We all experience moments when we fail to recall a certain past event, forgetting a friend’s name or cannot remember why we even entered the kitchen. As we grow older, we begin to notice the subtle changes in the way we remember or learn things. While memory loss and diseases like Alzheimer’s is often related to the more elderly segment of society, recent studies have found that stress, technology and multi-tasking have more younger people, under the age of 40 becoming forgetful too.
In today’s fast-paced world there are many lifestyle factors that may have a negative impact on our memory, like poor quality sleep, poor diet, depression, nicotine and alcohol consumption. Health issues like diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnoea, stroke, epilepsy and in more serious cases brain infections and diseases can all contribute to memory problems.
Boosting your brain power
The good news is that regardless of your age, there are a number of different ways to improve your brain function and memory. Here are 8 steps to follow for a healthier and sharper brain.
1. Flex your brain
Whether it is a new language, new skill, a musical instrument, solving a puzzle or playing a game of chess, the idea is to challenge your brain to learn something new and complex. Challenging your brain with mental exercise is believed to activate processes that help maintain and stimulate growth of individual brain cells, which in turn slows down cognitive aging.
2. Combine senses
Integrating your 5 senses or using a combination of any two can help you remember things better. For instance, when meeting someone for the first time, you listen to their name, see their features and possibly smell their perfume to help you identify them better. Various studies have shown that combining your senses also helps you to perform better and even generate new ideas like listening to music while doing a task. You could also challenge your brain to guess the ingredients as you smell and taste a new restaurant dish!
Save the mental energy from trying to recall where you left your keys or your phone. Take advantage of calendars and planners, maps, shopping lists, file folders, and address books to keep routine information accessible. Designate a place at home for your glasses, purse, keys, and other items you use often. This will help keep your mind focused and make it easier to learn new things.
4. Eat smarter
The right kind of nutrition can significantly work wonders in boosting your brain health. Fatty fish rich in Omega-3s like salmon and tuna, leafy greens such as broccoli and spinach, berries and nuts (especially walnuts), and even tea and coffee, are all foods that are rich in brain-healthy nutrients. So, eat smart to think smart.
New research has shown that having a friendly chat for ten minutes is enough to boost brain power. Social interactions, deep conversations or mentally stimulating group activities like bingo or scrabble, intensely exercises the brain into connecting, communicating, judging, reading other’s emotions and reacting, lowering the risks of dementia and depression.
6. Make a mnemonic
A creative and clever way to remember things is by forming mnemonics that take the form of acronyms, such as RICE to remember first-aid advice for injured limbs: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation, or sentences, such as the classic "Every good boy does fine" to remember the musical notes E, G, B, D, and F on the lines of the treble clef.
7. Keep your cool
Chronic stress can actually damage your brain! An excess of the "stress hormone" cortisol not only kills healthy brain cells, it can also have a shrinking effect on the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning. Take the time to relax and find ways to destress by going for a massage or a mini vacation, read a book or meditate.
8. Say no to smoking
Researchers have found that smoking as little as one cigarette a day for an extended period can decrease cognitive ability and inhibit critical thinking. Studies have also shown that quitting smoking improves "retrospective memory," which is the ability to learn information and retrieve it later.
9. Exercise to keep your brain fit
Physical exercise is essential for our body but how does it benefit our brain? Just like your body, you should give your mind a regular workout to ensure it stays healthy as you age. Physical activity increases circulation to the brain that helps to preserve existing neurons and creates new ones that enable higher thinking and learning.
You do not have to become a gym addict or run marathons to keep your brain healthy, you can indulge in any activity like walking, dancing or tai chi.
Your mind matters
While certain health conditions can impair your cognitive ability with age, but a few simple changes by adopting a healthy lifestyle can slow down the declining process and protect your memory for life.
The above articles are intended for informational purposes only. AIA accepts no responsibility for loss, which may arise from reliance on information contained in the articles.