People of all ages have something in common — who wouldn’t want a better memory and a sharper mind? That desire grows stronger in many of us as we grow older and our bodies age.
These biological changes include loss of brain mass and a breakdown of neurotransmitters, brain chemicals that send messages between cells. These changes could mean decreased short term memory, as well as an increased risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Today, health experts know that the decline in brain health can be slowed and that new neurotransmitter connections can be made by training the brain — at any age.
These tips can help you improve your memory and your brain health.
Work the body
Researchers have long linked exercise to better brain health, crediting it with improvements in cerebral blood flow that increases brain metabolism. This in turn stimulates the production of neurotransmitters and the formation of new synapses. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests that you strive for at least two and a half hours of aerobic exercise a week.
Interact with people
There’s ample proof that strong relationships contribute to longer, healthier lives. Maintain close friendships and go out of your way to meet new people.
Challenge your brain
One of the keys to improving your memory is to test yourself, which goes beyond reading. You need to be able to recall and apply what you learn. Some suggestions are to play a recall game after reading to see what specific facts you can remember.
Challenge yourself with problem solving puzzles. Do something outside of your comfort zone, such as learning a new language, taking a new class, traveling to a new place or starting a new hobby. Or, get the best out of brain exercise and social interaction — play games with friends, debate policy or recite poetry and book excerpts from memory.
Feed the brain what it needs
Foods high in essential fatty acids and foods high in antioxidants, such as vitamins E and C, help protect the brain. For overall health as well as brain health, the USDA recommends eating:
- Fatty fish, like salmon and tuna, two to three times a week
- Five to seven servings of vegetables and fruits a day
- Complex carbohydrates, such as beans, browned rice, oats and couscous
Take time to relax
Stress can damage the brain’s memory center. Give yourself some time every day to do something that you find relaxing, and consider stress-reducing activities such as exercise, meditation or yoga.
Be in the moment
Pay attention to the people and events around you. That’s critical to memory because if you did not hear it and process it to begin with, you won’t recall it later.
You can start maximizing your memory and improving your brain health by following these few simple ideas to create some very beneficial habits.
About the author
This content has been written or reviewed by a member of the Baylor Scott & White Health medical staff.
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