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How to keep your memory from reflecting your age

A Health Blog

As you get older you may start to realize your memory isn’t as good as it once was. You have no problem recalling something that happened five years ago, but for the life of you can’t remember the name of the person’s hand you just shook five minutes ago.

This week on “Take Care,” brain health and memory expert Dr. Cynthia Green, revisits us to explain why this is, and what we can do to improve it. Green is an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and is the founder of Total Brain Health. In addition, Green is also a leading authority in the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

“As we grow older we have a little more difficulty with specific intellectual functions, such as attention, the speed at which we process information, the nimbleness at which we can kind of multitask and jump between tasks, and of course memory,” Green said. “Memory relies on our ability to be focused, to think quickly, and to think flexibly.”

These intellectual functions mainly affect our short-term memory, or our ability to acquire new information, says Green.

“It’s that new information that becomes harder. It’s not that there’s less room, if you will, in the hard drive of our brain,” Green said.

However, there are ways to make that new information easier to retain.

“Most of us probably just want to be able to remember the names of the people that we’re meeting, a conversation, a list, directions, for example, and that kind of thing, and there are lots of simple strategies,” Green said.

These strategies mostly include mental challenges against the clock. Some ideas Green suggests is timing yourself when playing games, such as Boggle, or doing a crossword puzzle.

“Any time that you do a mental workout against the clock, you are challenging the intellectual skills that you most need to challenge, that are most diminished by the aging process. That being attention, speed, flexibility, and often memory,” Green said.

She also mentions computer andphone games designed to improve brain fitness, but says there is no evidence to support these games benefit your brain health in the long run, or will prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Aside from games, there are also simple everyday exercises that Green advises can help with memory.

  • Repeating a name or phrase you want to remember over and over
  • Make a connection between a name or place you want to remember with something you already know
  • Associate what you’re trying to remember with an image
  • Make up a story to go along with what you’re trying to remember

Although all these tips can be helpful, Green says the ultimate solution to better brain health is living a healthy lifestyle.