What's Happening to My Memory?
You can blame menopause and aging for some degree of memory malfunction, but don't neglect to look at some other culprits that are part of everyday living.
How many times have you lost your keys, struggled to recall someone’s name who you were just introduced to, or read a book only to discover, halfway through, that you already read it (you think)?
Those tip-of-the-tongue moments and slip-of-the-mind situations are usually not a reason to panic. They’re normal (unless, of course, something more severe is at play, like forgetting where you live or getting lost in familiar surroundings).
The fact is that every day, without even realizing it, we’re probably doing lots of things that are sabotaging our memory and causing us to think, “Am I losing my mind???”
Multitasking. It’s tempting, but it often fails and is not the time-saver you think it is. One reason: Multitasking prevents your short-term memories to consolidate into long-term ones. And when you do too many things at once, it’s impossible to concentrate really well one just one thing.
Medications. There are some over-the-counter and prescription drugs that can interfere with memory, like antihistamines, antidepressants, antipsychotics, as well as sleep and anxiety aids.
Stress. When you’re under stress, your body releases cortisol, which has been found in studies to impair memory. You can read all about our bodies’ main stress hormone, cortisol, here.
Sleep Deprivation. We all know how we can feel if we don’t get enough shut-eye: Anxious, impatient, grumpy, intolerant, and…oh, right - forgetful. Memories get sorted out, consolidated and cemented during sleep. Without enough sleep, our brains struggle to absorb and recall new information.
Alcohol. Watch your consumption: More than six drinks a week can accelerate brain shrinkage as you age. Alcohol can also affect the way your brain stores and recalls memories.
For a Pause…
When I recently interviewed a physician for another article I was working on, she was so helpful and provided me with so much insightful info. Annie Fenn, M.D., is also a chef and culinary instructor, dedicated to brain health through nutrition. Check out her website here.
One method many people swear by for memory retention and recall is mnemonics. (Maybe you remember using it as a child to learn the treble clef if you took piano lessons: Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge.) This style of learning dates all the way back to ancient Greek times.
We’ve all done it: You get to the grocery store and - oh s#*t - you forgot your list. Here’s one way to solve for that.
One thing you don’t want to forget to do every.single.day is apply sunscreen to your face. My latest product of choice is this one by Elta MD. It goes on seamlessly, gives my skin a special glow (I use the tinted one) and is moisturizing without being greasy. Winter’s coming, but that’s no excuse not to wear sunscreen!
One More Thing…
This may be a pretty song, but I think Maroon 5 messed up the lyrics (“Cause the drinks bring back all the memories…”) Maybe they need to read Memory Saboteurs #5 (above)!
If you like what you’re reading, don’t keep it a secret!
Until next time, stay well. Stay healthy. Stay safe.
Great post. My piano teacher taught me Every Good Boy Does Fine! Guess yours was more indulgent:-) Best, Irene