Here’s How to Increase your Memory Power Naturally
Gaps in your memory can be worrying, especially as you get a bit older, but they’re unlikely to be a sign of anything more sinister than normal brain ageing. Our memories are an integral part of who we are, but as we age our memory declines. The good news is that scientists have been learning more about our brain’s amazing capacity to change and grow new neural connections each day. This concept is known as neuroplasticity. Scientists have discovered that our memory capacity isn’t fixed, and that it can be changed.
To take full advantage of neuroplasticity, you’ll need to exercise your brain and take care of your body. These tips and tricks are some of the most effective methods for improving memory. And the good news is that although your memory may not be quite as sharp as it was in your teens, your ability to integrate what you’ve learnt and use it effectively may actually be better. Keeping your brain active and challenged can help maintain your brain’s plasticity – its ability to adapt and change.
Improve your diet
Diets such as the Mediterranean diet, DASH and the MIND diet have a few things in common. This includes their ability to improve memory and reduce the risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
These diets focus on eating:
- Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale
- Other vegetables, such as red peppers, squash, carrots and broccoli
- Berries, including blueberries and strawberries
- Beans, lentils and soybeans
- Olive oil
- Small amounts of wine
And five foods to avoid as far as possible:
- Red meats
- Butter and margarine
- Pastries and sweets
Fatty fish are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s play an important role in building brain and nerve cells. They’re essential for learning and memory and have been shown to delay cognitive decline. The MIND diet – a combination of the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in olive oil and vegetables, and the DASH diet, designed to lower blood pressure – may help keep your brain young. Review your current diet and even if you can’t make the full switch now, start with a few food swaps for a brain healthier diet.
Exercising has been shown to have cognitive benefits. It improves oxygen and nutrient delivery to the body, and helps to create new cells in the brain which are essential for memory storage. Exercise especially increases the number of cells in the hippocampus. What’s good for your heart is good for your brain and physical exercise is still the best documented way of keeping your brain in shape. As well as counteracting the impact of stress and protecting against type 2 diabetes and heart disease, exercise improves the flow of oxygen rich blood, helps reduce inflammation and stimulates the release of chemicals beneficial to brain cells.
Exercise may even affect the size of your brain – one study found that people with a good level of fitness in their 40s had larger brains 20 years on than those who were unfit. And it can cut your risk of dementia – there’s good evidence that regular exercise can reduce the overall risk of dementia by around 30% and of Alzheimer’s disease specifically by 45%. Brisk walking is the easiest way to get the aerobic exercise you need to help protect your brain. Aim for 20-30 minutes four or five times a week.
Try your best to go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time each morning. Try not to break your routine on the weekends, difficult I know. Good sleep promotes good health and brain health is no exception. We know that even a small amount of sleep deprivation can affect our memory and performance and there’s increasing evidence that sleep is vital for your memory. Brain researchers in the US and China have shown that new connections between neurons are made when you’re asleep. And that deep sleep is especially important for memory formation as this is the time when the brain replays the activity from earlier in the day.
If you know you’re regularly getting less than seven hours, take steps to address sleep problems; make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet and comfortable, banish screens before bed and develop a relaxing bedtime routine. The blue light emitted by cell phone, TV, and computer screens inhibits the production of melatonin, a hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm). A poorly regulated sleep cycle can really take a toll on sleep quality. Without enough sleep and rest, the neurons in our brain become overworked. They can no longer coordinate information, making it more difficult to access memories. Roughly an hour before bedtime, turn off your devices and allow your brain to unwind
When you’re stressed, your body releases stress hormones like cortisol. Cortisol has been shown to greatly impact the brain’s memory process, especially our ability to retrieve long-term memories. We all know that a little bit of stress can give us the kick-start that we need but when we’re under repeated stress we don’t function very well at all.
It’s true that a little stress triggers the release of chemicals that get the neural networks in the brain working more efficiently. However, researchers at the University of California have actually found that chronic stress can lead to long lasting changes in the brain’s structure and function, causing damage to the hippocampus. This is the part of the brain that is central to learning and memory. Be sure to take time out each day for mindful breathing. Sit somewhere calm and quiet for 10 minutes. And focus on slowly breathing in and out allowing the thoughts to come and go.