Posted on Sep 25, 2020, 2 p.m.
According to Harvard Health Publishing not all memory issues are a cause for concern, some degree of memory lapse is just a normal part of the ageing process, and it’s just not realistic to expect to retain all of the information that you have attended throughout your life.
At some point in their lives, everyone will experience a missing memory moment as they age. Maybe it’s forgetting where you put your keys, forgetting a name, or forgetting to do something. These little memory slips can be embarrassing at times, but they don’t necessarily mean that you are headed down that dreary path to dementia.
"Some degree of memory lapses is a normal part of aging," says Lydia Cho, a neuropsychologist with Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital. "You can't expect to hold on to all information you've gathered throughout your life, whether it was long ago or recent. It's not realistic or adaptive."
That’s not saying that there are not times when frequent forgetfulness should not be brought to the attention of a doctor as it is possible that it may be a symptom of an underlying problem. But keep in mind that stress, insomnia, anxiety, depression, multi-tasking, and being in a rush can affect brain functions which includes memory.
When lapses become more frequent, severe, or affect daily life it is recommended to talk to your doctor who may schedule a neuropsychological evaluation to assess your memory and other cognitive skills like attention, language, executive function, and visuospatial ability.
While most memory slips may not be a cause for concern, you can take steps to help manage and improve your existing brain power/skills. Simply adopting various lifestyle behaviours is one approach, such as memory DANCERS; for specific types of everyday memory slips adopting certain approaches can help you to retain/recall information or navigate the slips when they occur. Memory DANCERS is a set of lifestyle criteria that was created to help enhance memory and help to delay or even prevent dementia.
D: Disease management. Maintain a healthy weight, don't smoke, and keep blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels in line to help preserve cognitive function.
A: Activity. Any cardio exercise, like walking, swimming, and playing sports, is good for brain health. "Cardio can increase energy in the brain by improving oxygen and blood flow," says Cho.
N: Nutrition. Poor nutrition leads to poor brain health. The DASH, MIND, and Mediterranean diets emphasize whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fatty fish, and healthy fats.
C: Cognitive stimulation. "Challenge your brain regularly," says Cho. "The more you engage your brain, the more likely you can retain memory."
E: Engagement. Research continues to show a reliable link between isolation and lower cognitive function. Any kind of social engagement is helpful.
R: Relaxation. Your brain needs adequate downtime. Do activities that you find relaxing, whether it's exercise, yoga, meditation, reading, or bathing.
S: Sleep. Sleep is when your brain cleans out toxins. To get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night, practice good sleep hygiene. Examples: Set a sleep schedule and stick to it. Avoid any electronic devices for at least an hour before bedtime. Don't eat after dinner time.
When one is multitasking you don’t always concentrate on other less critical tasks, this absent-mindedness is not typically an issue, this happens when you are doing many things at the same time often in a rush and you forget some small detail like leaving the house without your phone. To help avoid this, try making a list, and put tasks in order of importance.
Blocking or on the tip of the tongue phenomenon happens to most everyone, most often forgetting names. To help with this try associating something with that person that might help to trigger their name.
The brain also decides what information becomes less crucial like forgetting a number that you need to use right away but you don’t remember it because it is no longer needed. If you think something is important there is a good chance that you will remember it, and you can do this by revisiting the memory by sharing it via recording it or having a conversation to review it.
Sometimes you may recall information but connect it to the wrong source or you second guess yourself. If you have trouble connecting details it might be a good idea to start to write down details of anything that is important, or take a photo/video for future use. To protect yourself from financial scams never give out any personal information over the phone or internet, and run it by a family member if you have any doubts.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.