Noticed yourself forgetting things more easily lately? You’re not alone. Forgetfulness can happen at every stage of our lives but it’s common enough for people to become increasingly fearful about this as we age. Some aspects of our memory do tend to fade but this is mostly due to the way our brain handles which information to retain. It may not necessarily mean that you’re exhibiting early signs of dementia. Cognitive ability can diminish as we get older but, fret not, conditions related to significant memory loss, such as Alzheimer’s, is not truly correlated with old age. In fact, our ability to retain and recall information is not an inevitability that is beyond our control. We may indeed be able to keep our memory honed to its fullest potential, and even improve it — here’s how.
Your Diet Matters
A sharper memory begins with a healthy brain, and that can only be possible by consuming all the right foods. The human brain is just like every other organ in our body. In order to function at its fullest, it requires all the necessary nutrients on a daily basis. On an instinctual level, you may already know what may not be wholly ideal when it comes to optimal brain health. If the first thought that comes to your head is fat, you’re almost there — more specifically, a special place in dietary hell exists for trans fats. This type of fat is most easily found in highly processed foods, partly thanks to its relatively long shelf-life. Alas, this benefit does not extend to us.
Besides the tendency for trans fats to promote weight gain, researchers found that they may also interfere with the production of a particular neurotransmitter known as serotonin. This chemical compound is deeply involved in the way our brain retains information and memory; without enough of it, our ability to recall may quickly diminish. In addition, trans fats are also highly inflammatory which may ultimately cause our brain health to suffer.
Not all fats are equal, though. For instance, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are highly necessary for optimal brain health. In fact, the human brain’s structural integrity depends on the availability of natural fats in our body. Our brain is made up of cells that are surrounded by a protective layer that consists of fatty acids. Consuming enough natural fats allows our body to make use of these fatty acids to synthesise and maintain these membranes. Furthermore, fats are also required to transport and absorb certain other key nutrients that are just as important for our brain health.
Exercise Your Way To An Improved Memory
Another way to enhance memory is to engage in physical exercise. Besides its importance in the overall maintenance of our health, one study suggests that you may even be able to strategically exercise your way to retaining information. Apparently, the best way to achieve this is by reading about or learning something that you wish to remember and following it up with exercise about four hours later. Nobody knows the precise mechanism behind why this happens. However, theoretically, exercise releases certain chemical compounds such as noradrenaline and dopamine that are key to cementing newly acquired information into long-term memory.
Give Your Brain A Workout Too
Your brain could also use a regular workout — gym equipment not required. One of the best ways to keep the human brain sharp for years to come is by constantly training it. In other words, you can’t simply allow it to become complacent and then later be surprised when you can’t remember anything. As with every other part of your body, you need to continue to challenge it in novel ways. Experts find that learning a foreign language is one way for us to better improve our memory. Although it may be tougher for us to learn a new language as we age, doing so can greatly stimulate our brain and even reduce the rate at which our cognitive function declines. We may also be able to achieve the same effect by reducing our reliance on electronic calculators to perform simple mathematics in our heads. If that comes easily enough to you, consider advancing to the next level: perform simple calculations as you exercise or walk backwards.
Give Your Brain A Break
Above all, don’t forget to give yourself a break. No amount of thinking or exercise is going to work if you don’t grant your brain enough time to process information as well as repair itself. You can do this by making sure that you do get at least seven hours of sleep every night, but another study has also found that short breaks can also vastly improve memory. However, it is imperative that you steer clear of doing anything at all during these breaks — not even check your phone! Do nothing but breathe for at least 10 minutes to allow your brain to recharge.