Do you fear memory loss? Or dementia? Are you forgetful?
We're all forgetful to some degree. It's not just an age thing. There are positive, do-able steps we can all take to successfully improve our memory -- regardless of our age. And a spinoff from the memory-improvement steps we can take is to even help lessen our risk of dementia.
Types Of Memory
There are different types of memory. Our very volatile, short-term memory stores a limited amount of information for a few seconds - rarely longer than 30 seconds at the outside. An almost unlimited amount of information is stored indefinitely in our long term memory. It's more stable and more permanent. After a while some short term stuff passes into our long term storage.
And then there are visual, auditory and kinaesthetic memory folk. Which are you?
* Visual learners find it easier to take in new information through pictures, diagrams, charts, films, and so on.
* Verbal learners find it easier to take in new information through the spoken word.
* Kinaesthetic learners find it easier to take in new information through copying demonstrations and getting physically involved.
Most of us are a mixture but with one preferred mode as the dominant one.
Where Are Your Memories?
A scrapbook or photo album triggers associations and calls up the attached memory. One day you go for a picnic. A magnificent summer's day and everything went just right. You even remembered to take the bottle opener. For years after you might remember the weather, your companion, the conversation you had, and even the sandwiches you ate.
The information making up this memory would be stored in many parts of your brain. These include dealing with sensations of temperature, taste, face recognition and language. Other areas supervise organising, storing and retrieving these memories.
Odds Are With You
Sure, dementia can happen to anyone, but is not a normal part of ageing.
Globally, dementia affects about 1 in 20 people over the age of 65 and around 1 in 5 over the age of 80. Pretty long odds. Not too many horses win at 20/1. Alzheimer's accounts for between 50% and 70% of all dementias but unless there's a hard-wired, genetic predisposition the odds are pretty much in your favour.
Anyway, there are ways to reduce your chances of getting the disease, or to slow it down. From teenagers who want to get it all together, to boomagers who want to keep it all together, there certainly are things we can all do:
* to improve our memory * to exercise our brain * and yes, even to avoid dementia
Age-Associated Memory Impairment (AAMI)
This is much more widespread. As we get older the grey hairs remorselessly spread like mould on cheese, and the mental knife gets a bit blunt. The odd cutting remark and that's about it for some. Names...phone numbers...addresses...Here today gone tomorrow. We all do it. We become forgetful, leaving taps or switches on and forgetting where we put things.
Facts and figures get a bit flaky. Even familiar numbers can start to fray at the edges, as we blank out when exchanging phone numbers with someone. Concentration goes and we get less done. We become less observant and think much more slowly. We even start to forget the names of people we've only just met. (Don't worry, though. When we're first introduced the only name we ever really hear is our own...)
We Can Improve
It seems more sensible that we should do what we can to protect and preserve our memory from AAMI.
Can we become sharper? Can we become more observant, recall names and numbers better, think faster and get more done? The short answer is 'yes'.
My memory is improving substantially as I use the low-cost and no-cost memory improvement strategies from a surprisingly effective e-Book I found a while back.
Cogito, Ergo Sum
"I think, therefore I am" as Rene Descartes put it in 1637, in his famous Latin quotation. Yes, it's your memories and thoughts that define who you are. Lose your memory and your power to think, and you lose you.
I lost my memory in 2001. The. Most. Frightening. Experience. In. My. Life. I was walking when, suddenly...Bang. Gone. No warning.
Fortunately I knew where I lived so I could keep walking. The hamster had gone but the wheel kept turning... That's all I could remember. I'd even lost my identity. Just awful.
I did know that all was far from well. Intense fear gripped my bowels and stomach. Sweat oozed from every pore.
And I screamed. A primal sound that surged from my very core. Apparently it almost froze the blood of a nearby witness to my distress, as I found out some time afterwards.
I made it home -- somehow. For days afterwards little bits of memory began to return, much to my wife's relief, as well as mine. A case of Transient Global Amnesia, according to the neurologist. Triggered by stress in my particular case, and unlikely to return as long as I made some life-changes...I quickly made those, I can tell you!
Stepping Stones To Change
But as I became more together and more me again I became more aware of, and unsettled by, the gaps that remained. They've since closed and I'm fully Max-intact. I'm me again. In fact, the Mark 2 version is now even sharper because of the book and its approach. It's all there: mental exercises and stimulation. Modifying diet. Special types of exercise. Socialising. Developing leisure activities. And that's only some of it.
Just remember that computer's brain you're in front of right now is far more limited than yours. Sadly, mopst of us only use a fraction of our brain's ability. So keep your brain ticking over. If you don't use it you lose it. Trite, but true, for so many things.
And do be nice to the people around you. If your dementia odds suddenly shorten, you might need them one day...