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In stark contrast with a universal belief  that bad memory only happens to the elderly, you may be surprised to learn that people of all ages, including children, are prone to forgetfulness and loss of memory.

Following are some useful tips to prevent and reduce gradual loss of memory.

Almost all people in their 40s are troubled by partial forgetfulness, which is a symptom of memory loss and, more profoundly, the gradual deterioration of the brain. However, there are little things that we forget which cause no serious effect. For instance, you travel from one room to another to pick up an item, but upon arrival you forget what you are supposed to pick up. You leave home or leave your car but forget to take the car key with you. You might see a familiar face without being able to remember his or her name or even when you met. These are signs of normal absent-mindedness that exert no impact on your health and ordinary life.

However, suddenly one day you raise your chopsticks wondering how to pick up food with them, you take off your shoes and put them into a fridge thinking that you are holding a smoked chicken thigh in your hands, or you forget your way home. These signs urge you to seek a doctor.

These are signs of a variety of illnesses, not necessarily Alzheimer’s. There are some cases in which a small tumor presses against nerves and causes forgetfulness. I advise you to let your doctor know about all of your symptoms of forgetfulness, particularly of things that have been significantly familiar and important in your life. This advice applies to all people, not just the elderly who have shown signs of cerebral deterioration.

For the elderly, the more recent an incident is, the more forgetful it can be. Instead, they can remember every single detail of a story well in the past. This is because when our eyes configure an image, the image is then transmitted into proteins and later deeply imprinted in the hippocampus area of the brain. It is part of the frontal lobe and a structure located within the temporal lobe. It forms part of the limbic system and is closely related to the storage of information and formation of long-term memory and the ability to navigate in space.

The older we get, the functions of proteins and the hippocampus decrease. As a result, images are not imprinted for long, leading to forgetfulness.

When we have shown signs of forgetfulness, what should we do?

A recent research suggests that the harder a brain works, the stronger the nervous cells function, and the better a person will be in storing information.

Some simple tips that are universally shared about improving the brain include playing chess, reading stories, reading books or playing Sudoku. They are good, but not that helpful in these cases. The best way to improve your memory is to change deep seated habits and create constant, increasing challenges. These could be learning a new language, taking up a musical instrument or learning how to cook. Do what you have never done before.

Shelve your favorite CDs of sweet ballads and instead try some upbeat tunes or learn the striking lyrics of a rock band. In addition to listening to a new genre, dig into the meaning of the lyrics and feel its beat. Learning new things makes your mind work and helps prevent forgetfulness.

Another key bit of advice is to never look back on your past. Live for the present and future. Although stories of the past can make you happy, they belong to the past and might make your brain forget fresher emotions and experiences that are even better than those of the past.

When adults look to the future, they may find their lifespan narrowed, and decide to cosset themselves by nuzzling fond memories and feeding on sweet past moments. It’s not a wise decision. Many elderly people are willing to shake off their glorious past to face the stern present, their diseases, aging and loneliness. And many choose to seek solutions. They learn to adapt. They want to make their brain continue to work by learning new things that help keep a sound mind.

“Many people ask doctors for medication for a better brain, yet they don’t know that the best way to improve memory is to make their brain work out.”

When is it suitable to carry out all these suggestions for memory improvement? Wait until you show signs of forgetfulness? No, start now! You should refresh yourselves and your timetable on a regular basis and learn new things whenever possible.

Finally, learn from your children and the young. They boast progressive and liberal thinking that fits the 21st century. It’s not as bad as you might think.

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Dr. Khoi Nguyen

Dr. Khoi holds a Science Degree from the University of Toronto and received his medical degree in 1988. He is currently seeing patients at his private family medicine practice. In 2010, he received the Canada’s Citizenship Award for his numerous contributions to the community.

Bác sĩ Khôi tốt nghiệp ngành khoa học tại University of Toronto và tốt nghiệp y khoa năm 1988. Hiện nay ông đang làm việc tại phòng mạch tư chuyên về sức khỏe gia đình, và đã được vinh dự nhận giải thưởng Canada’s Citizenship Award năm 2010.