Every aspect of behavior and cognition requires learning and memory. Normal aging may result in trouble learning new material or requiring longer time to recall learned material.

  • Stress alters the structure and function of brain cells. According to a leading neurologist, stress causes brain damage by reducing the ability to learn, concentrate, and recall information. The immediate effect of acute stress impairs short-term memory, particularly verbal memory.
  • Nicotine is a powerful vasoconstrictor that decreases blood flow to the brain. Smokers have an overall lower activity especially in the temporal lobes which are involved in memory.
  • Alcohol abusers have aged, shriveled brains that are less active and healthy, causing memory problems. Alcohol decreases thiamine, essential for cognitive function.
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) results from too little food, too much insulin or extra exercise. Millions of Americans suffer from its effects that include mental confusion.
  • Dehydration causes poor brain function. Brain cells are composed of 75-85 percent water.

How to Improve Memory

  • Get enough sleep. Fatigue impairs concentration, planning, problem-solving, learning, alertness, and memory. For example, if you have been awake for 21 hours straight, your abilities are equivalent to someone who is legally drunk. Sleep is when your brain processes new memories, solves problems, and practices/hones new skills.
  • Eat breakfast. The brain is best fueled by a steady supply of glucose. Many studies have shown that skipping breakfast reduces people's performance at school and at work.
  • The more active you are physically, the less age-related damage there is to your brain tissues. Studies have shown that moderate exercise leads to a dramatic increase in cognitive functioning. Exercise promotes the growth of new brain cells.
  • Niacin helps improve memory (short-term, long-term, and sensory). Medical evidence shows that low levels of folic acid are linked to memory loss. Lipoic acid boosts memory by rejuvenating the functioning of specific receptors on nerve cell membranes.
  • The brain is around 60 percent fat. The average American diet is seriously deficient in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 3s speed-up brain efficiency. The faster the transmission rate, the more efficient the brain learns and remembers information.
  • Tyrosine is an amino acid needed for the production of the neurotransmitters dopamine and noradrenalin, among others. Supplementing your intake can improve alertness and memory.
  • Antioxidants neutralize molecules known as free radicals before cells can be harmed. The DNA of a single cell takes about ten thousand free radical hits per day. Antioxidants manage to repair at least 99 percent of the free radical damage to cells. They are best when consumed in foods, generally fruits and vegetables with the deepest colors. Diets rich in antioxidants are linked to mental dexterity and prevent damage to the brain's neurons.
  • Pay attention by cutting down on distractions. Workplace studies have found that it takes up to 15 minutes to regain a deep state of concentration after a distraction such as a phone call. Also, psychologists recommend you avoid working near potential diversions.
  • Mnemonic techniques are specific memory aids. An acronym is the first letter from a group of words to form a new word. Acrostics use the first letter of each word and instead of making a new word, use the letters to make a sentence.


NIH, MSNBC, NewScientist, WebMD, Science Daily, Your Body's Many Cries for Water by Dr. Batmanhelijid, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Prevention Magazine, Your Miracle Brain by Jean Carper, The Washington Post, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, American Council on Exercise, American Psychological Association, Change Your Brain, Change Your Life by Dr. Daniel Amen, Time, The Wellness Book by Dr. Herbert Benson, Newsweek, Memory Fitness Institute,,, and Washington and Shady Grove Adventist Hospitals. The Health Tip of the Week is for educational purposes only. For additional information, consult your physician. Please feel free to copy and distribute this health resource.

Shady Grove Adventist Hospital is located at 9901 Medical Center Drive in Rockville . For more information or to receive our newsletter with details about medical services, health classes, and upcoming events, go to To find a local physician, call 1-800-642-0101 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

These Health Tips are for educational purposes only. For additional information, consult your physician. Please feel free to copy and distribute this health resource.