Stop Multi-tasking… and Other Effective Ways to Improve Your Memory

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Whether you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or you’re just noticing your memory slipping with age, sticking to one task at a time could help.

Research shows that when you interrupt one task, even momentarily, to switch to another, it disrupts short term memory.

We’ve all been there. We’re reading a book, a newspaper or a blog post, and someone interrupts us to tell us something. We have to go back a few sentences, paragraphs or even pages, to recall what we just read.

But this effect increases with age. University of California San Francisco researchers found that people aged 60 to 80 had a harder time remembering the details of a first image after they abruptly switched to a second picture than those in their 20s and 30s.

Focusing on only one task at a time helps improve short-term memory for those tasks. As seniors and those who work with seniors know, memory loss can be frustrating. The more opportunities seniors have to be successful at remembering, the better and less stressed they will feel which, in turn, will improve memory even more.

Play (Certain) Video Games
Looking to boost your memory power and your ability to multi-task effectively? Scientists may have found a key in specific video games. A game that combines driving skills on a busy road with picking out specific road signs has been shown, in testing by researchers at UC – San Francisco, (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/05/technology/a-multitasking-video-game-makes-old-brains-act-younger.html?_r=0 to help seniors improve their short-term memory and long-term focus. Unlike many other games, which improve the users’ skills at playing that particular game but does not seem to translate to other tasks, this game actually began to change the neurological patterns of octogenarians, giving them cognitive abilities of people in their 20s.

Meditate
Just like playing specific video games strengthens connections between brain cells, so can meditation. Meditation takes advantage of the concept of neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to change, even as we age.
Meditation makes the cerebral cortex thicker for a real brain boot, and also increases activity in the left prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for our feelings of joy and contentedness. Warding off depression is another key to boosting our memory, which is another way meditation can help.

Try a New and Challenging Activity
Variety isn’t just the spice of life, it’s also a fun way to enhance your cognitive abilities. When we challenge ourselves to try a task we’ve never done before, we’re forming new connections in our brain. The more challenging the task, the better – as long as it’s something you haven’t mastered yet.
Consider joining (or starting) a chess or Scrabble™ club in your senior community, taking an adult education class, learn a new language on your own, or take up crossword or Soduko puzzles if you haven’t done them before.

Exercise Your Body, Too
Researchers link cardiovascular health to mental agility. Preliminary studies showed that middle-aged people with a 10 percent risk of heart disease scored lower on memory tests than those with no risk. The link may be more substantial for women, who scored 7.1 percent lower, while men scored 2.8 percent lower.

Behaviors that lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hardening of the arteries and other cardiovascular disorders reduce blood flow to the brain and hardening of the arteries to the brain. When the brain doesn’t get the necessary blood flow, cognitive decline sets in.

A healthy lifestyle that combines heart-healthy whole grains, foods low in saturated fat and aerobic exercise can minimize the chances of heart disease and help you sustain a healthier brain later in life, too.

Hope For Memory Problems
While there’s no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease, these suggestions show that there are easy, proven ways to stave off memory loss and slow cognitive decline as we age.

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