You may have seen a sign or t-shirt with the slogan, "My ability to remember song lyrics from the 80s far exceeds my ability to remember why I walked into the kitchen." It's a funny quote, but one clearly based on a real issue many people experience as they age.
Why do we seem more forgetful or have more problems with short term memory as we grow older? In some cases it can be an early indication of a more serious problem -- Alzheimer's disease. This disease affects 5.8 million Americans and is the nation's 6th leading cause of death.
But for most of us, it's simply that as the years are passing our brains experience various physiological changes. It's quite common for our brains to function a bit slower, taking longer to learn or recall information. Sometimes what seems like memory loss simply requires giving our brains a little more time to pull up the memory or words.
However, beyond aging, there are also other factors that can affect our memory, and, most importantly, there are things we can do to improve brain function.
Certain drugs, for example, can negatively affect memory. If you're taking a variety of medications, check with your family physician or pharmacist to see if there's any connection to memory issues. Your doctor can also evaluate other health issues that impact memory, including high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and some illnesses.
And yes, our bad habits can also impact memory. Smoking, a poor diet, and heavy alcohol usage can all play a role in how well we think and remember.
Changing some of our lifestyle habits can boost memory function. Staying physically active has been shown to actually help improve memory. You can also get a memory boost from eating better, specifically a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, low in fat and cholesterol, and including omega-3 rich fish.
Brain function also appears to improve with brain exercise. Keeping mentally active through reading, doing puzzles, playing games and perhaps even using online brain exercise programs all may possibly improve memory.
Not everyone has memory problems as they age, but when such issues appear it can be troubling. If you find you're forgetting more frequently, repeating yourself in conversations, or being confused by familiar activities, check with your doctor to ensure it's not a more serious problem.