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Memory and Forgetting Articles:

Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's Diagnosis 

Dementia Types

Long- term Care and Dementia

How to Remember Things

Woman Mentally Sharp Even at 115 Years Old  

Memory Tips You Can Use Today   

How to Increase your Brain Power and Stop Forgetting Things   

Social Ties May Delay Your Memory Loss   

Does Internet "Surfing" Energize Aging Minds 

Memory Protected By Good Cholesterol

Senior Moments: Staved off through education?

Recovering from stroke: What can you do?

Memory Drugs Information:

Aricept Medication: Is this really a memory drug?

Exelon Medication

Namenda Medication: The Memory Drug

Alzheimer's/Dementia Articles of Interest:

Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's Disease: An Introduction

Alzheimer's Brain: Degenerative Changes

Alzheimer's Brain: Degenerative Changes Page#2

Alzheimer's Diagnosis

Caregiving for the Alzheimer's patient: Is there a problem?

Alzheimer's Treatment

Long Term Care and Dementia

Web Site Map




How to Remember Things

Page #2

By Alex Lickerman


Also, See: How to Remember Things Page #1


One of the most common complaints I hear in clinical practice concerns worry over memory loss. Unfortunately, as a normal part of the aging process, many people start to find they can't bring to mind names, places, and things as easily as they used to be able to do and worry they're facing the beginning of dementia. "Benign forgetfulness" is the name we give to a process that occurs with normal aging in which a memory remains intact but our ability to retrieve it becomes temporarily impaired. Usually we try to describe the name or thing we can't recall and when someone names it for us we instantly remember the word we wanted.

As long as this is age-appropriate and doesn't significantly interfere with normal functioning, there is no increased risk for progression to dementia. However, the trick lies in assessing what is and isn't "age-appropriate." Formal testing is sometimes necessary in ambiguous cases. Reassuringly, in one study, patients over the age of 50 who initially presented with what was considered to be benign forgetfulness had only a 9% chance of progressing to dementia. Unfortunately, cognitive impairments other than memory loss are correlated with a higher risk of progression to dementia.

Another reason people often have trouble remembering things is because memory is a function of concentration. Which means when you multi-task you tend to forget more easily. Have you ever entered a room only to forget why you did so? More likely you'd remember if you weren't simultaneously planning your dinner for that night and trying to remember the phone number of the person who just left you a message. This also explains why people who suffer from depression or anxiety have a harder time remembering things: both conditions interfere substantially with the ability to concentrate. The strength of a memory is also determined by the emotional state that accompanied the original event. Emotion, negative or positive, tends to embed events in our memory like a chisel carves lines in stone. A double-edged sword for people suffering from PTSD.


Here are three things you can do that have been shown in studies to decrease the risk of mental deterioration as you age:

1. Exercise your body. Evidence suggests this not only retards normal age-related memory deterioration but reduces the risk of developing dementia. It doesn't even have to be vigorous exercise. Just 150 minutes of walking per week has been shown to be of benefit. Whether more intense exercise results in a greater risk reduction remains unknown.

2. Exercise your mind. Evidence also suggests that doing things that work the mind may delay or prevent memory loss. This research is just in its infancy, so here's as good a guide as any to figuring out what activities will work: if an activity requires you to take breaks, it probably qualifies. We can watch television, for example, for hours on end without becoming mentally fatigued, but solving math problems, learning to knit, or even reading all require effort that tires the mind.

3. Take ibuprofen. Though one study suggests a daily dose of ibuprofen decreases the risk of developing dementia, the risk reduction appears too modest to justify the increased risk of stomach bleeding that accompanies ibuprofen's daily use and I do NOT recommend this. However, if you're already taking ibuprofen for some other condition, like arthritis, here might be an added benefit.

If the mind is indeed like a muscle (and research is validating that model more and more) then memory may very well be like muscle tone: the more the mind is used, the more robust memory may become. As I've moved on from my medical school days to reach early (very early) middle age, I've found myself experiencing benign forgetfulness far more than I like. As a result, I find myself comforted that the old adage "use it or lose it" is seeming more and more not just to apply to the body but to the mind as well.

About the Author:

Please visit Dr. Lickerman's blog at to read other articles about achieving health and happiness. He can be reached at

Additional Information and webpage by Paul Susic MA Licensed Psychologist Ph.D. Candidate                     

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