The brain is the organ that controls what you think and feel, the way you learn and how you do it, but there are times when we cannot remember someone or some situation, that is when the question arises if it was a simple forgetfulness or a sign of the onset of a disease such as Alzheimer’s.
This situation of not remembering someone or something does not mean that your health is deteriorating; Memory is a complex system that makes mistakes, plus there are a thousand reasons why this could happen, but it doesn’t mean it’s related to any disease, says Dr. Jane Rylett, a professor in the department of Physiology and Pharmacology at the Schullich College of Medicine and Dentistry from the University of Western Ontario.
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Why does our memory fail?
Memory fails when you are under stress, as it prevents you from modifying memories; worrying distracts us and fails to focus information, says Dr. Nasreen Khatri, a clinical psychologist, gerontologist, and researcher at the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto. She adds that when we feel that we are doing two things at the same time, we only switch from one to the other, which prevents proper processing of information. These changes actually produce anxiety by raising the stress hormone cortisol, which can alter brain function. The behavioral specialist recommends that people practice meditation and mindfulness, as well as learn to slow down their lives because a calmer state improves attention and concentration.
You want to help your daughter or son to solve some task but you realize that you do not remember what you learned in school, Dr. Rylett explains that this happens because the brain changes over time, it remakes nerve connections, that is, it uses more parts than others, which are related to the activities of common use, this capacity is called plasticity. This also implies that by not using certain parts, knowledge learned will be forgotten. The health expert advises practicing to remember what has already been studied.
The brain pays attention to what it considers most relevant to each experience; In this regard, psychology professor Lisa Feldman Barrett from the Northeastern University in the United States explains that this organ not only reacts to the situations in which we find ourselves, it also tries to predict it through past experiences with which it will make conjectures, in this way you will determine what will come and what will be the most significant. Guessing which information is most relevant allows the mind to work more efficiently.
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It is necessary that your physical, emotional and brain health are in top shape, otherwise your memory will not be either, says Dr. Rylett. Among the conditions that can reduce the activity of the brain are infections. A poor diet can also bring negative results. When there is a vitamin B12 deficiency, the individual may have trouble remembering, since this component is essential. Thyroid problems also cause alterations, causing adequate energy not to be used in the referred area.
What diseases affect memory?
Thyroid hormones are related to metabolism, which controls the energy of the brain. A hormonal imbalance results in an inadequate functioning of the activity of thinking. A urinary infection in the elderly can cause symptoms similar to dementia due to inflammatory factors that would reach the brain, indicates the specialist.
Mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety, are the cause of chemical imbalances related to mood disorders, resulting in alterations in the cognitive process, explains the woman of science.
Another aspect that affects memory is pregnancy or menopause, in these stages the woman experiences a hormonal alteration, however, the psychologist admits that researchers still do not understand it. While Dr. Kathri mentions that during the gestation and childbirth stage, there are important hormonal changes that translate into lack of sleep, fatigue and stress; there is a possibility that new moms have changes in attention and concentration.
In general, middle age affects them because it is when they face the old age of their parents, having partners, children, full-time work, a chain of demands that affect their ability to remember.
What do I do to master my memory?
Exercise: If you exercise four hours after learning something, you will remember it more easily, according to studies on the subject.
Speak another language: Those who speak another language have a capacity against memory loss. Lisa Feldman Barnett indicates that a challenging task could help to generate hormones.
Learn to play an instrument: There have been tests that show that learning to play an instrument stimulates the brain. A study carried out in Canada on elderly people constantly practicing some musical device stimulated their brain waves and improved their ability to listen.