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Tips for improving your memory after a concussion

Staying mentally active, such as working puzzles, is a great way to keep your mind active and improve your memory, and enhance your ability to learn and retain new things. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/Lance Cpl. Paul Peterson)

Staying mentally active, such as working puzzles, is a great way to keep your mind active and improve your memory, and enhance your ability to learn and retain new things. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/Lance Cpl. Paul Peterson)

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Imagine suddenly having trouble with your memory, such as remembering to do simple things. Memory is one of the most important human functions and unfortunately, one that's often damaged after a concussion, or mild traumatic brain injury.

Remembering appointments, trying to learn and retain new information, and generally feeling confused and distracted isn't uncommon for people after a brain injury. In fact, the most common cognitive symptoms involve memory problems, decreased attention, poor concentration, slowed thinking and difficulty finding words.

What can you do? In addition to seeing your doctor, there are a number of things you can do to improve your memory and ability to learn and retain something new. Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center's tip sheet, "TBI Symptom Management: Improving Memory," offers these practical tips:

1. Avoid distractions - When you're learning new information, focus on one thing at a time. Pay close attention when you're being given directions, instructions or having conversation.

2. Get enough sleep - Seven to eight hours of sleep for adults is recommended. Are you getting enough sleep?

3. Write things down - Keep a notebook, planner or calendar with you and write down important dates, tasks or other things you need to remember.

4. Avoid alcohol, tobacco and caffeinated drinks.

5. Prioritize - Keep a list of things you need to take care of, place them in order of importance, and check them off as you complete them.

6. Maintain a routine - Being consistent can improve your ability to remember information. Simple things like leaving your keys in the same place and taking your medication at the same time each day can make it easier.

7. Stay mentally active - Reading, writing, working crossword or other puzzles are great ways to keep your mind active. Explore smartphone and tablet apps designed to exercise your brain, too.

8. Lower your stress level - Learn to say "no" when you start to feel overwhelmed, and ask for help when you need it.

9. Stay physically active - Regular exercise helps prevent fatigue and improves concentration. But before returning to physical activity, consult your doctor.

10. Eat high-quality foods regularly.

11. Allow extra time for tasks - Understand that certain things may take longer than they used to.

If you're still concerned about your symptoms, or if they're not improving, see your doctor. For more insight on tips to improve your memory and a helpful tool to track your memory problems, download our fact sheet, "TBI Symptom Management: Improving Memory."
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