Tips to maximize your memory bank

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

Do you often find yourself forgetting where you placed your car keys or have trouble remembering people's names?

The Health News service at Des Moines University-Osteopathic Medical Center (DMU) reports memory loss is a serious concern to many men and women as they age. Their concern is that memory glitches are the first signs of Alzheimer's disease, a degenerative brain disorder that affects approximately four million Americans.

Most memory slips, however, are not disease-related, but normal, and often easily explained and addressed.

Busy, complicated lives are one excuse for occasional memory loss. On average, people are trying to remember 40 things at once when the short-term memory isn't able to hold more than seven items at one time.

Stress, which often accompanies busy lives, makes it hard to focus enough to register and store information. Anxiety and depression also impair focus and cause an increase in the level of stress hormones in the brain.

Lack of sleep also impedes memory stage. One of the things the human brain does while it's asleep is go over events of the day and store memories properly. Inadequate amounts of sleep reduce the likelihood of retaining new data.

However, it is possible to hold on to and improve memory. Regular exercise, proper diet and stress reduction activities such as yoga or meditation can help regulate the distractions and enable you to focus. Try the tips to maximize your memory:

* Mix up your routine. Varying your schedule will help rejuvenate the brain.

* Train yourself to focus. Make a point of paying attention. Repeat a person's name after you've been introduced if you have problems remembering names.

* Write it down. The act of jotting a piece of information down helps your brain focus and encode the material more effectively.

* Visualize. Being able to recreate a scene in your mind is one of the best ways to trigger recall memory.

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