6 tips to improve your memory

April 2023

Did you end up at the grocery store without your list again? Or maybe you can’t remember the name of the new colleague you met last week. Or perhaps you’ve misplaced your phone for the umpteenth time this week. Everyone experiences forgetfulness occasionally. But when you start to notice those slips in your memory more often, it can be very disconcerting. 

The good news is that there are steps you can take to improve your memory. And while taking these steps is not a guarantee that you’ll see a change, if you start making small lifestyle changes now, it may benefit you throughout your life. 

From aging to motherhood to a new career to mental health issues—many stages of life can have an impact on your memory and how it functions.

What factors affect your memory?

There are a variety of life stages and treatable causes of minor, temporary memory loss and forgetfulness. Being aware of these different factors gives you the power to assess and treat your memory loss to improve your overall memory.

Here are 5 potential factors that could be affecting your memory:

  • Sleep: Getting good quality sleep each night can help your memory function properly.
    Sleep is when your brain consolidates memories—without sleep, this important process cannot happen.
    Not getting enough sleep has also been linked to the development of dementia.
  • Depression: Research has shown that depression has a negative effect on long-term memory.
    Depression has also been linked to developing Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. 
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency: Studies have found a link between vitamin B12 deficiency and poor memory function.
  • Age: While this isn’t a factor that can be changed, age does have an impact on your memory.
    Even when you age healthily, you may still experience changes to your memory function. 
  • Pregnancy: The terms “mom brain” and “baby brain” are founded in truth! Research has proven that pregnancy changes the physiology of your brain, and these changes can last into old age and have a direct impact on memory function. 

So what can you do to improve your memory? Let’s take a look at 6 actionable tips that you can implement today to start making an impact on your memory function.

1. Incorporate physical activity into your daily life

You know how important exercise and physical activity is for your mental and physical well-being. But you may be surprised to know that it is also a great way to improve your memory. One study found that participating in physical activity in early- and mid-adulthood (defined as ages 18-29 and 40-49, respectively) predicted higher initial memory levels and slower memory decline later in life. 

The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines recommend adults aged 18 to 64 get at least 150 minutes of aerobic physical activity per week. So go for a brisk walk or a jog, hit the gym, ride your bike, or participate in whatever activity gets you moving throughout the week.

2. Create healthy sleep habits

The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines recommend that adults aged 18-64 get 7 to 9 hours of good quality sleep each night. While 65% of Canadian adults sleep between 7 and 9 hours a night, half of respondents to the Stats Canada survey reported trouble going to sleep or staying asleep most or all of the time. If you are part of that half—or you aren’t getting the recommended amount of sleep each night—it might be time to look at your sleep habits. 

Here are a few tips to help you get ​the best sleep possible:

  • Get up and go to sleep at the same time each day
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine 6 hours before bed
  • Turn off the TV and your phone 30 minutes before bedtime
  • Don’t read, scroll on your phone or eat in bed—your bedroom is just for sleeping

3. Give your brain a workout

It’s time to get your brain working! Keeping your brain working on new and novel tasks can help improve your memory and reduce your risk for memory=related conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. How can you give your brain the kind of workout it needs? Engage in new and novel activities that make you think in different ways. Consider taking up new hobbies, learning a new language, and even playing games like number puzzles, crosswords, and jigsaw puzzles. 

4. Stay social

​​Socialization is a great way to keep your memory in tip-top shape. It can help to stave off depression and stress which can impact your memory. Make an effort to get out into your community and stay connected. Whether you’re spending time with friends, family, or a brand new social group, it is important to nurture these relationships and maintain them throughout your life.

5. Eat a healthy diet

Much like exercise, you most likely know that eating a healthy, balanced diet has a positive impact on your overall health and well-being. But studies are showing that adhering to a healthy eating plan can actually have a positive impact on your memory. One study found that eating a plant-based diet resulted in better performance on cognitive tasks. Use the Canada Food Guide to direct your food choices—add more lean and plant-based proteins, eat lots of leafy greens, and cut back on processed foods when possible.

6. Manage existing health conditions

Be sure to take an active role in your own health and well-being. If you have any chronic or ongoing health conditions, it is important to take the necessary steps to manage them accordingly. Book an annual check-up with your doctor and any other specialists you see and attend all preventative screenings. By being proactive, you can manage your health and maintain your memory. 

Please always check with a medical professional to ensure these strategies are right for you. 

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