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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Dr Angelica L Dumapit and Physician Brandon Yew on August 18, 2022

Best Tips to Help You Overcome Short Term Memory Loss

It's easy to become distracted and forgetful in today's stressful world. Here's what you can do to help ward off short term memory loss.

Short term memory loss min scaled

If you have ever watched the movie “Finding Nemo,” then you’ve seen firsthand how short term memory loss affected the character Dory.

Short term memory loss involves problems with forming new memories. It occurs when new memories can’t form into long term memories, so you keep forgetting new things that recently happened.

Although being forgetful can be a bad habit, it doesn’t always mean something is wrong.

But, in some cases, forgetting where you put things is the first sign of a more serious health complication, such as dementia.

In this guide, we’ll help you identify whether your short term memory loss is normal and how to help sharpen your recall power.

What Is Short Term Memory Loss?

Short term memory loss may include forgetting why you came into a room.

Short term memory is a critical brain function that stores the information you need for a short amount of time. Examples include remembering that you need to stop your car when the traffic light is red or something your boss said in a meeting last week.

Causes

Forgetting where you put things or taking a long time trying to recall the names of old friends are part of the normal aging process. The neurons in your brain take a little longer to piece together the information, just like how the rest of your body slows down or decreases in performance compared to when you were younger.

Memory loss can also be unnaturally caused by brain impairment. It could occur through direct trauma injury to the head from falling or playing high-impact sports.

Certain medications or medical conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, can also cause short term memory loss.

In this case, the brain’s functioning is so severely compromised that the person is unable to do basic tasks or remember the names of loved ones. They may also have changes in their personality and temperament.

How To Treat Short Term Memory Loss

When your short term memory loss involves more than just misplacing things, such as not realizing that you had already asked a certain question during a conversation, this could be considered a mild cognitive impairment.

It doesn’t necessarily lead to dementia, but it is a possible progression between normal aging and developing severe dementia where you’re unable to live independently.

This kind of short term memory loss could remain, worsen, or even go away. So, what can you do to address or prevent it?

Both Western medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) have ways to address this. While Western medicine may focus on specific parts of the brain and its functions, TCM addresses short term memory loss by improving the circulation of qi or vital life force.

“In TCM, we must look at the factors that disrupt the qi and blood circulation. Short term memory loss causes the formation and accumulation of pathogenic factors like Dampness, Phlegm, Qi Stagnation, and Blood stasis within the meridian channels. It also impedes the proper distribution of nutrients to orifices of the head and the brain,” shares Real Health Medical Senior TCM Physician Brandon Yew. 

Focus on restorative sleep

Have you noticed that you have trouble remembering things the day after a poor night’s rest?

Because sleep and rest are seen as us “doing nothing,” it is often sacrificed or neglected. In fact, a lot happens in our bodies when we sleep. This is when our brain reprocesses and cleans up memories to keep what’s important and discard what’s not.

Therefore, start getting serious about proper rest to let your brain cells regroup and refresh.

Exercise to boost blood flow

Tai chi is a form of exercise that may help reduce the risk of dementia.

Exercise improves brain circulation. It shows particularly in the hippocampus region of the brain, which is the learning and memory center. Studies have shown aerobic exercises in older people improve mild cognitive impairment.

Interestingly, tai chi, a Chinese martial art practice focused on visual-spatial choreographed movements aligned with breathing, can help reduce the risk of developing dementia.

Research indicates that it may even be better at maintaining cognitive function in combination with other physical exercises rather than exercise alone. 

Exercise your brain, too

Developing new habits that train and discipline the brain directly also helps. Attaching new memory to existing knowledge is a known method of improving cognition and memory.

For example, making your new password or PIN code your wedding anniversary could help you remember it more easily. This is not unlike how we learn nursery rhymes or connect colors, animals, and sounds together.

Another known method is repetition and practice. An example is repeating or saying someone’s name out loud when meeting them for the first time.

Nourish your brain through a healthy diet

The Mediterranean diet has been shown to help reduce the risk of dementia.

It’s no secret that healthy eating practices also improve brain health. Researchers found that adults with the highest daily intake of flavonoids, such as those in berries, were less likely to report trouble with memory and thinking.

TCM herbs like Ginkgo Biloba can improve blood circulation in the brain. It allows better utilization of glucose and oxygen and is commonly combined with other TCM medicinal foods, such as essence of chicken

Herbal Formulas That Help Improve Memory Loss

Stimulate brain function with these recommended formulas:

  • Yi Qi Cong Ming Tang
  • Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang
  • Er Long Zuo Ci Wan
  • Tong Qiao Huo Xue Tang
  • Di Tan Tang
  • Qiang Huo Sheng Shi Tang 

Physician Yew cautions the use of the decoctions. He says, “Bear in mind that these herbal formulas are meant for varying syndromes of brain fog characterized by different pathological combinations. You shouldn’t purchase any of them to self-medicate. Undergo a thorough consultation and proper assessment followed by professional guidance by a TCM practitioner.”

Acupressure and acupuncture 

In addition to a healthy diet and exercise, there are some interventional modalities in TCM that can help. As shared by Physician Yew, massaging acupoints that improve qi and blood circulation in the head orifices and brain can help with brain fog.

These points include Bai Hui (DU20) and Feng Chi (GB20). Acupuncture has also been shown to stem the development of certain protein plaques in the brain that cause Alzheimer’s disease. 

Short term memory loss is not the final say on whether you will develop severe dementia. Taking steps to preserve and maintain your brain health can help reduce the risk of developing cognitive impairment later.

While they’re not necessarily the cause, certain risk factors are associated with mild cognitive impairment. These include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, having experienced a stroke or head injury, and smoking. Live a healthier life, and your brain will thank you. 

References

  1. Harvard Health Publishing. Memory. 
  2. Cleveland Clinic. 2019. Memory Problems: What is Normal Aging and What is Not. 
  3. StatPearls. 2022. Short Term Memory Impairment.  
  4. National Institutes of Health. 2013. Sleep On It: How Snoozing Strengthens Memories  
  5. Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard finds flavonoids linked to sharper thinking and memory. 
  6. Frontiers in Pharmacology. 2021. The Use of Ginkgo Biloba L. as a Neuroprotective Agent in the Alzheimer’s Disease.
  7. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 2022. Exercise Training Improves Memory Performance in Older Adults: A Narrative Review of Evidence and Possible Mechanisms. 
  8. Clinical Interventions in Aging. 2019. The effectiveness of Tai Chi for short-term cognitive function improvement in the early stages of dementia in the elderly: a systematic literature review. 
  9. Frontiers in Neuroscience. 2020. Experimental Evidence of the Benefits of Acupuncture for Alzheimer’s Disease: An Updated Review. 

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