9 Ways to Improve Your Memory and Brain Health
You’ve probably heard this before - that your memory and brain health peaks during early adulthood and deteriorates as you age. Not exactly the most inspiring fact ever told. Well, we’ve got some good news. It’s not completely tru!. All hope is not lost, and you need not fear wasting away into someone who doesn’t even know his or her own name.
Your brain is neuroplastic, which is just a fancy way of saying it can change for better or worse throughout your whole life - including adulthood. Your brain is like a muscle - you have to work it, or you lose it. Since not all exercises are made equal, we’ve included a list of the best ways to keep your memory maker sharp below.
A healthy lifestyle can go long way in the fight against the cognitive decline -- sometimes it feels like the hamster not only fell off the wheel but is wading through thick tar to get back on. Below is a list of some lifestyle choices to keep your brain happy, healthy, and making memories for a long time to come.
1. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep plays a vital role in memory making and overall brain health. Sleep aids in memory consolidation, problem solving, creativity, critical thinking, washing out toxic debris, and self-repair. Most adults need an average of 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep a day.
If you’re having trouble falling asleep, try staying on the same sleep schedule - even on weekends and holidays. Avoid screens before bed because the blue light they give off triggers wakefulness. Cutting back on caffeine should also help. If you’re still having issues falling asleep, try taking a natural sleep support supplement like melatonin rather than harmful prescription sleeping pills that are known to cause memory loss.
2. Eat Healthy Foods
Your body is the machine that keeps you running, you should give it the best fuel possible to reach max performance. Thankfully, foods that are good for the brain are also good for overall health. Those include fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fish, olive oils, wine, avocado, coconut oil, water, dark chocolate, and eggs. Foods you should avoid are ones that include additives, saturated and trans fats, and sugar. Research suggests that trying either the Mediterranean or Keto Diet may benefit your brain best.
Foods that are especially good for your brain include green tea, water, and those containing omega-3. Green tea has antioxidants that fight against free radicals that damage brain cells. Some research suggests green tea also enhances alertness and slows the brain aging process. Additionally, omega-3, commonly found in fish, seaweed, and some beans and nuts, is a brain superfood that helps fight against memory loss, depression, age-related decline, and even Alzheimer's.
Dehydration is something you need to consider as well. Even 2% dehydration can diminish your memory. The brain is 73% water, so it’s essential you keep your body properly hydrated.
3. Increase Exercise
Don’t be intimidated by Instagrams of model bodies with rock hard abs covered in sweat - we all hate/love those people. You don’t need to make the gym your second home to start getting benefits from physical activity. Even an afternoon walk or a morning bike ride can do amazing things for your brain and overall health.
The benefits for your brain and memory when you exercise are extensive. They include less gray matter shrinkage over time, decreased risk of memory loss, reduced stress hormones that are harmful to the brain, enhanced effects of helpful brain chemicals. It also increases in new neuronal connections, number of cells in the hippocampus (the “memory center” of your brain), and oxygen to the brain.
Try aerobic exercises to get the best results (because of the increased amount of oxygen going to the brain). Low-impact exercises (such as yoga, tai chi, and qi gong) are also excellent for memory enhancement because of the intense concentration and deep breathing (stimulating oxygen to the brain) they require. In addition, you’ll get more benefits from exercising outdoors because there are mental wellness benefits such as increased vitality, enthusiasm, and self-esteem. Working out in nature also reduces tension, depression, and fatigue. If you can, pick a rural over an urban setting to get the most benefits from your routine.
4. Lose Weight
Being overweight is detrimental to your health - your memory and brain is no exception. The more overweight you are, the worse the effects. Scientists have found a strong correlation between obesity and memory loss. People who are overweight also tend to have less brain tissue and their brains appear older than people who have a healthy weight.
The best ways to lose weight is through exercise and a healthy diet - which are also great for your memory and brain health. You could also use natural health supplements to help manage your weight. See below to get tips on getting the most out of your exercise and healthy diet for your memory.
5. Quit the Smoking Habit
This shouldn’t surprise anyone - smoking is bad for the brain. It creates free radicals - unattached oxygen molecules that are harmful to brain cells. Smoking also increases the risk of Alzheimer's Disease and dementia.
If you’re struggling to kick the habit talk to your doctor about getting extra help and try using the resources provided for free at SmokeFree.gov.
