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December 31, 1993 - Image 64

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-12-31

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

"WE KNOW HOW TO TREAT
A WOMAN . . . AND A MAN"

Therapeutic Massages

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MEMORY page

13

Or how about the high school
dropout who can rattle off base-
ball statistics from 10 years ago.
Essentially, some people's
brains are better at formulat-
ing concepts or organizing in-
formation while others excel in
storing details.
Aside from age, memory can
be hampered by psychological
stress like grief or fatigue, sub-
stance abuse, vitamin deficien-
cies, or by certain medications
and illnesses.
The Memory Institute's Dr.
Mendels estimates that 10 per-
cent of patients who see him for
a suspected memory problem
actually need treatment for de-
pression or anxiety — both
common causes of memory dys-
function.
Memory decline also may be
caused by misuse or disuse. Of
229 older adults studied by
Seattle researchers, 40 percent

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WERE FIGHTING FOR YOUR LIFE

were able to regain memory
abilities after five one-hour
training sessions. The average
person over 60 will score 10 to
20 percent higher on a memory
test after 10 classes, says Dr.
Robin West, associate professor
of psychology at the University.
of Florida in Gainesville and au-
thor of "Memory Fitness Over
40."

Improve Indexing

Dr. Mendels likens the brain
to a filing cabinet that needs to
be organized properly to do the
job.
"The critical thing in im-
proving memory is to improve
one's indexing system," he said.
"Everyone has a far better
memory capacity than he uses.
The key is developing skills to
take advantage of the poten-
tial."
"Use it or lose it" goes the
maxim. "A well-trained 75-year-
old can have a better memory
than a 25-year-old," Dr. Crook
maintained. Experts agree that
regular mental stimulation en-
hances the brain's performance.
One study also showed that aer-
obic exercise improves mental

response time in adults over 65.
How do you know if your
memory is slipping enough to
warrant medical attention?
Doctors say that serious mem-
ory loss is usually accompanied
by other problems, such as
speaking difficulty or disorien-
tation. Warning signs for
Alzheimer's would be forgetting
the name of a spouse or getting
lost in your neighborhood. Not
including Alzheimer's patients,
only 10 to 15 percent of people
over 60 have significant mem-
ory problems, Dr. Mendels says.
Among younger people with
memory complaints, says Uni-
versity of Florida's Dr. West, the
culprit is more likely anxiety or
stress. Memory loss can be the
body's way of saying "slow
down."

Sharpen Your Skills

According to Dr. West, "The
biggest myth about memory is
that it always declines with age
and that you can't improve it so
you might as well sit back and
let it rot. People in their 60s and
70s have enormous potential for
improvement."
The best way to sharpen your
memory is to enhance the way
you encode information in your
brain. The following exercises
work for all ages:
• Pay attention! You're more
inclined to forget what you read
if the TV is on, music is playing,
or you're tired.
• Make a mental picture. Vi-
sualize Mr. Green with a lime-
colored tie or a girl named Jean
wearing jeans. Focus on a
prominent facial feature to re-
member a face.
• Connect new information
to something you already know.
To remember a date, associate
the day and month with anoth-
er event. Or link an acquain-
tance to the place you met.
• Act on thoughts promptly.
If you want to remember an
umbrella and letter to mail,
place them near the door.
• Always keep things in a set
place and try announcing it (if
only to yourself) out loud. For
example, tell yourself "I'm
putting these eyeglasses in the
top right drawer."
• Block out distractions.
When you go upstairs to get
something, don't think about
anything else until the item is
in your hand.
• Write it down. It's not
cheating to carry a memo pad.
It's OK to jot down birthdays
and anniversaries on your new
1994 calendar, or to program
your computer to remind you of
these dates.
• Stay mentally fit. After re-
tirement, it's especially impor-
tant to, keep up your memory
through activities such as play-
ing cards or taking classes. ❑

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