Our memories are often the most precious asset as we grow older – they convey our identity and record our journey through life. It’s therefore understandable that loss of memory is so unsettling, especially if there is trauma, dementia or cognitive impairment.
Whilst memory is known to decline with age, and has genetic risks in built, it can also be a function that can be improved with training. A healthy lifestyle through brain training, good nutrition, regular exercise, not smoking, maintaining normal blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels, are all important ways we can reduce memory loss.
Brain training can include learning a new language, volunteering, and engaging in puzzles and crosswords. One study showed that just 15 minutes of brain training activities every day can improve brain function.
Exercise is a powerful way to boost memory. A study found improvements in brain activity and memory immediately after single sessions of exercise. Moreover, regular, moderate-intensity exercise was linked to higher brain test scores (cognitive function) after 3 months. Aerobic exercise that is best suited to memory improvements include running, hiking, swimming, dancing or skiing.
Other ways to improve both working and long term memory is through meditation, adequate sleep, drinking tea or coffee, and even eating dark chocolate. Conversely, avoiding high sugar or high calorie diets can reduce inflammation in the brain, which can lead to Alzheimers.
To test your memory at home, consider the following tests:
- Draw a clock – reliable dementia screening tool – grab a piece of paper and a pen, and ask a friend to state a time of day. Then draw a clock face with all 12 hours written out, and place small and large hands of the clock at the time that was stated
- Find the missing item – spread 20 items on a table and spend a minute considering its layouot, then ask a friend to remove one item whilst the person is not looking and try to identify the missing item afterwards. Then spend another minute writing down all the items from memory in a separate room.
- For something more advanced, try the Cogniciti brain health test and track your score over time.
There are also many Apps to help with memory – try Elevate, Fit Brain Trainer, Left vs Right, Memorado and Lumosity.