Do you ever feel like you just can’t remember things the way you used to, or you occasionally have to “jog your memory” to come up with names and places? Don’t worry you are not alone. There are plenty of others who often forget people’s names, movie titles or even where they’ve parked their cars.What people need to realize is that they have more control over their aging brain than they think. According to Gary Small, director of the Memory and Aging Research Center at the UCLA psychiatric institute, “one-third of memory loss is related to genetics.” The other two-thirds is influenced by how we look after our overall health.
Memory is the brain’s ability to store and recall facts and events in our lives. This usually takes place in three stages:
Stage 1-Encoding: This is when a person takes information in.
Stage 2-Consolidation: The information is processed and encoded by the brain and then stored in the appropriate areas of the brain.
Stage 3-Retrieval: This is when a person recalls stored information in the brain.
Experts say mild memory loss is perfectly normal as we age because our brain is constantly changing. Studies have indicated many people begin to lose brain cells as early as their 20s, however, “it is often not reported until a person reaches their 50s that they think their memory is slipping,” according to Stuart Zola, PhD, professor of Psychiatry. As you age, your body makes less of the chemicals your brain cells need to function. The older a person gets, the more likely those changes will affect their memory. Memory traces begin to fade depending on the nature of the material.
Our brain encodes information taken in and if the information is not encoded properly, it’s difficult for our brain to retrieve the information resulting in memory loss or poor memory. This kind of memory problem could occur in individuals with high levels of stress or some other ailment. Unhealthiness affects the way the brain processes memory. This is because part of the brain is not engaged the way it needs to be in order to have good memory.
Causes of Memory Loss
-Certain medications (prescription or over-the-counter)
-Vitamin B-12 deficiency
-Stress and Anxiety
The causes of memory loss mentioned above are normally reversible. No matter how frequent or infrequent our memory lapses are, it can be rather frustrating. Four important things that can slow down the aging brain include: mental activity, physical fitness, stress reduction and a healthy diet. A diet rich in antioxidants is suggested. Aging research director Gary Small, MD, says a diet rich in antioxidants helps protect the brain and exercise helps with overall health.
Remember, lost brain cells cannot be replaced, so take care of what you have. Here are things you can do to improve your memory
-Organize your environment (Keep lists, follow a routine, keep a detailed calendar)
-Try using memory tricks (repeat peoples names when you meet them, use the same password for different things)
-Reduce stress (try walking or other forms of exercise, yoga, meditation)
-Focus your attention (multitasking, not paying attention is the biggest cause of forgetfulness)
-Get enough sleep (fatigue can affect memory function and concentration)