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Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Natural Ways to Improve Your Memory

Jillian Kubala MS RD writes:
"Everyone has moments of forgetfulness from time to time, especially when life gets busy. While this can be a completely normal occurrence, having a poor memory can be frustrating. Genetics plays a role in memory loss, especially in serious neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. However, research has shown that diet and lifestyle have a major impact on memory too.

Here are 14 evidence-based ways to improve your memory naturally.

1. Eat Less Added Sugar

Eating too much added sugar has been linked to many health issues and chronic diseases, including cognitive decline. Research has shown that a sugar-laden diet can lead to poor memory and reduced brain volume, particularly in the area of the brain that stores short-term memory. For example, one study of more than 4,000 people found that those with a higher intake of sugary beverages like soda had lower total brain volumes and poorer memories on average compared to people who consumed less sugar. Cutting back on sugar not only helps your memory but also improves your overall health.
Summary Research has shown that people who regularly consume lots of added sugar may have poorer memories and lower brain volumes than those who consume less sugar.

2. Try a Fish Oil Supplement
Fish oil is rich in the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These fats are important for overall health and have been shown to lower the risk of heart disease, reduce inflammation, relieve stress and anxiety, and slow mental decline. Many studies have shown that consuming fish and fish oil supplements may improve memory, especially in older people.
Summary Fish and fish oil supplements are rich in the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Consuming them may help improve short-term, working and episodic memory, especially in older people.

3. Make Time for Meditation
The practice of meditation may positively affect your health in many ways. It is relaxing and soothing, and has been found to reduce stress and pain, lower blood pressure and even improve memory. In fact, meditation has been shown to increase grey matter in the brain. Grey matter contains neuron cell bodies. 
As you age, grey matter declines, which negatively impacts memory and cognition. Meditation and relaxation techniques have been shown to improve short-term memory in people of all ages, from people in their 20s to the elderly.
Summary Meditation isn’t just good for your body — it’s also good for your brain. Research suggests meditation may increase grey matter in the brain and improve spatial working memory.

4. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy body weight is essential for well-being and is one of the best ways to keep your body and mind in top condition. Several studies have established obesity as a risk factor for cognitive decline. Interestingly, being obese can actually cause changes to memory-associated genes in the brain, negatively affecting memory. Obesity can also lead to insulin resistance and inflammation, both of which can negatively impact the brain. A study of 50 people between the ages of 18 and 35 found that a higher body mass index was associated with significantly worse performance on memory tests. Obesity is also associated with a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive disease that destroys memory and cognitive function.
Summary Obesity is a risk factor for cognitive decline. Maintaining a body mass index within the normal range may help you avoid a host of issues associated with obesity, including a poorer memory.

5. Get Enough Sleep
Lack of proper sleep has been associated with poor memory for quite some time. Sleep plays an important role in memory consolidation, a process in which short-term memories are strengthened and transformed into long-lasting memories. Research shows that if you are sleep deprived, you could be negatively impacting your memory. For example, one study looked at the effects of sleep in 40 children between the ages of 10 and 14. One group of children was trained for memory tests in the evening, then tested the following morning after a night’s sleep. The other group was trained and tested on the same day, with no sleep between training and testing. The group that slept between training and testing performed 20% better on the memory tests. Another study found that nurses working the night shift made more mathematical errors and that 68% of them scored lower on memory tests compared to nurses working the day shift. Health experts recommend adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night for optimal health.
Summary Studies have consistently associated sufficient sleep with better memory performance. Sleep helps consolidate memories. You’re also likely to perform better on memory tests if you’re well rested than if you’re sleep deprived.

6. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a mental state in which you focus on your present situation, maintaining awareness of your surroundings and feelings. Mindfulness is used in meditation, but the two aren’t one and the same. Meditation is a more formal practice, whereas mindfulness is a mental habit you can use in any situation. Studies have shown that mindfulness is effective at lowering stress and improving concentration and memory.
Summary Practicing mindfulness techniques has been associated with increased memory performance. Mindfulness is also linked to reduced age-related cognitive decline.

