helpful brain chemicals and protect brain cells.
Improve your memory by sleeping on it.
When you’re sleep deprived, your brain can’t operate at full capacity. Creativity, problem-solving abilities, and critical thinking skills are compromised. Whether you’re studying, working, or trying to juggle life’s many demands, sleep deprivation is a recipe for disaster.
Make time for friends and fun.
Countless studies show that a life that’s full of friends and fun comes with cognitive benefits. Even if you cannot master the New York Times crossword puzzle, you can enjoy hanging out with friends or enjoying a funny movie.
Humans are highly social animals. We’re not meant to survive, let alone thrive, in isolation. Relationships stimulate our brains—in fact, interacting with others may be the best kind of brain exercise. In one recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health, for example, researchers found that people with the most active social lives had the slowest rate of memory decline. So socialize—volunteer, join a club, make it a point to see friends more often, or reach out over the phone and have a real conversation.
Laughter is good for your brain.
You’ve heard that laughter is the best medicine, and that holds true for the brain and the memory as well as the body. Unlike emotional responses, which are limited to specific areas of the brain, laughter engages multiple regions across the whole brain.
Keep stress in check.
Stress is one of the brain’s worst enemies. Over time, if left unchecked, chronic stress destroys brain cells and damages the hippocampus, the region of the brain involved in the formation of new memories and the retrieval of old ones.
Eat a brain-boosting diet.
Just as the body needs fuel, so does the brain. A diet based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, “healthy” fats (such as olive oil, nuts, fish) and lean protein will provide lots of health benefits, but such a diet can also improve memory. But for brain health, it’s not just what you eat—it’s also what you don’t eat. The following nutritional tips will help boost your brainpower:
Give your brain a workout.
Through time and repetition, your brain has developed millions of neural pathways that help you process and recall information quickly, solve familiar problems, and execute familiar tasks with a minimum of mental effort. You have to shake things up from time to time! Try taking a new route home from work or the grocery store, visiting new places on the weekend, or reading different kinds of books. Memory, like muscular strength, requires you to “use it or lose it.” The more you work out your brain, the better you’ll be able to process and remember information.
If you are having trouble focusing and concentrating, then take some simple steps to improve performance.
Turn off the TV, put down your phone and log out of your email account. Not convinced it'll help? Eliminate noncritical screen time for two days and see how much more you can focus and get things done.
Plan for peaks and valleys.
Are you a morning person? Then use that time to best effect when you are sharper and can concentrate better. Save the afternoon for going through your inbox or catching up on your filing.
Put it out of your mind.
Too many mental notes make for a cluttered mind. All that unfinished business running around in your head can sap your mental energy and push out the things you really should be focusing on. Whatever is on your mind, put it somewhere else—on paper, in a digital file—you can come back and revisit it later.
Train your brain.
Any skill worth having requires practice. Learning to focus is no different. Invest time in mastering attention training or meditation. Both are great ways to practice taming distractions and improving focus. By sharpening your focus, you'll not only get more done but also enjoy more flow — when you're so absorbed in an activity that nothing else seems to matter.