What causes memory loss and forgetfulness?
We all forget things at times. Many of us lead busy and sometimes stressful lives. Stress can make it harder for us to focus, and can affect our ability to recall information from our memories. Stress can also impact how well we sleep, and poor sleep can affect how well we recall information.
Becoming a little more forgetful can also be a natural part of getting older. As we age, it’s not uncommon to sometimes forget information we were told a long time ago. Or, to sometimes misplace items around the house. Below are some common signs of age-related forgetfulness.
- Sometimes struggling to find the right word for what you want to say, but remembering after a short period of time.
- Becoming a little distracted or feeling lost in a conversation where lots of people are speaking at once.
- Finding it harder than you did in the past to do lots of different things at once. But, being able to concentrate and complete a single task at a time.
- Occasionally misplacing items, but being able to find them by going back to where you last had them.
Can nutrition improve your memory?
Eating a varied and balanced diet full of vitamins and minerals is important for our overall health. But there’s also evidence that what we eat could impact our memory.
Foods high in sugar and saturated fat have been found to have a negative impact on our memory. Whereas eating lots of fruits and vegetables can have a protective effect. And, it’s thought that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables could also help to boost brain function by increasing the amount of key vitamins in our diet.
Does exercise improve memory?
We know that regular physical activity can reduce the risk of a number of health problems, and help us to maintain a healthy weight. There’s also evidence that physical activity can help to reduce cognitive decline (not being able to perform certain tasks as well as you used to). And exercise may potentially reduce the risk of dementia.
Every week, adults should try to get:
- at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, like cycling or walking
- or 75 minutes of high intensity exercise, such as running
Older adults over the age of 65 should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week.
Can I train my brain to improve my memory?
Recently, there’s been an increase in apps and games that claim to ‘train our brains’ to help prevent memory loss, and protect against dementia. But, many of these products haven’t been properly studied, so we don’t know how effective they are.
We also don’t fully understand the effect other brain-challenging activities, like puzzles or sudoku, might have on memory. Although some studies have found that taking part in these activities may lower dementia risk.
It’s also thought that puzzles and games like these may help to reduce cognitive decline. But, we don’t yet know for certain if this is as a result of taking part in these activities, or because of other lifestyle habits.
Can meditation improve memory?
Mindful meditation has many health benefits. It can improve our mental wellbeing, increase concentration, and even help to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. But what can it do for our memories?
Studies have found that meditation may help to improve our memory, how well we think, and solve problems. You could try starting with a guided mindful walking meditation podcast to learn more about the practice.
Although meditation can support our wellbeing and help us manage difficult emotions, our memory is likely to still decline as we get older.
What should I do if I’m worried about my memory?
Occasional forgetfulness is common. But if you’re worried that you or someone you love is experiencing severe memory loss or regular forgetfulness, contact your GP. Signs and symptoms of more severe memory loss include:
- difficulty remembering the day of the week or the date
- forgetting where things are usually kept
- feeling confused
- getting lost somewhere familiar
Occasional forgetfulness could be due to stress, tiredness, or a part of getting older. But if you’re concerned about your memory, or any new symptoms of forgetfulness, get in touch with your doctor.