This article is written by dr. Upasana Gala.
Where did I put my keys? What did the doctor say about these meds? What’s the name of that therapist again?
Chronic illness can often be accompanied by cognitive issues. For people dealing with chronic conditions, problems with memory are not only a matter of forgetting anniversaries or details from the past. Memory problems coupled with chronic illness can be a recurring issue as you go about your daily routines, affecting your overall health and quality of life.
The thing is, memories evolve. When the brain attempts to rebuild memories each time a person tries to recall something, it stores them again for future use. This is where things get mixed up, according to research.
Still, you have to know that there are ways you can improve your brain’s ability for recall. While there may be no guarantee of preventing dementia or memory loss, at least you’ll have a better chance of rebuilding your memory with the following five techniques.
1. Consider the MIND diet
Short for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, the MIND diet is a modified version of the popular Mediterranean diet. It is specifically designed to preserve the mental capacity of the elderly. Of all the popular dietary regimens out there, why has the MIND diet been based on the Mediterranean diet?
First, people who follow this eating plan rank high in terms of longevity and health. Second, they have the lowest Alzheimer’s disease rate, which is something seniors become susceptible to as they age. A study on the MIND diet monitored more than 1,000 seniors for eight years and unearthed the following results:
- Those who strictly followed the diet showed a surprising 53 percent lower risk of Alzheimer’s
- Even seniors who made modest changes in their dietary regimen reduced the risk by 35 percent
Here are some foods included in the MIND diet:
- Three servings of whole grains daily
- At least one dark green and one other vegetable every day
- Berries served twice weekly
- A minimum of one ounce of nuts daily
- Legumes or beans every other day
- Fish at least once a week
- Poultry twice a week minimum
- One tablespoon margarine or butter maximum and replaced with olive oil
- Fried food, fast food, and cheese only once every week
- Sweets and pastries less than five times weekly
2. Be strategic when drinking coffee
People drink coffee to stay alert, focused, and productive. However, too much of this can wreak havoc on your circadian rhythm. Once it affects your sleep, drinking caffeine becomes counterproductive.In some cases, too much of this substance can cause anxiety, irritability, sleeplessness, and even addiction.
To avoid this, you must drink coffee strategically. Based on research in the Nature Neuroscience journal, a 200-milligram dose of caffeine following a learning session can improve long-term memory.
3. Organize your thoughts, ideas and tasks
Sometimes, people don’t lose their memories in the literal sense – like these just vanished into thin air. They’re still there, just lost in a sea of disorganized thoughts that make it challenging to sort through the information to find the one you need.
Want to know how you can stop this from happening? Start by decluttering your home and organizing your notes.
Use a planner and take note of appointments, tasks, and other events you want (or need) to remember. You can also use your phone calendar, a desk calendar, or any other organizer for this. Then, read every entry out loud as you write to cement each item in your memory. Once you complete an item, tick them off from your to-do list.
You should also have a place for everything – especially essentials like your wallet, glasses, and keys. Once done using, be sure to return those to the same location.
Limiting distractions helps as well. While most people think that multitasking makes them more productive, it really doesn’t. Doing too many things at once causes you to forget things you should be remembering.
Focusing on the information you want to retain improves your chances of recalling it later. You can also associate it with other things you’re more likely to remember, like a familiar concept or a favorite song.
4. Get more (and better quality) sleep
Sleep is vital in improving and consolidating memory, so make sure you get seven to nine hours worth of shuteye every day (for adults). If you’re having a hard time sleeping, consider making the following changes in your lifestyle:
- Don’t drink coffee or any caffeinated drinks after 3 or 4 p.m. Caffeine stays in your blood for about six to eight hours, leaving you wide awake during bedtime.
- Decrease exposure to blue light in the evening. Devices like smartphones, computers, and televisions emit blue light and should be avoided before going to bed.
- Improve daytime bright light exposure. Getting natural sunlight (or even bright artificial light) offers your circadian rhythm the support it needs to stay on track, resulting in better sleep quality and length.
- Stick to a specific sleeping and waking schedule. After a few weeks of sticking to the same pattern, you’ll find that you no longer need an alarm to wake up on time.
5. Undergo brain training
Neurofeedback for memory improvement is a well-known concept in the medical field. Based on a study from The Department of Psychology in the National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan, neurofeedback training can help improve people’s ability to remember environmental cues. It also boosts spatial orientation in relation to a specific timeframe.
Called the orienting memory, this is your capacity to remember some information in relation to a specific place and time in the past.
Aside from this, the study also confirmed the positive effects of neurofeedback on ensuring consistency in recall among younger and older age groups. This means they remember previous events in the same manner, without alterations after the memory has been shelved in a person’s mind.
Preserve Your Memory
Memory plays a critical role in people’s daily lives. Make sure you preserve your ability to remember with the help of the techniques listed here and take full control of your life.
Author Bio: Dr. Upasana Gala is the founder and CEO of Evolve Brain Training, an award-winning neurofeedback-centered institute that focuses on using non-invasive brain training techniques to maximize the brain’s true potential. Earning a doctorate in Neuroscience from the revered Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Gala has spent over a decade trying to unravel the way neurochemical and neurophysiological changes in the brain affect the way we interact with the world. Her goal is to share her knowledge, encourage others to tap into and expand their brain’s capabilities, and dispel any myths surrounding our most complex organ.
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