Memory Boosters

Barb Green, Parish Nurse

Milton, WI

Memory Boosters

Worried about fading brain power? Cognitive skills start to decline at age 27. Although some changes in thinking and memory are inevitable, the good news is that lifestyle seems to be able to blunt those effects. Here’s what you can do to preserve yours:

1. Take the stairs

Exercise benefits your head as much as the rest of your body. Overall cardio-respiratory fitness also lowers the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart problems — all known risk factors for Alzheimer’s.

2. Change your wallpaper

Doing routine things keeps the brain on autopilot. Novelty fires up the brain as new data creates and works new neural pathways.

3. Steal some zzz’s by daylight

Your brain sorts, consolidates and stores memories accumulated during the day. That’s why eight hours at night is so valuable. However, a six-minute nap is as valuable as a full night’s sleep to short-term recall. A 90-minute nap speeds up the process that helps the brain consolidate long-term memories.

4. Take a mental “photograph”

To help make the memory of an incident last, take a “snapshot” of it while you’re in the moment, using all your senses. Think about what you see; colors, textures, smell, taste. This can help you hang onto a happy memory longer. It can also help you remember where you parked your car.

5. Eat less

Decreasing daily calories helps a healthy person score 20% better on memory tests. Those eating a Mediterranean diet have the lowest risk of developing mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.

6. Try a “brain-training” game or join a “brain gym”

One study shows that people over 65 who use a computerized cognitive training program for an hour a day improve memory and attention.

7. Spend some time online

Searching the Web is a bit like using a brain-training course.

8. Stop and sip a cuppa.

Green and black teas have a protective effect on memory, possibly by influencing enzymes in the brain. People who drink moderate amounts of coffee at midlife have lower odds of

developing dementia in late life. Taking a coffee or tea break is a good opportunity for de-stressing.

10. Take the “multi” out of your tasking

People remember less well if they are multitasking while learning.

11. Keep your blood sugar under control

Brain functioning subtly slows as diabetics’ blood sugar rises and the brain’s blood vessels are damaged. This begins well before memory problems become obvious — even before there’s a diabetes diagnosis.

12. Waggle your eyes back and forth

Scanning your eyes from side to side for 30 seconds helps unite the two hemispheres of the brain, which helps you remember better.

13. Eat your green vegetables

People deficient in folate and vitamin B12 have an increased risk of developing dementia. Sources of folate include romaine, spinach, asparagus, turnip greens, broccoli and cauliflower.

14. Don’t ignore sleep apnea

People with this condition show declines in the brain tissue that stores memory.

15. Learn something new that’s a real departure for you

If you like numbers try learning a language. If you’re a gardener try painting flowers instead.

16. Quit smoking

Smokers develop Alzheimer’s years earlier than nonsmokers.

17. Eat some chocolate!

Epicatechin, an ingredient in chocolate, fuels blood vessel growth and may improve memory.

18. Put everything in its place

Your memory needs a certain amount of familiarity to keep

your life functioning smoothly. Place keys and glasses in the same place all the time.

19. Don’t retire

A satisfying worklife offers social stimulation and decision-making opportunities and exercises problem-solving skills. Volunteer where training involves learning new material and the task involves interacting with others.

20. Throw a party

Being around other people lowers one’s risk of developing dementia, especially if they are people you enjoy. Go easy on the alcohol as long term excessive drinking is clearly linked with dementia. Binge drinking also impairs short-term memory.

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