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Thu, Dec 18, 2014

DR. KESTNER: Super tips to help memory problems

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If you have problems with recalling names, remembering dates or details, or concentrating, you are in good company.

I have gathered some suggestions from memory experts to help readers that want to improve their recall.  If you are in this group, you may want to clip and save this article, since you may not recall it tomorrow.

Here are the tips:

• Find ways to reduce your stress. I like that one. Just reduce your stress. Sounds easy enough, right?  Many readers will likely respond, “If I could, I would. You have no idea what my life is like.” While that is likely true for many people, following some of the other tips below may actually reduce stress.

• Play more. It doesn’t really matter what kind of play. What helps is the switching of the brain that occurs when you start having fun.  

• Laugh out loud. Laughing out loud causes specific changes in brain function and the release of neurotransmitters that improve recall.

• Sing. It apparently doesn’t matter if you sing as badly as I do. Singing works in much the same way as laughing. That might be the reason that some people routinely hum or whistle, as their subconscious mind rewards them for doing so.

• Exercise. Various kinds of exercise contribute to improved memory function. If you are already exercising fairly often, doing more probably will not help you. However, if you are sedentary any increase in activity will be helpful.

Here are several suggestions for nutritional help for memory function.

• Eat less and eat more frequently. This is good advice for a number of problems. Eating light meals and having frequent healthy snacks helps regulate blood sugar and that helps your brain.

• Reduce your intake of “bad fats.” That includes saturated fats but especially trans-fats. If you don’t know the difference this would be a good thing for you to learn about this week.

• Increase omega-3 fats. These mainly come from fish and nuts. Eating a couple servings of fish such as salmon each week can help, but you may also need to supplement omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats are essential for many important biological processes.

• Increase consumption of fruits and vegetables. This one is simple. If it is a fruit of vegetable, eat it. The fresher, the better.

• Have a drink. Surprisingly, modest alcohol, especially red wine, can improve memory and cognition. Beyond one drink per day for women or two for men, however, the benefits diminish and negative effects begin to develop.

When the topic of memory and concentration comes up, many people think of Sudoku and crossword puzzles as brain exercises. While these activities do improve your brain function to some degree, the biggest benefit is in developing better Sudoku and crossword memory. The improvements don’t necessarily translate into better recollection of other kinds of information.

Beneficial brain exercises can include practically anything that is new and fun. Language lessons, learning dance routines, or other memory intensive activities that are challenging are helpful.  

Experts also suggest that you routinely use mental memory tools to help improve recall. Making a silly mental image out of a grocery list will help you recall the items. For example, imagine a monkey holding a bunch of bananas while balancing grapes on his nose and you are more likely to remember to bring home grapes and bananas from the grocery.

Likewise, making a song out of memory items helps recall. So does making associations, such as remembering one item for each finger of both hands.

There are other helpful mental memory tools such as alliteration, rhyming and grouping bits of information that can improve your recall.

Finally, one of the best memory boosting tools is using a paper and pencil.  The old saying still holds true that a short pencil is often better than a long memory.

Interestingly, it is not even necessary to refer to the written message for this trick to be helpful.  Just the act of writing it down helps the brain recall the message.

Next week:  An interesting tale of a patient who found a surprising solution for joint pain.
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Dr. Kestner
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Dr Mark Kestner, Health Care, Living well, Memory, Murfreesboro, Voices
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