The following advice is how a Harvard Brain Specialist, Marie Pasinski MD, improves her memory skills and keeps her own brain healthy. Scientists now believe that you do have the ability to remember and learn as you age, in fact these skills can actually get better! Here are simple steps that anyone can take to promote a healthy brain and improve your memory:
Get together with a friend. People who have supportive friends and a rich social network have better cognitive function and lower rates of dementia than those who spend more time alone. One reason is purely mental, the brain is stimulated when you share ideas with other people. Social engagement lowers levels of stress hormones which is toxic to the brain's memory center. It also appears to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk for stroke.
Change your routine. Routine creates mental ruts. The brain uses only preexisting pathways and connections to complete familiar tasks. It stops growing and improving. By embracing new experiences, you stimulate your brain to create neurons and forge additional pathways. Every time you extend your scope of experience and think in new ways the more you challenge your brain and the more its functions improve.
Work the underused side of your brain. If you are someone who relies heavily on the logical left side of your brain do something that works the right side, the imaginative side or vice versa. The improvements that you get from mental challenges quickly level off as you gain expertise.
Have fun. People who enjoy what they're doing get a mental boost. Enjoyment triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that enhances learning and retention of new material.
Get physical. Exercise triggers the release of a growth factor that promotes the formation of new synapses in the brain that are critical for memory and other cognitive functions. Exercise also increases the size of the brain, the part of the brain that is involved in reasoning, problem-solving and other executive functions. It also increases the area of the brain that is closely involved with memory. It improves circulation and helps prevent hypertension and other conditions that increase the risk for dementia.
Eat brain food. A diet with relatively little red meat and lots of fish, vegetables and whole grains, is the best diet for brain health. People who follow this diet have less atherosclerosis, hypertension and diabetes, conditions that cause inflammation and other brain changes that impair thinking and memory. About two-thirds of the brain consist of fat. When you eat cold water fish the omega-3s from the fish are incorporated into brain tissue. People who use olive oil regularly tend to have lower rates of dementia and better cognitive function overall.
It doesn't take hard work or complicated mental workouts to improve mental agility. Have fun, socialize, mix up your routine, exercise, eat right and enjoy life!
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