As we age, many of us look for ways of improving memory and maintaining brain power.
With the increasing prevalence of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, you may see every memory slip as a possible sign of decline. However, research indicates that lifestyle factors can impact your brain’s ability to remember facts and events. Therefore, you may be able to give your brain power a boost by implementing some of the following suggestions.
Memory, like muscle strength, requires you to “use it or lose it.”
The more you work out your brain, the better you’ll be able to process and remember information. There are a lot of brain games on the market, but they have not been shown to boost your brain power beyond getting better at brain games. The best brain exercises break your routine and challenge you to use and develop new brain pathways. So getting better at the same thing is not necessarily going to improve your memory.
To strengthen the brain, you need to keep learning and developing new skills.
Therefore, you want to find activities that are challenging, enjoyable and give you satisfaction while building skills. Think of things you’ve always wanted to try, like learning to play guitar, taking an art class, playing chess, ballroom dancing, or mastering your golf swing. Any of these activities can help you improve your memory, as long as they keep you challenged and engaged.
The National Academy of Science notes that fitness may be the best tool we have against cognitive impairment. Aerobic exercise is particularly good for maintaining brain power, so choose activities that keep your blood pumping. In general, anything that is good for your heart is great for your brain. Activities that require hand-eye coordination or complex motor skills are particularly beneficial for brain building.
Take time to sleep.
Brain power is diminished when you don’t get enough sleep. You may get by on less than 7 ½ hours of daily sleep, but you won’t be operating at your most creative, best-thinking self. Try to keep to a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends. It’s best to avoid caffeine drinks later in the day and screens of any kind an hour before bed: TV, phone, computer or tablet.
A better diet can give you more brain power.
The brain needs fuel, just like the body. The type of fuel makes a big difference in how well the brain and body function. Omega 3 fatty acids are especially good for the brain. Fish, such as salmon, tuna, sardines and herring are great sources of healthy fat. Walnuts, flaxseed oil, winter squash, pinto beans, spinach and broccoli are just a few of the non-fish options for omega-3s. Fruits and vegies – especially those with a lot of color – contain antioxidants that protect the brain from damage. The polyphenols in green tea and the resveratrol in red wine or grape juice may enhance memory and slow brain aging. Just go easy on the wine. Too much of a good thing can kill brain cells rather than improve them.
Stay on top of medications and general health issues.
Many prescription and over-the-counter medications can interfere with memory. Common culprits include cold and allergy medications, sleep aids, and antidepressants. Be sure to check the possible side effects of any medications you may take. Mental health disorders, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and hormone imbalance can cause brain fog. If you are experiencing confusion, forgetfulness or slow thinking, it’s helpful to consider all the possible causes. Managing blood pressure, diabetes and general health can go a long way toward helping you maintain your brain power.