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Top tips to improve your memory

TIPS: Dr Wendel Abel investigates ways to sharpen up your mind to improve your memory

ARE YOU studying and need to improve that memory of yours? Or are you getting older and sometimes have difficulty remembering things? Well, read on.

1. Do not cram

Why do we forget? If you are a student, it is natural to have problems with remembering information. Maybe you are cramming too much information at one time, overloading the brain.

Even if you are busy at work or at home, some information will be forgotten such as where you placed the keys or a file. This is because your working memory (like the scratch pad of the brain) is affected. The more information put in it at one time, the more will get lost. So slow down and cram less.

2. Focus

Reduce distractions such as watching television. Taking notes does help and doing past exam questions helps you to focus and reinforce what you have already studied. For students doing exams in May and June, this is a good time to start reviewing past questions. At work and at home, focus on where you place objects. Try to place the office files in one location and, at home, place keys in one location.

3. Write things down

This helps when you are studying, but it also helps in organising the work day. Walk around with a small notebook and make lists of things to do, and cross them out as you accomplish tasks. Post-it notes are also useful. You may jot things down to aid your memory.

4. Exercise

Yes, exercise aids memory. Exercise increases a chemical in the brain which is called Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF). This is a big term, but this chemical is like the fertiliser of the brain.

It grows those areas of the brain responsible for memory. So go out and exercise. Exercise is a wonderful experience, just 30-40 minutes per day, at least three days per week, is recommended.

5. Mind training

Activities that help to train the mind work. These are called mindfulness techniques and include such things as meditation.

6. Reduce stress

Stress is a killer. It produces chemicals such as cortisol that will destroy brain tissue and reduce the brain fertiliser.

7. Antioxidants

Antioxidants are good brain food. Anything that is red is a good antioxidant such as beet, cranberry, sorrel, blackberry and mulberry. We do not have to import these foods, they all grow in Jamaica.

8. Coconut oil is back on the table

Recent reports have shown that coconut oil can protect against Alzheimer's disease, which results in memory loss in the elderly.

Dr Wendel Abel is a consultant psychiatrist and head, Section of Psychiatry, Department of Community Health and Psychiatry, University of the West Indies. Email:

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