Forgetfulness is viewed as a sign of old age — a sign that not only our bodies, but our minds are starting to show wear and tear after decades of use (or abuse). Becoming more forgetful doesn’t necessarily have to be a rite of passage for all of us, however young or old we are. Scientists and researchers have spent the past decades trying to find the magic pill that will ensure that we retain our memories well into old age.
Others are scrambling to find ways to halt or cure debilitating mental illnesses such as dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. In fact, Alzheimer’s is predicted to affect one in 85 individuals globally by 2050. That means that a good number of us can expect our brains to slowly deteriorate, causing us to lose our memories, our sense of individuality, and finally, our mental faculties long before our bodies give out. While neither a cure nor a magic pill for dementia and memory loss has yet to be found, there are a few ways to boost your memory, and most of them don’t even involve swallowing pills of any kind.
Exercise your brain
Watching television, playing video games and surfing the net is a fun pastime for most, but so can a host of other activities such as solving a puzzle, playing chess, playing a musical instrument and doing crossword puzzles. The key is to use your brain power to engage in some mental activity. Its “use it or lose it” — just like how our muscles slowly waste away if we do nothing but lie in bed all day, our brains will slowly degenerate if we don’t use it.
Get enough sleep
As it turns out, the incessant nagging while we were growing up was right after all. BBC (http://www.bbc.com/news/health-27695144) reports how studies have shown that getting enough sleep is key to being better able to remember facts. Basically, when you are asleep, your brain is actually making more connections between neurons, which in turn leads to being better able to retain new information. There is no way to “cheat” or to circumvent this basic need for sleep — there is a reason that all mammals need sleep; even marine mammals “sleep”: the two hemispheres of their brains take turns shutting off and “sleeping”.
Up your physical exercise
According to a health publication by Harvard (http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/regular-exercise-changes-brain-improv...), engaging in aerobic exercise (like jogging, cycling, running, swimming) that gets your blood pumping increases the size of your hippocampus; that is, the part of your brain that is responsible for verbal memory and learning. By this, it is supposed to help you be able to remember things better. Unfortunately though, this effect is not seen with resistance training and muscle toning exercises such as yoga.
Health website mercola.com (http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/04/24/memory-imp...) recommends an increase in intake of foods that are known to be beneficial for brain health, such as Omega-3s which can be found in fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines. Alternatively, nutrition that are beneficial for memory, can also be easily found at pharmacies in the form of fish oil or flaxseed oil. Overconsumption of saturated fats and grain carbohydrates is detrimental to brain health, so avoid these as much as possible, Mercola says, or have them in moderation. Drink more green tea, which contains polyphenols (antioxidants that combat free radicals known to damage our cells, including those in the brain).
Learn something new
It is always a challenge to learn something new, but whenever our brain is forced to expand its limits by learning, it is being exercised. Whether you are learning a new language, to ride a bike, to play a musical instrument, or attend a pottery lesson, your brain is getting a workout by trying to cope with new information that requires hand-eye coordination or brain power!
This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on November 11, 2014.