Five ways to ... improve your memory

We all have "senior moments" - more and more as we age - but if your forgetfulness is having an impact on your daily life you should see your GP. Otherwise, whatever your age, the following measures may kick-start your memory:

1 Use memory techniques. Popular ones include "chunking" - breaking up information into bite-sized chunks that are easier to remember (for instance, break down a phone number into batches of smaller numbers), "self-reference" - refer new information to yourself (if introduced to a Bob, think of other Bobs you know).

2 Develop new mental skills. Learn to speak a new language or to play a musical instrument, challenge your brain with Sudoku and crosswords. Such activity improves the brain's physiological functioning and could keep your memory sharp.

3 Be a clever eater. "Population studies suggest that omega 3 fatty acids, found in oily fish such as salmon and mackerel (and linseeds, see left), could play a role in memory and concentration," says Dr Toni Steer of MRC Human Nutrition Research in Cambridge. Eating regular meals that contain slow-burning carbohydrates [so-called "low glycaemic index" foods, such as porridge or lentils] could also improve your memory.

4 Reduce stress. Studies show that chronic over-secretion of stress hormones can adversely affect brain function, especially memory. When stressed, your body releases the hormone cortisol, which interferes with the function of neurotransmitters. This is why people in crisis forget things and can't "think straight".

5 Meditate. One recent US study found that the daily practice of meditation thickened the parts of the brain's cerebral cortex responsible for decision making, attention and memory. Try "mindfulness" techniques, where you focus on an image, sound or your own breathing.

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