The podcast Serial has been the most downloaded and popular podcast in history The producers re-examine the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee, a Maryland teenager and the subsequent conviction by her former boyfriend Adnan Syed (of first degree murder )on the reported memories of another teenager, Jay. There is very little or no physical evidence linking Adnan to the crime, however he is currently serving a life sentence, whilst insisting he has nothing to do with Hae's murder. Reporter Sarah Koenig analyses old evidence and now is hearing 15year old recollections, and reviewing evidence of memories at the time of the investigation, from those linked to the case in a weekly series of podcasts that have proven extremely popular to her International audience.

In the absence of definitive physical evidence, how do we judge memories? It remains unclear as to whether the truth of Hae Min Lee's murder will be found, and at the end of the series, we may still only have a patchwork of stories from reported memories rather than genuine reality of what happened to Hae. The story has proved compelling and provoked much discussion regarding truth, memory and who may be responsible for the murder.

Memory is difficult to define. Attention is required to form a memory. This then leads to a working memory lasting seconds to minutes. When an event forms a short or long term memory, we are no longer thinking about the event, but can recall the event hours, weeks, months or years later.

Short and long term memory are different biologically. Long, but not short term memory involves long-standing physical changes in neurons and their communication with other neurons. This change suggests that we may be able to improve our memory with exercises and protect our memory with lifestyle factors. Some factors associated with individual differences in memory capacity, such as genetics are not within our control, lifestyle factors are.

  • The main lifestyle factors demonstrated in studies to assist memory are:
  • Regular exercise, regular activity improves blood flow to the whole body, including brain. Protect your head from repeated trauma, wear helmets and wear seatbelts.
  • Healthy diet, eating vegetables, low fat protein sources and whole grains Alcohol can lead to memory loss through biological means. Get plenty of omega 3 fats, maintain a consistent blood sugar, some foods may be more beneficial to brain health, such as green leafy vegetables, green tea, berries,  fish, ginger . Avoiding refined carbohydrates high in sugar and white flour is said to be helpful.
  • Mental stimulation, activities such as reading a section of news you usually skip, crosswords, learning to play a musical instrument, volunteer at a local organization, follow the road less travelled
  • Quality sleep, sleep helps consolidate memories, most adults require seven to eight hours per night
  • Stress management
  • An active social life , interaction helps reduce depression and stress.
  • Manage chronic conditions such as kidney, thyroid problems or depression. Various medications can affect memory and should be regularly reviewed
  • Stop smoking
  • Some supplements are currently under investigation, such as turmeric, vitamin E, ginko biloba , magnesium and coenzyme Q10 
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