In 2022, over six million Americans deal with Alzheimer’s and other types of memory loss, and every year, these numbers increase at an alarming rate. While cases of dementia are more prevalent in older people, many younger people are prone to mild cognitive impairment. When left untreated, MCI can develop into Alzheimer’s in five years.
Although declining memory is associated with growing old, there are several ways and tips to keep your brain healthy and sharp. Here are some tips on how to improve your memory.
Feed your Brain Right
A healthy adult brain has more than 100 billion neurons, each with its long extensions that function without rest 24/7 for a lifetime. While it only weighs around 2% of your entire body weight, it needs at least 20% more oxygen and nutrients to function well. But providing enough fuel to your brain isn’t enough. The neurons in your brain need specific amounts of micronutrients to ensure stability and stay in peak condition. A healthy diet filled with foods providing these nutrients is a great way to improve your memory. Make changes to your eating habits by adding these foods and drinks to your daily meals.
Fatty fish. Fat makes up around two-thirds of the entire brain. Half of this fat has omega-3 fatty acids. Your brain uses these fatty acids to build and repair nerve cells. Research also shows that omega-3s are essential in learning and slow down age-related memory decline. Fatty fishes like salmon, trout, herring, and tuna are rich sources of these much-needed fatty acids.
Coffee. Drinking coffee is a morning must-have for many people nowadays. While too much caffeine can lead to undesirable situations such as addiction, having the right amount every day can do wonders for your brain health. The high concentration of caffeine and antioxidants in coffee increases your brain’s alertness, improves mood, and sharpens your concentration. Long-term coffee drinking can also reduce the risks of neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Dark chocolate. Even your brain needs some chocolate for snacks. Unlike regular milk chocolate, dark chocolate contains more than 70% cocoa content. It provides brain-boosting micronutrients, including flavonoids and caffeine. Recent studies show that flavonoids in chocolate enhance your memory and slow down memory decline from aging. Moreover, chocolate is an ideal mood booster.
One of the best tips to improve brain health is to eat well and healthily. Add more salmon or tuna dishes to your meals, drink the appropriate caffeine dosage daily, and treat yourself to some dark-chocolate desserts and snacks.
“The brain consumes an immense amount of energy relative to the rest of the body. Thus, the mechanisms that are involved in the transfer of energy from foods to neurons are likely to be fundamental to the control of brain function.” – Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, Professor-in-Residence, Neurosurgery, University of California.
Doing physical activities helps improve your overall brain health. It helps with thinking and learning and gives you emotional stability. Exercising comes with more benefits than losing weight. It keeps your body, mind, and soul fit. The lack of physical activity or practicing a sedentary lifestyle makes the cognitive decline in adults faster. It means you can start having a mild cognitive impairment and duller memory before you reach 60.
(Project Bold Life has written on the link between aging and exercise before- read more about it here!)
Physical activities improve your focus and concentration because of better oxygen flow. Your heart pumps faster, allowing blood and oxygen to move more efficiently. But being active isn’t limited to physical exercises. Your brain also needs mental exercises. Studies have proven that mind-stimulating activities can make new connections between brain cells and promote cell growth. Mental stimulation helps your brain develop neurological plasticity that protects you from degenerative memory loss.
Here are some of the most popular brain exercises for sharp memory that you can do.
- Working on a jigsaw puzzle
- Playing card games (solitaire, poker, crazy eights)
- Learning new skills and languages (instrument/sport)
- Listening and playing music
Remember that your brain needs to keep working to stay sharp. While having a routine is beneficial, keeping the same thing for a long time will dull your brain. Being active can be as easy as breaking your usual weekly regime, like taking a walk in the park after work or reading a book.
“Habitual exercise has a variety of positive effects on the human body, from regulating cardiorespiratory and cardiovascular fitness to improving glycemia and insulin response. In addition, as discussed, it is a way of maintaining not only a healthy body but also a healthy mind at any age. In particular, it can represent a non-pharmacological (and sometimes enjoyable) strategy to delay the effects of both physiological aging and pathological neurodegeneration on brain health.” -Carlo Maria Di Liegro, Associate Professor, Biological, Chemical, and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Technologies, University of Palermo.
Less Stress is Always Best
Stress is an inevitable part of life. There will always be times when things don’t work out and overwhelm you. They are troublesome, but short-term stress often helps you regroup, focus, and get more motivated to deal with your problems. Although stress can stimulate your brain, chronic stress is a different matter.
Prolonged stress can affect brain health in several ways. It can change your brain over time and can lead to faster memory decline. Many studies also show that too much stress can increase the risks of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.
Proper stress management is essential to avoid any stress buildup and lessen the effects of stressful events. You can do this by working out every day, keeping a journal, and practicing relaxation techniques like meditation and breathing exercises.
“High stress in Childhood and Adulthood was associated with decreases in executive function and working memory in both males and females.’ -Elizabeth McManus, Lecturer in Psychology, Division of Psychology & Mental Health, School of Health Sciences, University of Manchester.
How to Improve Your Memory: Change, Consistency, Calmness
Having a declining memory as you age is often a common occurrence. While growing old can dull your brain, suffering from cognitive disorders is a big no. Its increasing cases among younger people only push the need to call for action. There are several ways how to improve brain health, but it all focuses on the three C’s. Make changes in your lifestyle, stay consistent with these changes, and remain calm to avoid stressing too much.
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