What was I going to write about, again? Oh, right! Memory! Memory is one of the most important skills we need to navigate through our daily lives. But as we grow older, our memory-abilities may start to decline. Fortunately, there are measures you can take to boost your memory and keep your mind quick as a… what’s the word… whip!
- Sugar: Consuming lots of added sugar can worsen your memory and decrease brain volume, says Jillian Kubala, MS, RD.
- Fish: Fish and fish oil supplements have lots of omega-3 fatty acids, which can improve short-term, working, and episodic memory, says Kubala.
- Alcohol: While moderate drinking is usually fine, says Kubala, binge drinking can damage your hippocampus, a part of your brain key to memory.
- Refined carbs: Like added sugar, these can spike blood sugar levels and damage your brain over time, says Kubala. Consuming lots of refined carbs has also been associated with dementia, cognitive decline, and reduced brain function.
- Vitamin-D: Low levels of vitamin-D has been associated with age-related cognitive decline and dementia. If you think you might have low levels of vitamin D, Kubala says to ask your doctor for a blood test.
- Berries: Anti-inflammatory foods, especially berries, are great for your brain. To incorporate more anti-inflammatory foods into your diet, Kubala suggests consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables.
- Cocoa: Cocoa, which you can get by eating dark chocolate with 70% cacao or higher, may help improve memory performance, Kubala says.
- Meditteranean diet: “The Mediterranean diet promotes a healthy heart and improved circulatory system—when circulation is enhanced, oxygen and nutrients are more easily able to reach the brain, which can help to enhance learning and memory,” fitness and nutrition expert Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE says. It’s also associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s and mild cognitive impairment.
- Caffeine: “Small amounts of caffeine can make you more alert, which can improve memory and concentration—one study even found that caffeine improved long-term memory,” Palinski-Wade says. “However, excessive intake of caffeine can have a negative impact as it can reduce quality sleep, which over time can cause a decline in memory and concentration.”
- Meditation: “Research suggests meditation may increase gray matter in the brain and improve spatial working memory,” says Kubala. Practicing mindfulness techniques has also been associated with increased memory performance, and are linked to reduced age-related cognitive decline.
- Sleep: You consolidate your memories during sleep. “You’re also likely to perform better on memory tests if you’re well-rested than if you’re sleep-deprived,” says Kubala. Naps can also help. “In one study, people were given pairs of unrelated words to remember, and after, one group took a nap and the other watched videos,” sleep expert Richard Shane, Ph.D., says. “The group that took a nap had a five-fold improvement in associative memory—the ability to remember a link between items that are unrelated—compared with the group that watched videos.”
- Exercise: No surprise, right? “Even moderate exercise for short periods has been shown to improve cognitive performance, including memory, across all age groups,” says Kubala. And since obesity is a risk factor for cognitive decline, it’s best to keep your BMI in a healthy range
- Organize: “Having a routine can be very helpful for memory,” says Jennifer Zientz, MS, “Routines help us attain efficiency so we don’t have to expend a lot of brainpower on predictable elements of our day. Efficiency in everyday activities frees up time and brainpower for more meaningful things in our lives.”
- Engage: Involving other senses, such as saying things out loud, can help you remember. “Most of us learn better when we can take information in through more than one sense because it puts the information in a greater context,” says Zientz. Connecting new information with old can also help, e.g. if someone’s name is Daisy, picture the flower as well. Summarizing new info is useful, too. “Summarizing activates the brain’s frontal networks to do the ‘heavy lifting’ of synthesizing, or aggregating, different pieces of knowledge to create something new,” Sandra Bond Chapman, Ph.D., founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHealth, says.
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