Suffering from memory lapses? Here are simple and creative ways to protect brain health

October 09, 2023

memory lapses

MakatiMed shares actionable tips to stave off memory loss

We’ve all had to deal with memory lapses now and then—it could be as simple as forgetting someone’s name in a conversation or leaving your keys at home. But did you know that sometimes these memory lapses can be a symptom of a much more serious condition? It could be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease. 

“Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, which typically affects older people,” says Donnabelle Chu, MD, from the Department of Neurology of the top hospital in the Philippines, Makati Medical Center (MakatiMed). “The Philippines has the 172nd highest death rate of the disease in the world, with 2,010 people dying from it in 2022.”

Dr. Chu goes on to explain that Alzheimer’s disease typically gets worse over time, starting with mild memory loss and gradually declining to the point where people cannot live independently. Certain factors also increase the risk of developing the disease, such as age, family history, genetics, a history of head trauma, and more. The good news is, you can take steps to reduce your risk of worsening memory loss and developing Alzheimer’s later in life. 

According to Dr. Chu, one helpful technique is the mind palace technique used by famed fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. “With the mind palace technique, you think of an imaginary location within your mind. The palace can be any space you’re familiar with such as your school or neighborhood. You then associate specific pieces of information with different locations or objects within the mental palace,” explains Dr. Chu. “As you move through the palace, you can effortlessly retrieve the information by recalling the corresponding location or object.” 

For example, you might picture leaving a loaf of bread on a sofa in your mental palace. As you walk through your mental palace, seeing your sofa reminds you to pick up bread from the grocery.

But that is not all MakatiMed recommends you do to stave off memory loss. Adding aerobic exercises such as running, jogging, Zumba or ballroom dancing, and biking to your daily routine boosts blood flow to your brain and increases the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain involved in verbal memory and learning, and these benefits accrue no matter what age you start. 

Getting enough sleep is also crucial in strengthening memory. The NREM or non-rapid eye movement sleep cycle stage aids in the transfer of facts and concepts to long-term memory, while the REM or rapid eye movement sleep stage enhances procedural memory and the integration of learned skills. Both stages of sleep play essential roles in memory processing and retention.

It also helps to play board and card games like chess or checkers. These games force your brain to work and exercise your memory while still having fun. Even simpler games like 20 questions (where one player asks another to guess the person, place, or thing that they’re thinking of) provide the same benefits. Reading books, doing crossword puzzles or word search games, and pursuing interests can also help slow down memory decline as these are activities that encourage you to pay more attention to more information and require you to understand and analyze them quickly. 

Social interaction can also help prevent Alzheimer’s. By simply listening to information or analyzing cues when communicating, your brain requires you to think and respond, supporting a healthier mind that has the capability to connect with other people. Aside from this, bonding with friends and loved ones can help you to de-stress.

“One does not have to resign oneself to memory loss and equate older age to dementia. With a healthier lifestyle and creative techniques like the mind palace, a lot can be done to protect your brain health and stay mentally sharp for as long as possible,” shares Dr. Chu. “If your memory lapses have become more frequent and are interrupting your daily activities, it is best to consult with a health professional as soon as possible.” 

For more information, please contact the Department of Neurology through MakatiMed On-Call at +632.88888 999, email, or visit Follow @IamMakatiMed on Facebook and Twitter.