Memory loss is a feature of aging that many of us fear. Some forgetfulness is normal, but sometimes it can be a sign of the progressive brain disorder dementia. The good news is that there are steps you can take to keep your brain healthy and your memory strong, and they’ll benefit the rest of your body as well. Here are five ways to improve your memory now, according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You Have “Long” COVID and May Not Even Know It.
“Diets rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, fish, healthier fats and herbs or seeds provide brain-boosting memory function,” says the Mayo Clinic. All have been found to contain nutrients (like antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids) that benefit the cardiovascular system and the brain. And be sure to drink plenty of water, which benefits brain health: Even a mild case of dehydration can cause your brain to power down, reducing memory. Experts advise drinking five to six cups a day, but ask your doctor about the right amount for you.
“There is strong evidence that smoking can increase your risk of developing dementia,” says the Alzheimer’s Society. That’s because the toxins in tobacco can damage the vascular system, the vessels that carry blood throughout the body, including to the brain, where smoking-related reduced blood flow, weakened blood vessels, oxidative stress, and inflammation can lead to stroke or dementia.
Several studies have found that people who exercise have a lower risk of memory loss and dementia. One of the latest is a 2020 study published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, which determined that seniors who exercised using “short bursts of activity” saw an improvement in memory of up to 30 percent. Why is exercise so powerful? Physical activity boosts the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain and produces growth hormones that increase its network of blood vessels. Anything that keeps the brain growing as we age is a very good thing.
Preventing high blood pressure (hypertension) isn’t just important for heart health—it’s crucial to your brain as well. In a study published in the journal Neurology, researchers found that when people with high blood pressure did memory exercises, they had less blood flow to parts of the brain involved in memory than people with normal blood pressure.
Working out your brain is just as important as physical exercise to overall health. Play games, work puzzles, and challenge yourself to try different things and learn new skills. Novel experiences are particularly beneficial. “Any brain exercise is better than being a mental couch potato,” says Harvard Medical School. “But the activities with the most impact are those that require you to work beyond what is easy and comfortable. Learning a new language, volunteering, and other activities that strain your brain are better bets.” And to get through life at your healthiest, don’t miss these First Signs You Have a Serious Illness.