7. Drink Less Alcohol

Consuming too many alcoholic beverages can be detrimental to your health in many ways and can negatively impact your memory. Binge drinking is a pattern of drinking that raises your blood alcohol levels to 0.08 grams per ml or above. Studies have shown it alters the brain and results in memory deficits. While having a drink or two now and then is perfectly healthy, avoiding excessive alcohol intake is a smart way to protect your memory.
Summary Alcohol has neurotoxic effects on the brain, including reducing memory performance. Occasional moderate drinking isn’t an issue, but binge drinking can damage your hippocampus, a key area of your brain associated with memory.

8. Train Your Brain
Exercising your cognitive skills by playing brain games is a fun and effective way to boost your memory. Crosswords, word-recall games, Tetris and even mobile apps dedicated to memory training are excellent ways to strengthen memory. Plus, brain-training games have been shown to help reduce the risk of dementia in older adults.
Summary Games that challenge your brain may help you strengthen your memory and may even reduce the risk of dementia.

9. Cut Down on Refined Carbs
Consuming large amounts of refined carbohydrates like cakes, cereal, cookies, white rice and white bread may be damaging to your memory. These foods have a high glycemic index, meaning the body digests these carbohydrates quickly, leading to a spike in blood sugar levels. Studies have shown that the Western diet, which is high in refined carbohydrates, is associated with dementia, cognitive decline and reduced cognitive function. One study of 317 healthy children found that those who consumed more processed carbs like white rice, noodles and fast food had reduced cognitive capacity, including poorer short-term and working memory. Another study demonstrated that adults who consumed ready-to-eat breakfast cereal daily had poorer cognitive function than those who consumed cereal less frequently.
Summary Like added sugar, refined carbohydrates lead to a spike in blood sugar levels, which can damage your brain over time. Diets high in refined carbs have been associated with dementia, cognitive decline and reduced brain function.

10. Get Your Vitamin D Levels Tested
Vitamin D is an important nutrient that plays many vital roles in the body. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to a host of health issues, including a reduction in cognitive function. Low levels of vitamin D have also been linked to a greater risk of developing dementia. Vitamin-D deficiency is very common, especially in colder climates and in those with darker skin. Speak with your doctor about getting a blood test to find out if you need a vitamin D supplement.
Summary Vitamin-D deficiency is very common, especially in colder climates, and has been associated with age-related cognitive decline and dementia. If you think you might have low levels of vitamin D, ask your doctor for a blood test.

11. Exercise More
Exercise is important for overall physical and mental health. Research has established that it’s beneficial for the brain and may help improve memory in people of all ages, from children to older adults. Many studies have shown exercise may increase the secretion of neuro-protective proteins and improve the growth and development of neurons, leading to improved brain health. Regular exercise in midlife is also associated with a decreased risk of developing dementia later in life.
Summary Exercise brings incredible benefits for your whole body, including your brain. Even moderate exercise for short periods has been shown to improve cognitive performance, including memory, across all age groups.

12. Choose Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Consuming a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods may help improve your memory. Antioxidants help lower inflammation in the body by reducing oxidative stress caused by free radicals. You can consume antioxidants in foods like fruits, vegetables and teas. A recent review of nine studies with more than 31,000 people found that those who ate more fruits and vegetables had lower risks of cognitive decline and dementia compared to those who consumed less of these nutritious foods.
Summary Anti-inflammatory foods are great for your brain, especially berries and other foods that are high in antioxidants. To incorporate more anti-inflammatory foods into your diet, you can’t go wrong by consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables.

13. Consider Curcumin
Curcumin is a compound found in high concentrations in turmeric root. It’s one of a category of compounds called polyphenols. It is a potent antioxidant and exerts powerful anti-inflammatory effects in the body.
Summary Curcumin is a potent antioxidant. Animal studies have shown it reduces inflammation and amyloid plaques in the brain. However, more research in humans is needed.

