Keren Smedley 8th May 2017

Experience Matters Empowering the 50 plusA number of people who I’ve recently talked to have been very concerned about their memory. So I thought it would be useful to write about it.

I’m not sure whether it’s a fact that our memory deteriorates because we’re in our 50s. Of course, debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia leave people with no memory to speak of and they can sometimes affect people in their 50s although, thankfully, that’s reasonably rare.

If the blood supply to brain tissue is poor, the oxygen received is reduced and this will cause damage – as will a clot or haemorrhage – and the outcome will be memory loss. This happens naturally in much older brains or where there is disease but not usually in the brain of a fit and healthy person in their 50s or 60s. We do lose a number of brain cells as we get older but very few in proportion to the ones that remain and the reality is that we’ve been losing a few since we were approximately sixteen! As we get older, our long-term memory gets clearer while our short-term may suffer.

I’m not dismissing the fact that people are concerned about forgetting names, keys, glasses and so on. Most of us do that. But, truthfully, were you someone who never did this before? Thought so!

Of course, if it feels significantly different and it’s causing you concern, go and see your GP. My hunch, though, is that it’s probably due to a number of factors, most of which you can eliminate.

First and foremost are the beliefs we hold. If we believe that as we get older our memory will begin deteriorate, then every time we forget something, we’ll blame it on our advancing years. What’s more, if that’s what we think is the explanation, it’ll become another self-fulfilling prophecy.

Worry also affects our ability to remember and can prematurely age our brains. The physiological responses are useful when there’s a real danger but not when there isn’t! There’s evidence that some of the chemical reactions associated with stress such as the production of glucocorticoids has an effect on the ageing of the brain cells and its ability to remake new connections. In short, stress ages the brain. It creates the same behaviours we equate with ageing – in other words, we become forgetful.

The other debilitating factor is tiredness. When we’re exhausted, we’re unable to function as effectively. We become clumsy and forgetful and inarticulate. We may stay up late to finish something and come back to it in the morning to find we hadn’t done our best piece of work.

Having said all of that, worrying about our memory is the worst thing we can do for it! If we accept that there’ll be times when we’re forgetful, there are techniques to help us remember things.

I’ve recently been introduced to some natural products that can help with stress and memory loss.  If you’re interested in finding out more please get in touch. I rarely recommend products as there are so many on the market and some seem to be more helpful for some people than others. I’ve broken the rule here as think they are really good.

Best wishes, Keren

Experience Matters is an organisation set up to empower the 50+ and to help us to manage this next stage of life. We offer coaching, workshops, advice and information. 

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