Ever had moments of forgetfulness, such as forgetting a new friend’s name or forgetting where the car or house keys are? Don’t worry, everyone does now and then, especially if you have a million things to do every day. While an occasional instance of forgetfulness is completely acceptable, having a poor memory can be exasperating.
In fact, having a poor memory may worry some people about the possibility of neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease which is a disease notoriously known for its main symptom of progressive memory loss. Though genetics play a role in serious neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, still, research has shown that diet and lifestyle have a major impact on memory too.
Here are 15 science-backed techniques that can help improve your memory:
- Get enough sleep: Sleep is vital for overall brain health. It plays a crucial role in memory consolidation. It is during sleep when our brain creates new memories so disrupting the body’s natural sleep cycle also interrupts this very important process which then can lead to cognitive impairments. A full night’s rest of around 7-9 hours a night for an adult helps the brain create and store long term memories.
- Exercise regularly: Physical exercise has a profound and direct impact on brain health. In fact, research suggests that regular exercise reduces the risk of cognitive decline with age and protects the brain against degeneration. In addition, regular physical activity has also been shown to increase brain volume and enhance memory function. In particular, aerobic exercise has been seen to improve memory function in Alzheimer’s patients. Some examples of aerobic exercise are brisk walking, running, hiking, swimming, and dancing.
- Train your brain: Playing brain games is a fun and effective way to improve your cognitive skills and boost your memory. Engaging in mentally stimulating activities, such as reading, playing games, solving puzzles, crosswords, word-recall games, Tetris or learning a new skill, can help keep your brain sharp and are excellent ways to strengthen memory. Plus, brain-training games have been shown to help reduce the risk of dementia in older adults.
- Eat anti-inflammatory foods: Antioxidants help lower inflammation in the body by reducing oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Antioxidants can be found in foods like fruits, vegetables, and teas. Berries in particular are high in antioxidants like flavonoids and anthocyanin which are substances that help prevent memory loss. Aside from lowering inflammation, an anti-inflammatory diet can also provide your brain with the nutrients it needs to function optimally and support memory.
- Increase caffeine intake: If not contraindicated, increase intake of caffeine can help your memory both in short term and long-term aspect. Along with a well-balanced diet, researchers have found that caffeine from sources such as coffee or green tea may also be helpful for the memory.
- Eat dark chocolate: It might sound like an indulgence, but eating dark, which contains cocoa flavonoids can also help boost brain function. With that said, people should aim for at least 72% cacao content in dark chocolate and avoid chocolate with added sugar.
- Stay away from an unhealthy diet: This includes reducing sugar intake, which was found to have a link to the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, and avoiding a high caloric diet which can impair memory, lead to obesity and cause inflammation in particular parts of the brain. Therefore, reducing your overall caloric intake may serve to protect the brain.
- Drink alcohol moderately: Consuming large amounts of alcoholic beverages can be detrimental to your overall health and have a negative effect on your memory. Binge drinking in particular have been shown to alter the brain and cause memory deficits. Alcohol exhibits neurotoxic effects on the brain. So repeated episodes of binge drinking can damage the brain. Enjoying a drink or two now and then is fine, but excessive alcohol intake is a sure way to damage your brain which may lead to poor memory or even memory loss.
- Keep a moderate weight: Maintaining a moderate weight is one of the best ways to keep your body and mind in top condition. Studies have shown that obesity is one of the risk factors for cognitive decline. It is also associated with a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease mainly because it can cause changes to memory-associated genes in the brain, leading to a poor memory.
- Reduce stress: Chronic stress has been shown to have a negative impact on memory, so finding ways to manage stress, such as through exercise, meditation, or therapy, can be helpful.
- Socialize regularly: A fun and sure way to keep your brain active is by spending time with friends and family and engaging in social activities. These not only improve your memory but also reduce stress, improve your mood and ultimately help you gain a healthier predisposition.
- Test your Vitamin D levels: Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to a reduction in cognitive function as well as a host of other medical conditions. Low levels of vitamin D have also been linked to a greater risk of developing dementia. Consult your doctor about getting a blood test to find out if you need a vitamin D supplement.
- Stay organized: Keeping your physical environment and information organized can help reduce stress and make it easier to remember where things are and what you need to do.
- Use mnemonic devices: Mnemonic devices, such as acronyms, rhymes, or mental images, can help you remember information by associating it with something memorable. Examples of mnemonic devices are acronyms (such as RICE to remember first-aid advice for injured limbs: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) or sentences (such as the classic “Every good boy does fine” to remember the musical notes E, G, B, D, and F on the lines of the treble clef).
- Keep learning new things: Attaining a higher level of education is found to be associated with better mental functioning in old age. The habit of being mentally active is thought by experts to help keep our memory strong and attaining an advanced education helps achieve just that. Most jobs help us keep mentally active but pursuing a hobby or learning a new skill can also function the same way. Hobbies like reading; playing chess or bridge; writing; taking a class; pursuing music or art. Preserving and stimulating communications between our brain cells is an unending process, so make learning a lifelong priority.
Our brain is amazing organ and it is far better than the best computer ever created and it would be such a pity if we do not strive to preserve and protect it but also exercise and stimulate it. And as mentioned in this article, there are many fun, simple and even delicious (yay to chocolate!) ways to improve your memory. So, give them a whirl, try a few of these science-based tips and add them to your daily routine. Make it your goal today to boost your brain health and keep your memory in tip top condition.
About The Author
Dr. Hannah is a highly-skilled and compassionate physician who completed her medical degree at Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila in 2014. She passed the Physician Licensure Exam in 2015, and has since gained experience working in various hospitals and clinics throughout Metro Manila. For three years, she served as a physician on duty at a dialysis institute, caring for patients with chronic lifestyle diseases.
As a primary care physician, Dr. Hannah is dedicated to providing patient-centered care that takes into account the whole person, not just their illness. She believes in empowering her patients to take an active role in their healthcare, and believes that this type of doctor-patient relationship is key to achieving optimal health.