If you find yourself struggling with an occasional memory lapse from time to time, you should know that you are not alone. In a survey conducted and published by PLOS One, a peer-reviewed open access scientific journal, about 14 percent of respondents age 18 to 39 said they sometimes experienced these same short-lived memory issues. And many of the same respondents reported that these issues did not significantly interfere with their day-to-day life. Of course, everyone is not so fortunate. In some cases, those seemingly innocuous memory lapses can signal a severe cognitive disorder is on the horizon.
For reference, multiple studies show that people with neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, will experience only mild memory problems at first, such as forgetting where they put their keys. Eventually, the level of forgetfulness gets to a point where they forget things that are critically important in their life. That said, whether or not things spiral this far out of control comes down to what is happening in the brain when someone has a memory lapse.
How the Brain Works and Why We Forget Things
To better understand memory lapses, it helps to know more about how the brain stores memories. This same understanding will also shed light on how they can morph into severe cognitive impairment. According to a study published by Germany-based Friedrich–Alexander University Erlangen–Nürnberg, memories related to nearly all life events are captured in the cortex, the part of the brain densely packed with nerve cells. From there, they move to the central switching point of the brain, which is known as the hippocampus. The same flow of information moves in the opposite direction when recalling those memories. Unfortunately, many things can interfere with both of these processes, and when they do, it can make remembering things especially difficult.
Understanding the Different Types of Memory
Now that we are a little more up to speed when it comes to the process involved in storing and ultimately recalling memories, let’s take a moment to go over the kinds of memory human beings have and how they work. Although memory lapses are associated with short-term memory, which is the information we are consciously aware of and are actively thinking about, there are other memory types in the human brain. And they include the following:
Sensory memory – All forms of memory initially start with sensory memory before moving on to other memory types. It is also further subcategorized by the following:
- Visual memory
- Auditory memory
- Touch memory
Long-term memory – This memory type is often referred to as the final stage when it comes to processing memories, and, as the name might suggest, it is how human beings store information for an extended length of time. A few examples of long-term memory include remembering wedding anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, and the like.
Working memory – This memory type enables individuals to recall the steps involved in completing a given task. Examples of working memory include remembering the steps necessary to solve a mathematic equation, structure an essay for a class assignment, or how to complete specific work-related tasks at one’s job.
What Causes Memory Problems in the First Place?
Many things can contribute to memory problems, and they impact the lives of those young and old alike. Along with aging, some of the most common ones, according to an article published by the Mayo Clinic, a renowned academic medical center based in Rochester, MN, include the following:
- Certain medications
- Head trauma
- A vitamin B-12 deficiency
- Brain diseases
- Substance abuse, namely an alcohol use disorder (AUD)
Hormonal Imbalances and Memory Problems
For many people, a hormonal imbalance is the cause of their memory problems. And this is generally the case for those struggling with hypothyroidism, which refers to an underactive thyroid gland. Among many others, the hallmark symptoms of hypothyroidism include impaired reasoning and critical thinking. Additionally, it can trigger memory loss and even depression. It can also adversely affect reasoning and critical thinking.
Of course, none of this is too surprising when you consider that the thyroid gland sits at the base of the brain. Low human growth hormone (HGH) levels can also put individuals on a fast track to memory problems. Multiple studies, including one published by the National Institutes of Health, have revealed a correlation between adult-onset human growth hormone deficiency and impaired memory. Many studies have also noted a nexus between low HGH levels and impaired concentration, not to mention a higher risk of suffering from anxiety and depression. For males who have more queries there are gathered best Growth hormone for men and more information.
7 Ways to Improve Your Memory
Having detailed the different memory types as well as factors that can lead to memory problems, let’s turn our attention to seven things individuals can do to improve their memory starting today:
Getting enough sleep – One of the easiest ways to improve memory is to get enough sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, men and women should aim for getting between 7 to 9 hours of deep, restorative sleep each night. Getting enough sleep has two benefits when it comes to improving memory. Firstly, it makes it easier to consolidate memories. Second, it makes recalling them much easier when the time comes to do so.
Consuming a brain-boosting diet – A healthy, well-balanced diet can benefit brain health just as much as it can benefit physical health, say many nutritionists, dieticians, and physicians. And this is further backed by a study published by Harvard Health Publishing, which noted that consuming foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, namely fatty fish, helps improve overall brain function. The same was also said of foods rich in antioxidants, such as blueberries, and foods that contain plenty of vitamin K, lutein, folate, and beta carotene, which includes spinach, kale, broccoli, and collard greens.
Learning – Most will agree that continuing to learn as much as possible, regardless of age, contributes to personal growth and development. However, doing so also improves brain health, memory recall, and the ability to retain information. In short, learning is an exercise for the brain, and the more you train it, the stronger and healthier it becomes.
Exercise – Along with improving cardiovascular health and making it easier to maintain a healthy weight, exercising for 20 to 30 minutes each day can lead to a sharper memory. In a study published by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), researchers noted that exercising or even playing sports increases the level of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) and vascular endothelial-derived growth factor (VEGF) in the brain. In turn, this facilitates the growth of new neuronal connections that protect against memory problems.
Laughter – Chronic stress can take just as much of a toll on physical health as it can on psychological health. Many studies show that individuals who lead a stressful life are more likely to struggle with memory problems. The same applies to mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression. Learning to laugh and smile more can make it easier to cope with stress, which, in turn, minimizes the risk of developing a mental illness or suffering from memory problems.
Communication – The act of speaking requires a fair amount of forethought to effectively express one’s thoughts, ideas, and opinions. That said, it stands to reason that conversing more frequently with friends and loved ones can keep the mind sharp and memory problems at bay.
Healthy lifestyle habits – Along with getting more sleep, finding ways to cope with stress, and exercising regularly, minimizing alcohol consumption can keep one’s memory sharp. And for those who smoke, quitting cigarettes can also help in this regard.
Additional Ways to Boost Your Memory
Another way to improve memory is to take dietary supplements that contain brain-boosting ingredients. Some of the best ones, according to most naturopathic physicians, include the following:
- Ginkgo biloba
- Fish oil
In summary, many things can adversely affect memory. And while many of them are synonymous with getting older, some are related to hormone imbalances, poor dietary habits, and other non-age-related things. Fortunately, there are plenty of all-natural remedies that can help keep the mind sharp and may even reverse some memory problems. Further, many can lower the chances of developing some of the more severe cognitive issues, such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.