Fight memory loss with these 10 brain boosting tips:
Brain function and the ability to recall details change as we age. It only takes one round of the card game concentration with a child to learn a valuable lesson about how our memory can decrease over time. The aging process in our brain begins in our twenties, when we start to lose brain cells and produce less of the chemicals needed for optimal function. As aging continues, information can become harder to recall as your brain changes the very way it processes memories.
Memory loss is not only an age-related concern; it’s also a function of our hectic lifestyle. In our world today, we are inundated with information and are expected to multitask nearly everything we do. In this high-pressure, digital age, it’s no wonder many of the day-to-day details slip by relatively unnoticed – they have no time to be stored safely in your brain for recall later.
Talking about memory loss is, sadly, a bit of a cultural taboo in our society. This is unfortunate because there are a lot of ways to improve your brain function, and in some cases even reverse age-related memory loss. It’s important to note however, that if you or a loved one suffers from significant memory loss you should talk with your doctor. Recurring problems with language or changes in behavior and personality are not signs of normal aging, and should be discussed with your physician.
Fighting memory loss is not as difficult as you might imagine, and you definitely don’t have to assume that simply because you’re getting older you’ll have memory issues. There are many steps you can take, and small changes to your daily routine that can help bolster your memory:
1. Rest and Relaxation
As muscles require periods of rest, so does your brain need some time off to process events and unwind. Bodybuilders build lean muscle mass by working their bodies hard, followed by a period of restorative rest – you should do the same for your brain. Yoga practitioners believe a a few moments spent in quiet without outside stimuli, is extremely beneficial to your overall mental state.
2. Exercise your Mind
Some video games are actually great for stimulating your mind, especially brainteasers and puzzle games. Continuing to stimulate and challenge yourself to recall facts or solve puzzles will help you retain this function later in life. It seems there is much truth to the saying, you have to use it or lose it.
One scientific study of long term practitioners of meditation found they had the highest level of gamma wave patterns in their brains of anyone ever tested. This is the pattern of brain activity associated with attention, memory, and learning. Meditation is a calming, de-stressing practice for your mind that has been shown to enhance your ability to learn and sharpen your memory. One way to meditate is to sit comfortably and bring awareness to your breath. Or you may want to try a form of movement meditation;find a yoga class or go for a mediatative walk outside.
4. Tune Out and Tune In
Pay undivided attention to one task at a time. As difficult as it can be today, the more you turn off your cell phones, iPods and all general chatter as much as possible, the better the chance you’ll have to process and recall what’s going on around you. When you multitask, your brain physically processes the information differently and your memories will contain fewer details (such as the name of that awesome restaurant, or the name of the person standing in front of you awaiting introduction).
5. Use Memory Aids
You have two secret weapons to help you recall details: your calendar, and repetition. Writing down important information, names, and dates helps your recall for two reasons: writing focuses your attention, and many people can recall written communication better than aural. If you don’t have a chance to write something down, simply repeating out loud what you want to remember will help implant the memory. Repetition is especially useful for names when you’re introduced to someone new.
6. Exercise your Body
Aerobic exercise increases blood flow throughout the body, including flow to the brain. Studies suggest those who participate in regular cardiovascular exercise have greater brain volume and white matter (more brain cells, and better connections between them). Benefit from yoga by practicing inverted postures that nourish the brain by increasing the circulation of blood and oxygen.
7. Eat Your Veggies
Studies suggest that increasing your vegetable intake helps decrease memory loss. Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts) and leafy greens high in iron (spinach, kale) are excellent memory boosters. Foods containing certain phytochemicals such as red grapes, blueberries, eggplant, red onions, red cabbage, beets, red apples and apricots are known to actually reverse age-related memory loss.
8. Drink a Glass of Red Wine
Alcohol increases blood flow and lowers cholesterol. The net effect is an overall increase in blood flow which increases the availability of nutrients reaching and nourishing your brain. In addition, red wine contains resveratrol which studies suggest can help ward off Alzheimer’s by preventing the formation of a protein found in Alzheimer patients.
9. Check Your Prescriptions
Many common prescription and over-the-counter medications affect memory, though this side effect is often overlooked. As you age your metabolism slows, meaning these drugs will remain in your system for a longer period of time. What this means, is that you may become more prone to contraindications with medications, and may experience a greater occurrence in severity of side effects such as memory loss.
10. Go Ahead and Have Your Coffee
Mild stimulants such as the caffeine found in coffee and tea, act to jolt your system and stimulate proper brain function. There actually might be some truth to the old adage “I simply can’t function until I’ve had my cup of coffee in the morning”. If you’re not a fan of coffee, rosemary and green teas also contain stimulants known to have a similar effect.
Charlotte Bradley is the publisher of YogaFlavoredLife.com and an avid yoga practitioner. She was a student of karate for many years and took up yoga only tentatively after the birth of her sons and a knee injury left her looking for a less high-impact form of exercise. It was love at first pose as Charlotte saw how quickly yoga sped her rehabilitation along. She also found that yogic relaxation techniques lent her proper focus, bringing balance into her life as well as a greater appreciation for how blessed she truly is. She lives in Ottawa, Ontario with her husband and twin boys, Charlie and Patty, who keep her on her feet and on the go. Her golden retriever supervises Charlotte’s yoga workouts from a spare mat, with his eyes closed.
Check out all of Charlotte Bradley’s Healthy Lifestyles columns.