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Outsmarting Forgetfulness

by Betty Soldz

As we grow older, many of us worry about becoming forgetful. In the past, memory loss was equated with aging. We now know that most people remain alert throughout their lives although it may take them a little longer to remember things as they age.

Numerous mental conditions can contribute to memory problems such as stress, isolation, grief or even boredom; physical problems such as nutritional deficiencies and dehydration may affect memory. This is the reason why it is important to discuss with your doctor whether your overall health status may be impacting your memory.

While your ability to remember may slow down somewhat there are many things you can do to keep your mind alert and active: developing and maintaining hobbies, taking classes, joining clubs, learning a new language, reading and staying involved in activities. The following tips may also be helpful.

One of the things that many people find worrisome is when they can't remember the name of a person they have just been introduced to. A hint to help with this is: be sure to repeat the name i.e., "I 'm pleased to meet you (person's name) and look forward to talking with you again (person's name.) The more times you repeat the name, the better the chance you will remember it. Another memory kicker is to equate the person's name with a personal characteristic or what they do.

If you often misplace your keys, always put them in the same place and put them there as soon as you enter the house. When you leave the house, put your keys in the same place, such as a pocket in your purse.

Make lists and be sure you read them each day. When talking on the phone, jot down notes. Make a shopping list before going to the grocery. Make a things-to-do list daily of what you would like to accomplish. Cross them off as you complete them. Writing things down forces your mind to register the information and increases the chance you will recall it.

Exercise your mind to keep it sharp. Do crossword and other word puzzles. Try counting backwards from 100 by ones, by fives and then 10s, etc. Meditation is helpful for some who say it helps them concentrate without distraction.

Physical exercise is good for both your body and your mind. A brisk walk clears the mind and makes you feel better. If you have been in poor health or have been sedentary, talk to your doctor before starting any new exercises.

As we grow older our tolerance for drugs (including prescription drugs and over-the-counter medication) and alcohol decreases. It is important to know that alcohol is a depressant and alcoholism damages the brain in ways that can harm memory. Be sure to tell your doctor how much alcohol you consume.

These are just a few strategies which might be helpful in keeping your memory sharp. There are many books in the library and book stores that deal with memorization exercises. Ask your librarian to suggest books on techniques for sharpening your ability to recall. Taking positive action will reduce the stress yur might fell about a tendency to forgetfulness.

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