Does your mind sometimes go blank when you’re trying to remember the name of the film you were talking about only yesterday? Are you unable to pluck the right word from your brain, even though you know the one you want to use? How about walking into a room to get something, but in the seconds it has taken you to go from one room to the next, you’ve forgotten why you were going there in the first place?
It’s easy to be ironic and label these memory lapses as senior moments – senior, moi? – but who can say that they haven’t occasionally worried that the old grey cells aren’t what they used to be? I know I feel concerned that my misspent youth is finally catching up with me, and I can’t be alone in that thought.
Here’s a fact that will cheer you up. Recent research suggests that middle-aged memory lapse has less to do with the brain slowing down than knowing too much, as scientists are now saying that memory blips can be blamed on your mind being crammed with too much irrelevant information. This revelation doesn’t mean you are a genius; it just means that as we grow older we lose the ability to de-clutter our minds and useless facts interfere with our concentration.
The experts recommend that we spring-clean our minds, though that sounds easier said than done. It’s not as if our brains are a filing cabinet that we can physically empty. The trick, apparently, is to keep sharp by acquiring new skills – such as learning a new language or a musical instrument – as well as getting a good night’s sleep and consciously trying to avoid stress.
Keep up your fluid intake, too: a two per cent loss of body water can cause trouble focusing, fuzziness and short-term memory loss. Take good quality fish oil capsules, as an Omega-3 deficiency can hamper your concentration. And eat a diet rich in dark green vegetables, salmon, bananas, avocados and blueberries, all of which improve brain function.
Just as we should schedule time to keep physically fit, we should do the same for our brains, so aim to build some form of brain training into your daily schedule. This could be Sudoku, crosswords, electronic brain-training games or exercises on your computer. There are numerous websites dedicated to improving concentration and memory. Even simple tasks such as mentally totting up the bill as you shop in the supermarket, or memorising a short list instead of writing it down, can help hone your brain.
Each time you learn a new skill or memorise new information, the neurons and connections in your brain increase, which blows out of the water the myth that age atrophies our minds. All power to the grey matter!