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5 Ways To Improve Your Memory And Get Healthier At The Same Time


A good memory isn’t something a lot of us spend much time cultivating, but having one can have many direct and indirect benefits. You may never have considered memory a part of your overall health. I’d like to suggest a few points that may persuade you to do just that.

Memory Lane is Twisted

Memory Lane is Twisted

Two Basic Types of Memory


Short-term (“active”) memory is exactly what it sounds like: the capacity to temporarily hold onto memories. If you haven’t seen the movie Memento, then 1) shame on you now go watch it, and 2) it depicts an unnerving condition (rare but real) in which a man has no short-term memory–at all! This makes it very hard for him to solve a lengthy murder mystery because he has to take drastic measures just to remember the clues. In your case, just ask yourself if you can remember…

  • where your keys are
  • what is that guy’s name who you just met
  • what did you come into this room to do
  • …all examples of tasks for your short-term memory.


    Long-term memory involves things like remembering an old phone number for a decade, chronology of long-past events, where you were when Joey Chestnut finally brought the mustard yellow belt back to America where it belongs. Those sorts of things. For what it’s worth, in 2003 Kobayashi lost to this bear, and I suspect that the bear, the belt’s rightful owner, was American anyway.

    What does memory have to do with health?

    A healthy memory is part of a healthy mind. Do the phrases “healthy body, healthy mind” or the “mind-muscle connection,” or “it’s all mental” sound familiar? If any of those are even partially true, investing in your memory is making an investment in your mind, which could lead to greater bodily health.

    Consider the following statements

  • 3 weekly strength sessions can lower memory-damaging amino acids and boost brain hormones that help keep you focused” (McGinnis, 2009)
  • Your brain loses its edge as you age. Mental exercise helps with memory, but physical exercise may do even more to prevent deterioration (Shute, 2009)
  • Eating less (fewer calories) can improve memory in the elderly (New Scientist, 2009)
  • “Good” cholesterol like HDL can improve memory (Tufts, 2008)
  • Naps of any length, even as short as 6 minutes, can improve memory (Scientific American, 2008)
  • These statements were gathered from recent memory/health studies (reading list appears below). Of course, studies can show you whatever you want to see, so if you’re interested in exploring this topic further, use these studies as starting points, not the final word.

    They suggest that

    1. Strength training is good for you
    2. Naps are good for you
    3. Lowering bad cholesterol and having enough good cholesterol is good for you
    4. Eating less can be good for you
    5. Maintaining your mental faculties while aging is good for you and your quality of life.

    Who’d have thought, huh? I imagine that 1-5 don’t surprise you and they are thing we should all be doing anyway. That a nap, a workout, reduced calories, and reining in your cholesterol might also improve your memory may not have been common knowledge. It wasn’t to me.

    Being actively healthy is about constantly taking steps to be healthier. You can’t rely solely on anyone else’s research, because nobody else can make you healthier. Now then:

    Your assignments

  • Go take a nap
  • get some exercise
  • eat fewer calories unless it compromises your goals or health
  • figure out your cholesterol and either maintain or correct it
  • watch Memento.Worst case scenario, you are now fitter and have seen a great movie, but can’t tell if it helped your memory.Best case scenario, you are now fitter and have seen a great movie, and you suddenly remembered that tonight is your anniversary, graduation, first date, final exam, support group, or other.

    What say you?

    I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments box.

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    McGinnis, Marianne; 20-Minute Brainpower boost; Prevention; Apr2009, Vol. 61 Issue 4, p80-80, 2/5p

    New Scientist; Eat a Little Less, Remember More; 1/31/2009, Vol. 201 Issue 2693, p15-15, 1p

    Shute, Nancy; Brain Decline; U.S. News & World Report, 2/1/2009, Vol. 146 Issue 1, p68-69, 2p

    Tufts University Health & Nutrition Newsletter; Good Cholesterol Linked to Better Memory; Oct2008, Vol. 26 Issue 8, p1-2, 2p

    Whitfield, John; Naps For Better Recall; Scientific American; May2008, Vol. 298 Issue 5, p32-32, 1p, 1 colo

  • Comments on this entry are closed.

    • Beth L. Gainer August 13, 2009, 4:12 pm

      I loved this posting. I do think it’s crucial to exercise one’s memory. However, I am a breast cancer survivor, and the chemo really did a number on my short-term memory. I’ve been learning another language and really exercising my brain, but sometimes I think it’s a losing battle.

      • Josh Hanagarne August 13, 2009, 4:41 pm

        Beth, I feel for you. Thanks for the kind words. What language are you learning? Does it help? I don’t have any experience with cancer. I honestly haven’t known anyone in person who has had it while they’re dealing with it. I’m glad you’re here and hope I can come up with a few things to keep you smiling. Take care.

    • bigwood September 18, 2009, 3:05 pm

      I’ve found the best way to improve your short term memory is to pay attention to what you’re doing while you’re doing it.

    • Audrey September 25, 2012, 6:39 am

      I love Memento!!! =)
      Great suggestions.
      I think most of us know what habits are good for our health, but we are just too lazy or too comfortable with ourselves to start making changes. It’s a shame most people need a wake up call in order to start caring.
      I know my short-term memory began deteriorating after I started to over multitask. At least for women, there is the feasible multitasking, which we are used to anyway, and the excessive kind, where the *forgot what it was I came here to do* occurs, because we are probably thinking about a lot of other stuff while our body is moving towards another activity.