A few key strategies can help counteract memory loss.

VegetablesRead the following list of words once and only once:

Cat. Flag. Animated. Eggnog. Faulty. Zap. Home. Tremendous. Dig.

Now, without looking back, can you remember all the words in order? If not, don’t worry. Everyone’s memory is imperfect. But just because it’s not unusual to forget a list of nine random words—or the name of an actress, or what you had for lunch yesterday—doesn’t mean you should be complacent.

Memory loss is common and caused by a litany of problems, including poor eating habits, head injury, depression, loneliness, age-related mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s, and vascular dementia.* While some of these causes are more treatable than others, we can all help fend off memory loss if we take our memory seriously. Here are five things you can do:

Pay Attention

In today’s smartphone-filled world, it’s easy to split your attention. But how can you fully remember things you only partly noticed? When you’re taking in new information, don’t divide your attention. Instead, focus in. If the information is particularly important, repeat it out loud and/or write it down.

Use Memory Tricks

If you struggle with remembering new information, there are tricks you can use. Called mnemonic devices, these tricks help you attach additional meaning to bits of information, which in turn helps your brain better hold on to that information. Some of the most common mnemonic devices include putting things into rhyme (in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue); using the first letter of each word in a list to create an easily remembered phrase (“My very educated mother just served us noodles” for the order of the eight planets); and creating a memory palace where you “place” key bits of information into each room of a building you know very well, and then later “walk” through the building to retrieve the information room-by-room.

Challenge Your Brain

The old adage “use it or lose it” applies to your mind. If you want to stave off memory loss, you should make sure you’re regularly engaging your critical thinking and creative capacities.† Crossword puzzles are great. So is painting. Just make sure you mix it up occasionally. The more ways we use our brains, the more likely our memories will stay strong.

Sleep

Studies show that when we sleep—and especially when we dream—our brains reactivate and reorganize recently learned material.‡ If you’re not getting enough sleep, your brain doesn’t have the time it needs to make long-term memories. Even a nap can help boost our ability to recall recently learned material. So, don’t skimp on the sleep.

Eat Right

Ever heard of brain food? Research shows that what we eat can affect our memory. Specifically, the saturated and trans fats in foods like red meat, butter, and processed baked goods can reduce our ability to learn and remember.§ So, what foods should we eat? While scientists have not found a magic food guaranteed to boost our memories, a diet high in olive oil, fish, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help reduce the impact of saturated and trans fats and may help our memories in the long run.

How Can You Help?

A bad memory is one of the many things that can reduce someone’s quality of life. If you want to help people improve aspects of their life, you should consider a counseling career. Earning a counseling degree, such as an MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, is a great step. Through a clinical mental health master’s program, you can gain the confidence, qualifications, and critical thinking skills needed to help clients cope with daily life and overcome their greatest challenges, including memory issues.

While a master’s degree is typically necessary for anyone who wants to succeed in a mental health counseling career, you don’t have to upend your life to earn your degree. Instead of dealing with the hassle of attending a campus-based program, you can attend an online university. Through online learning, you can better control your own schedule and how you learn. Specifically, a clinical mental health counseling online program gives you the opportunity to learn from home on a flexible schedule that can allow you to continue working full time. Thanks to the advantages of online education, you can earn your MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and help people overcome or deal more effectively with memory issues.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an online MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree program. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

*National Institute on Aging, Do Memory Problems Always Mean Alzheimer's Disease?, National Institute on Health, on the internet at www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/understanding-memory-loss/serious-memory-problems-causes-and-treatments.

†A. Kuchment, Challenging Your Brain Keeps It Sharp as You Age, Dallas Morning News, on the internet at www.dallasnews.com/life/healthy-living/2014/03/03/challenging-your-brain-keeps-it-sharp-as-you-age.

‡H. Simon, Sleep Helps Learning, Memory, Harvard Medical School, on the internet at www.health.harvard.edu/blog/sleep-helps-learning-memory-201202154265.

§Harvard Women’s Health Watch, Boost Your Memory by Eating Right, Harvard Medical School, on the internet at www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/boost-your-memory-by-eating-right.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

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