Memory Maximizers: Reducing Your Stress May Improve Your Memory; Revisit New Information Soon After Learning It

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

Reducing Your Stress May Improve Your Memory

It may come as no surprise, but recent research suggests that people with higher stress levels may struggle more with memory than those who are generally more relaxed. A study published in the American Academy of Neurology journal Neurology found that adults in their 40s and 50s who had higher levels of cortisol—a hormone associated with the body’s stress response—performed worse on tests of thinking skills and memory than their peers with low levels of the so-called “stress hormone.” Higher levels of cortisol were also associated with smaller brain volume. Memory problems and brain volume shrinkage were found in the middle-aged participants before the onset of any symptoms. The researchers suggested that if high cortisol levels are found in their patients, physicians should encourage them to reduce their stress with lifestyle changes, such as getting more sleep, exercising regularly, and, if possible, with relaxation strategies, such as meditation. The study did not determine if stress reduction could actually restore brain volume or improve thinking and memory skills. However, the researchers did suggest that keeping your stress levels down may help prevent the complications observed in the study.

Revisit New Information Soon After Learning It

Whether it’s paying attention to the news, catching up with friends or family members, or through other means, you can absorb a lot of new information in a given day. And one way to help you retain that new information is to revisit it the next day. Teachers and college professors often advise students to review their class notes that same day or the next day, and that’s good advice for everyone. Research suggests that we can forget as much as 80 percent of new information we learn within a few days of learning it. Of course, a lot of that is stuff you don’t necessarily need to retain, like the previous day’s high and low temperatures or the sale price on bananas at the grocery store. But if you learned something that you want to remember for a while, make a point to think about it the day after you learn it. This will help make sure you understand the information, as well as help you retain more details, which are often the parts of memories that tend to disappear first over time. Writing the information down is helpful, as is passing on the information to someone else in conversation, an email or letter. MMM

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