Having a good memory is very important for our performance at work (yes, even in a world where the web gives us access to so much information at the touch of a button!). So if I told you that there are some relatively straightforward ways to improve your memory, you’d be interested, right?
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A recent study, published in Neurology, suggests there are a number of simple ways we can boost our memory, especially as we meander into middle and old age. The suggestions not only improve our memory, but also provide a buffer against diseases such as dementia that are an increased risk as we age.
"As millions of older US adults are reaching the age where they may experience these memory and thinking problem called Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), it is important we look to find lifestyle changes that may stave off the condition," the researchers say. "Our study supports the idea that engaging the mind may protect neurons, or the building blocks of the brain, from dying, stimulate growth of new neurons, or may help recruit new neurons to maintain cognitive activities in old age."
The study saw over 250 people given a range of memory and thinking based tasks to undertake at the beginning of the study. The participants were also quizzed on their involvement in various activities, including art based activities such as drawing, painting or sculpting; craft based activities, such as pottery, quilting, sewing or woodworking; social activities, whether that was going to the movies or the theatre, catching a concert or even hanging out with friends; and computer based activities such as playing video games, surfing the Internet or shopping online.
The Benefits of an Active Life
The results revealed that over a four year period, roughly half of the participants had experienced a drop in their cognitive performance. However, it emerged that when participants were active in the arts, they were 73 percent less likely to suffer a drop than those who weren’t doing any such activity. For those who regularly engaged in craft related activities, the figure was slightly lower, although still very respectable, at 45 percent. Socializing with one’s peers saw a 55 percent reduction in risk, while those who used their computer regularly saw a 53 percent reduction in the likelihood that they would suffer memory and cognitive drops.
“Continued education, learning new things - taking classes in a new area of learning, may also yield positive benefits for cognitive function,” the authors said.
Whilst there were still strong genetic dispositions influencing cognitive performance, the study provides a valuable reminder of the relatively simple ways that we can ensure our brain remains in tip top shape as we get older, thus ensuring that both our professional and personal lives are as happy and productive as possible.
“That was a confirmation of a lot of the things we already knew,” the authors conclude. “What I thought was more interesting was to begin to look at something that reduced the risk. That’s what people want to know.”
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Do you engage in any of the activities mentioned above? Do you think that they help improve your cognitive functioning? Your thoughts and comments below please...