14. Add Some Cocoa to Your Diet
Cocoa is not only delicious but also nutritious, providing a powerful dose of antioxidants called flavonoids. Research suggests flavonoids are particularly beneficial to the brain. They may help stimulate the growth of blood vessels and neurons and increase blood flow in parts of the brain involved with memory. A study of 30 healthy people found that those who consumed dark chocolate containing 720 mg of cocoa flavonoids demonstrated better memory compared to those who consumed white chocolate without cocoa flavonoids. To get the most benefit out of chocolate, choose dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70% cacao or higher. That will help ensure it contains larger amounts of antioxidants like flavonoids.
Summary Cocoa is high in antioxidants that may help improve memory performance. Make sure to choose dark chocolate with 70% cacao or higher so you get a concentrated dose of antioxidants.

The Bottom Line
There are many fun, simple and even delicious ways to improve your memory. Exercising your mind and body, enjoying a quality piece of chocolate and reducing the amount of added sugar in your diet are all excellent techniques. Try adding a few of these science-backed tips to your daily routine to boost your brain health and keep your memory in top condition."

The above is only a snippet of Jillian's article to read it in full with all relevant links please see here

Regular readers will know that a variety of articles and recipe ideas, are within this blog. It is important to note, not all may be suitable for you. If you may have any food allergies, or underlying health issues these must always be taken into account. If you are a diabetic and not sure how certain foods may affect your blood sugars, test is best, i.e. use your meter.

All the best Jan


Lorrie said...

I'm glad to read that my little daily square of dark chocolate not only tastes good, but helps my brain!

Kelly said...

These are great pointers for a healthier life in general, not just for memory! I already try to do many of these, but this is incentive to do even more.

only slightly confused said...

Any time I can fix something by eating chocolate I'm there.

William Kendall said...

Most of these I do, but I draw the line at fish oil. :)

Anonymous said...

I work shifts so getting good sleep is not very easy.
Some good points in article.

Ches x

Catarina said...

I knew all of this. But I needed to be reminded, and for that I thank you. I forget to take vitamin D every day! Oops. I exercise almost daily, and I like my sweets once in a while. Will have to do something about it. And a few other things mentioned here... :)))

Christine said...

Thanks for the great advice!

Margaret D said...

Train the brain is a good one.

Adam said...

I like to say my memory is pretty good

Linda said...

Good suggestions.

Practical Parsimony said...

I never hear anyone saying anything about Dutch chocolate which does not have all the good things chocolate sites tout. Eating Dutch chocolate has the good stuff removed by the processing with alkali.

My friend retired and sat home, doing nothing but watching TV. To be fair, he needs two knee replacements and two hip replacements. However, I bought him a crossword puzzle book and reminded him his mind needed exercising. We live 65 miles from each other, so I only see him once a week. I cook about half the food he eats and send it home with him, so I try to give him hints on what he should and should not eat.

He has diabetes but resented anything I suggested. Until...I developed diabetes, too. Then, I could ask questions without making him angry. Any attempts at cooking like we both need is not met with resistance. So, I read him things from this blog.

I think we should both eat less sugar!

Valerie-Jael said...

Thanks for the good advice. Hugs, Valerie

Anonymous said...

its amazing how sleep can effect us! the lack of,,
chocolate, well thats good to know, a little dark chocolate is all we need, its such an intense flavor isn't it,

Carol Blackburn said...

Wonderful post. Might I add something I read that said, "if you always tell the truth you will have less to remember."

Betsy Banks Adams said...

Great list ---and many are just plain common sense things we all need to do in order to stay healthy... Hubby and I have been eating a little square of dark chocolate once a day for years . People don't realize how good it is for us...

Since I was diagnosed with A-Fib---I am really struggling with the exercise.. I am constantly out-of-breath and weak... My cardiologist is trying to get my meds adjusted --and my heart rate is better --but I still have this horrible tiredness... Very frustrating since I have always been very active.


Snowbird said...

Some really useful tips here, thank you! I need all the brain power I can get!xxx

Conniecrafter said...

good stuff here, looks like there are more things I need to add to my daily activity

Magic Love Crow said...

Thank you Jan! Great list!

carol l mckenna said...

Wonderfully informative post with much healthy advice ~ thanks,

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