Memory and Brainpower
Ever have those days when you feel like you forget everything? A strong memory requires a healthy brain and there are things you can do in your day-to-day life to aid in remembering things and increasing brain power.
1. Relax!: Stress is one of the brain’s worst enemies. Over time, if left unchecked, chronic stress destroys brain cells and damages the hippocampus, the region of the brain involved in the formation of new memories and the retrieval of old ones.
2. Exercise: Physical exercise increases oxygen to your brain and reduces the risk for disorders that lead to memory loss, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Exercise may also enhance the effects of helpful brain chemicals and protect brain cells.
3. Rest: When you’re sleep deprived, your brain can’t operate at full capacity. Sleep is critical to learning and memory. Research shows that sleep is necessary for memory consolidation, with the key memory-enhancing activity occurring during the deepest stages of sleep.
4. Eat! (brain power foods): Omega-3 fatty acids are particularly beneficial for brain health and may also lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Produce is packed with antioxidants, substances that protect your brain cells from damage.
5. Drink!: Regular consumption of green tea may enhance memory and mental alertness and slow brain aging. In moderation (around 1 glass a day for women; 2 for men), alcohol may actually improve memory and cognition. Red wine appears to be the best option, as it is rich in resveratrol, a flavonoid that boosts blood flow in the brain and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
6. Be Merry!: Relationships stimulate our brains—in fact, interacting with others may be the best kind of brain exercise. Laughter engages multiple regions across the whole brain and listening to jokes and working out punch lines activates areas of the brain vital to learning and creativity.
Or….if you would like some more suggestions, John E. Morley, MD, director of St. Louis University’s Division of Geriatric Medicine recommends the following exercises to sharpen your mental skills:
Test your recall. Make a list — of grocery items, things to do, or anything else that comes to mind — and memorize it. An hour or so later, see how many items you can recall. Make items on the list as challenging as possible for the greatest mental stimulation.
Draw a map from memory. After returning home from visiting a new place, try to draw a map of the area; repeat this exercise each time you visit a new location.
Do math in your head. Figure out problems without the aid of pencil, paper, or computer; you can make this more difficult by walking at the same time.
Challenge your taste buds. When eating, try to identify individual ingredients in your meal, including subtle herbs and spices.
Take a cooking class. Learn a new way to cook. Cooking uses a number of senses: smell, touch, sight, and taste, which all use different parts of the brain.
Create word pictures. Visualize the spelling of a word in your head, then try and think of any other words that begin (or end) with the same two letters.
Learn a foreign language. The listening and hearing involved stimulates the brain.
Let the music play. Learn to play a musical instrument or study music.
Refine your hand-eye abilities. Learn a new skill that involves fine-motor skills, such as knitting, drawing, painting, assembling a puzzle, etc.
Engage your senses. Try activities that involve as many of your senses as possible, such as gardening.
Learn a new sport. Take up an athletic exercise that utilizes the mind and body, like golf or basketball.