BY DR. MICHAEL SCHUTZ
This time of year, we all have memories of celebrations and the beautiful feelings they bring us. I love getting together with family and friends to share holiday cheer and creating memories that make us happy. Walking in the kitchen and smelling the foods that my mother would make brings me back to my childhood. Photos help us to remember and relive those moments but there are things one can do to improve one’s memory.
One of the ways we can improve our memory is exercise. Exercise increases focus and promotes new nerve growth. It will improve your mood and helps you sleep better. You need more exercise than just walking but the specific amount needed is the subject of a lot of debate and study.
Sleep helps us to retain our memories. The National institute of Health reports that sleep before learning sets the stage for us to remember helps set those memories in place. The many stages of sleep have different functions in remembering things. The deeper stages of sleep help memories become more stable and REM sleep helps us sort the memories. A full night’s sleep is one important thing we can all do to improve memory. This is as important for students as it is for seniors. Better sleep is one potential target to improve memory.
Some foods may also improve memory. These include::
– Fresh fruit and vegetables especially blueberries, which contain a boatload of antioxidants.
– Fish rich in omega 3 fatty acids such as salmon and mackerel
– Nuts and seeds
– Whole grains and beans
– Dark chocolate
You also need to get a good breakfast to get your brain energy to do its job. A cup of coffee is not sufficient.
Dehydration can lead to confusion and impair memory, so stay well hydrated.
You can also use memory aids. As a resident, I had to be able to discuss the details of all the patients on service every week when I made rounds with the chief of the service. I could not remember the details of 40 people who I had just met so I would make a list of each patient with the relevant details of their care. Dr Irwin, the chief, would remark about how I used my “peripheral brain”. I still use this today when I ask patients to make a list of their questions to bring in when we discuss their problems. It helps us to be more focused and efficient during our office visit to ensure each question is answered and that the patient understands what is happening.
Memory is important practically and emotionally. There is no magic bullet to preserve memory or recover it. There are simple lifestyle choices that can help up maintain them. I just have to remind my wife that chocolate is good for me.
Dr. Michael Schutz is a urologist practicing at the Jersey Urology Group in Somers Point, NJ.