Memory Maximizers: Acting & Prospective Memory; Vitamin B12 Levels

Here's the latest research to help you keep your brain sharp.

Acting May Help Improve Prospective Memory

If you need help remembering what to buy at the store or what to do before you leave the house on a trip, try acting out those behaviors ahead of time. Researchers at the University of Chichester in England recently published a study that found older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) benefit from enactment techniques, such as “performing” the actions you want to remember. Recalling actions you plan to take or intentions for the future is known as prospective memory. It could be something as simple as remembering to turn off the TV before you leave home or something more serious, such as taking medication at a certain time or completing all your rehab exercises as you recover at home from surgery. As you age, your prospective memory diminishes somewhat. But the researchers, whose study was published recently in the journal Neuropsychology, found that recreating the action of turning off the TV or whatever task you hope to remember can help you follow through with that action. In their study, researchers tried enactment techniques with nearly 100 participants, ages 64 to 87, and younger adults ages 18 to 22. Pretending to perform a task helped people in all age groups remember to do that behavior later on. The researchers were especially encouraged that the prospective memory of people with MCI, a condition that can be a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, benefitted from acting out a variety of tasks. While it may seem awkward at first, a little rehearsal before taking on something in the future may help you recall what you need to do much more easily.

Check Your Vitamin B12—Boosting Low Levels May Give Your Brain a Boost

You may take vitamin supplements hoping they’ll give your health a boost or at least fill in the nutritional gaps in your diet. The effectiveness of vitamin supplements is often debated. However, there is little controversy about the importance of vitamin B12 when it comes to cognition and memory. Vitamin B12 helps maintain healthy nerve cells, including those in your brain, as well as helps your body manufacture red blood cells. In fact, if you notice memory problems or fuzzy thinking, you may want to have your B12 levels checked. It’s normal for vitamin B12 levels to decline as we age. Fortunately, supplementing vitamin B12 with tablets or injections can boost your levels relatively quickly and start to reverse any memory or thinking-skills problems the B12 deficiency may have caused. Along with older adults, vegetarians are also at higher risk for B12 deficiency, largely because the vitamin is seldom found in plant foods. It can be more commonly found in meat, poultry, fish and dairy products. As in the case of a condition known as pernicious anemia, if your levels are significantly lower than normal, you may require supplements, regardless of your diet. You simply may not be able to eat enough high-B12 foods to raise your levels sufficiently. If your doctor recommends B12 injections, you may start by having them once a week and then taper off to once a month. However, it’s important that you have your levels checked regularly and not take chances and make guesses about whether you need vitamin B12 supplementation. Letting your levels get too low can lead to serious health problems, including heart and brain complications. Normal vitamin B12 levels, measured with a blood test, are between 200 and 900 picograms (pg) per milliliter. Levels below 200 pg/mL are likely to trigger symptoms and require supplementation.

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