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Down the memory lane

August 19th, 2015


Down the memory lane

Aging is a natural process, but most of us are so afraid of getting old because we know that we will grow weaker and more forgetful. In fact, one of the indicators that say you are getting old is the fact that you do things more slowly and you forget things. What’s that person’s name? Where did I put my wallet? Where’s my car key? Where’s my phone?

Forgetfulness is many people’s concern, and there are many supplementary foods and programs that promise to help “recover” your aging memories. In Buddhism, we can slow down amnesia by staying conscious by practicing meditation and vipasana. Still, there’s no stopping time from making us older. It’s just another fact of life.


Heart disease patients these days live longer due to advanced technologies and medicines. It is not rare to see 90-year-old heart disease patients now. However, despite the healthy body, I’ve seen some of my older patients forgetting things, even my name!

There was a study about brain exercise in 2,800 people aged 65 years and above. They were divided into four groups. The first group was brain-trained by meditating and memorizing. The second group was trained to think logically. The third group focused on quick response such as describing what they see on the computer screen. The fourth group was not trained at all.

It was found that the third group had the best quality of brain after the training. However, after five years, the three brain-trained groups all saw deteriorating memories, but less than the non-trained group.

In conclusion, if your brain is constantly used, no matter how old you are, it will still function.

Another study in the US found that older people who played games regularly, ate right and exercised have better memories than those who didn’t. I think so too because I’ve seen so many of my patients sharpening their memory by playing cards!

The brain is a complicated organ and it is responsible for great roles. However, training one particular function of the brain cannot save other areas. For example, old people who play chess every day might still forget to take medicine or forget friends’ names. My patient who always plays cards with me can’t remember my name! but she can do any calculation without any difficulty.

There has been advice that elderly should try to do things in different way and order as often as possible in particular in their routine daily activity. For example, try to brush their teeth after showing in the morning if they used to brush their teeth before showering or drive using different direction, etc. This will make the brain learning new things all the time.

Still, it is better to get some practice than to do nothing at all. There is no clear evidence that amnesia or Alzheimer’s disease can be prevented, but staying active can help ward off depression. Meeting people, watching television, and reading newspapers can also improve the quality of their lives. The best medicine is love and understanding from family members. With this medicine, growing old isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Prof Nithi Mahanonda is consultant cardiologist and interventionist, Perfect Heart Institute.


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