6. Spend Time with Family & Friends
What if we told you that one of the best ways to keep your memory sharp was as easy and enjoyable as spending time with friends and family? Well, it’s true! Close relationships stimulate the brain and are good for overall emotional health. Some research even suggests there’s a correlation between people with an active social life and slowest memory decline. Live far away? Then buying a pet - especially a dog- is a great alternative.
7. Manage Stress
Unmanaged, chronic stress is damaging to your overall health, including brain and memory health. Stress can damage the hippocampus, the part of the brain involved in memory creation and retrieval. This is especially so when stress is perceived as a deeply negative emotion in your life. Look at stress as a way to challenge yourself and grow and not as a detrimental feeling - your brain will act in kind.
In our busy, high-demand world, it’s not always easy to avoid stress. Some tips to lessen chronic stress are to set realistic expectations, learn to say “no,” make sure you take breaks, express your feelings rather than keeping them bottled up, find a healthy work and life balance, and focus on only one task at a time. For herbal help on the matter, try taking a natural health supplement for stress support.
8. Keep Your Brain Busy
Like we mentioned earlier, the brain is a muscle. The best way to keep it in shape is to use it, so one of the best ways to keep your brain healthy is to keep it busy. Do things that require intense concentration such as reading a demanding book or working out puzzles (number, word, or traditional puzzles all do the trick!). The goal is to make your brain think and give it a work out.
One of the best ways to keep your brain busy is to learn something new. Don’t pick something you’re already good at - the goal is to challenge your brain. It’s best to pick something that has various difficulty levels - such as playing an instrument or learning a language - so you can continue to challenge your brain during the learning process. Remember, this is about working out your brain - not about success or failure. It’s also important to focus on understanding the basic ideas rather than simply memorizing details.
9. Try Health Supplements
Maybe you don’t like how a particular food tastes, or it's expensive. Maybe you just don’t have the time to prepare a healthy meal every day, or it digests poorly. No matter the reason, health supplements are just that - a healthy way to supplement your overall health - including brain health. Below is a list of some of the best supplements for your memory and brain health.
B vitamins increase energy production in the brain and improve mood and clarity of thought. A lack of B vitamins has been linked with poor memory and concentration issues.
People have been using bacopa monnieri to boost memory and clarity of thought for over 3,000 years. It also boosts resilience to mental and physical stress.
The MCT (medium-chain triglycerides) in coconut oil is extremely useful for fighting against a wide range of neurological diseases including Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, stroke, and epilepsy. However, there is little evidence to support any increase in mental performance in brain healthy people.
EGCG or epigallocatechin gallate, one of the most important compounds in Green tea, helps protect against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. It’s also been linked to brain cell creation and reducing plaques linked to Alzheimer’s in addition to increasing the calming neurotransmitter GABA.
Ginkgo biloba is one of the most common memory and brain health supplements. It can help with short-term memory, improve blood circulation to the brain, and is especially useful for managing symptoms and slowing down early dementia and Alzheimer’s. Ginkgo biloba has been known for its blood thinning qualities, so make sure you only take the recommended dose.
Magnesium has a wide range of mood-elevating benefits in addition to nourishing the brain’s neurotransmitters and improving memory, attention, and other cognitive functions.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
While mentioned when discussing healthy food options, omega-3 is so good for your brain and it’s worth mentioning again. Not only will it help build your cerebral cortex (responsible for memory, language, creativity, emotion, and attention), but the DHA in omega-3 protects your brain from memory loss, depression, age-related mental decline, and Alzheimer's. DHA deficiency produces measurable brain shrinkage and cognitive impairments.
Phosphatidylserine provides building blocks for brain chemicals, improves cognitive functions, reduces stress, boosts memory, and protects against age-related mental decline. But be careful when you take a phosphatidylserine supplement, especially in combination with Ginkgo biloba, due to the blood thinning that might occur.
Also known as mountain ginseng, Rhodiola rosea can help alertness, concentration, memory, increasing neurotransmitter activity, and helping mood disorders.
Turmeric has shown measurable brain benefits within the hour it’s taken. Turmeric helps reduce the plaque in the brain that causes Alzheimer’s and helps remove free radicals that are harmful to overall brain health. It’s also known to increase concentration and improve memory by increasing blood flow to the brain. However, turmeric is notoriously difficult for the body to absorb, so make sure you choose a supplement with the black pepper extract piperine or with a liposomal delivery method to help increase absorption rates.
It’s time to stop believing that there’s not much you can do to improve memory and brain health after a certain age. Your brain is always changing - for better or worse. Start taking care of your brain today and let it start taking better care of you.