It’s time to think beyond crossword puzzles and sudoku. While some research shows that these activities and other “brain training” games can slow cognitive decline, they aren’t the only ways to keep your mind sharp.
Try one of these other strategies to avoid embarrassing memory lapses.
1. Learn to love fish
A 2020 study from the National Institutes of Health identified fish as the most important component of the much-recommended Mediterranean diet when it comes to reducing the risk of cognitive impairment (when your cognition is worse than your peers) and cognitive decline. (When your cognition gets worse over time.)
To learn more about the study results, check out “Eat This Food If You Want To Avoid Alzheimer’s Disease.”
Meditation has been linked to all kinds of health benefits, from reduced insomnia to improved mood. It also seems to help with memory. A 2010 study found that as little as four days of mindfulness meditation can significantly improve working memory as well as the brain’s executive functioning and visuospatial processing.
3. Eat berries
Berries are one of many foods that seem to promote good memory. In particular, flavonoid-rich berries such as strawberries and blueberries appear to protect against memory decline in women, according to the results of a 2012 study by Harvard researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Berries are recommended for anyone seeking to improve their brain health, not just women.
In 2018, the World Council on Brain Health examined data on how diet affects brain health in people 50 and older, and then issued recommendations. Berries have been among the most highly recommended foods, as we detailed in “The 5 Best Foods for Brain Health as You Age.”
4. Exercise regularly
Lace up your running shoes if you want to increase the size of the hippocampus – the part of your brain that helps with verbal memory and learning. Research from the University of British Columbia found that aerobic exercise does just that. To get the benefits, the school study participants walked briskly for one hour, two days per week.
For more inspiration, check out “7 Surprising Benefits of Staying Fit in Retirement.”
5. Blood pressure control
High blood pressure, another term for high blood pressure, can reduce blood flow to the brain and affect memory functions.
Furthermore, high blood pressure during middle age is considered a risk factor for cognitive decline later in life. Even mildly high blood pressure is linked to dementia, as we detailed in “Is Your Blood Pressure Mildly High? Here’s Why You Should Be Concern.”
6. Prepare your meals
Much has been said about the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet — that is, it’s rich in fish, vegetables, whole grains, and a daily serving of nuts and olive oil — and it seems to benefit your memory, too. A 2015 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that a Mediterranean diet appears to reduce age-related cognitive decline in people in their 60s and 70s.
7. Soak in the sun
There is a growing body of research linking low levels of vitamin D to an increased risk of dementia and cognitive decline.
A 2015 study from Rutgers University found that elderly people with dementia had lower levels of vitamin D than those with mild cognitive impairment or healthy memory. People with low levels of the vitamin also showed a more rapid decline in executive function and episodic memory (the ability to remember personal experiences) than others.
You can get vitamin D from sunlight, as well as foods like eggs and oily fish as well as supplements.
8. Embrace lifelong learning
Just as your muscles weaken and slow down if you don’t exercise regularly, the same can be said about your brain.
If you want your memory to stay sharp, you should challenge your brain regularly, Kathryn Babb, a neuropsychologist and assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, told Harvard Health Blog. Examples include learning a new skill, participating in a new activity, driving a different route to work, or listening to a different type of music.
9. Keep busy
Maintaining an active lifestyle has been shown to be good for your memory.
In a 2016 study, researchers from the University of Texas, Dallas, tested the cognitive functions — including memory, reasoning, and mental speed — of more than 300 people ages 50 to 89. Cognitive function tests.
The reason may be that staying busy requires people to repeatedly flex their memory and brain muscles. This in turn keeps it sharp.
10. Treating underlying health conditions
Before you worry about your memory slipping, make sure that no health condition is causing the problem. Sleep apnea and diabetes are among the health conditions associated with an increased risk of memory loss if left untreated. If you feel forgetful, make an appointment with your doctor to rule out any underlying medical cause.
11. Give your brain a break
Interestingly enough, one of the best things you can do for your brain is to have absolutely nothing left. Research dating back to the 1900s shows that taking short breaks – as little as 10 to 15 minutes – without any distractions can help improve memory recall.
12. Quit smoking
As if you needed another reason to quit, a 2011 study in the UK found that smokers performed worse on a test of their daily memory than non-smokers and ex-smokers. Furthermore, former smokers recalled what study participants who had never smoked remembered.
13. Find a friend
Being alone is not good for your memory. A 2007 study from the University of Michigan found that chatting with another person for 10 minutes can improve memory.
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