Have you ever walked into a room and forgot why you walked in there? Or started a sentence only to forget what your point was?
We’ve all been there. And while these little lapses in memory are normal and typically aren’t cause for concern, many people are concerned about memory loss.
Luckily, we know now that there are things we can do to preserve, and even improve, our memory.
Science-backed ways to sharpen your memory:
1. Make Sleep a Priority
A 2013 study conducted by the University of California, Berkley was the first of its kind to confirm the link between poor sleep and memory loss. The study found that during sleep, certain brain waves are produced that help transfer short-term memories to the part of the brain that stores long-term memories.
The researchers found that poor sleep can cause memories to stay in the hippocampus, resulting in forgetfulness. This is especially prevalent in older adults, as sleep quality can frequently decrease as we age.
We also now know that during deep sleep, the glymphatic system cleanses our brains of waste. This stage is important for maintaining overall brain health, so a lack of deep sleep may have negative effects on memory.
Exercise isn’t just for keeping your waistline trim – it’s crucial for brain health too. More and more studies are finding a link between regular exercise and a decreased risk of neurodegenerative diseases, like dementia.
Mayo Clinic says that exercising several times a week for 30 to 60 minutes may:
- “Keep thinking, reasoning, and learning skills sharp for healthy individuals
- Improve memory, reasoning, judgment and thinking skills (cognitive function) for people with mild Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment
- Delay the start of Alzheimer’s for people at risk of developing the disease or slow the progress of the disease.”
If you’re not sure what kind of workout you should do, walking is a great place to start.
3. Try Meditation.
It may sound like just a trendy fad, but there’s real science behind meditation. Some research shows that meditation can go so far as to change the structure of our brains and improve neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to change and grow.
Some studies have also linked meditation to an increase in gray matter. As we age, gray matter tends to decrease, which can contribute to memory loss. Studies have also linked meditation to improved short-term memory in people of all ages.
4. Lose Extra Weight
Studies are beginning to label obesity as a risk factor for cognitive decline. Research from the University of Cambridge found that obese participants in a study appeared to have white matter resembling that of individuals 10 years older than they actually were.
Furthermore, obesity itself is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s. Studies have found a link between obesity and smaller brain volumes, which increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The good news is that physical activity can help reduce that risk.
5. Cut Back on Refined Sugar
One 2013 study looked at the effects of blood sugar on the brain. Researchers found a correlation between increased blood sugar and an increased risk for developing dementia – even in individuals who weren’t diabetic.
One possible explanation for this is that elevated blood sugar results in an impaired hippocampus, a part of the brain critical for short-term memory — like remembering names, dates, and conversations. Although the hippocampus requires glucose to retrieve information, too much glucose in the blood is thought to disrupt the way the hippocampus does so, possibly negatively impacting memory.
6. Consider Neurofeedback
Studies have also linked neurofeedback training to improved memory. This may be a result of increased neuroplasticity. More neuroplasticity is correlated with more synaptic growth in the hippocampus.
One study found that neurofeedback training significantly improved the visuospatial short-term memory in 70% of the study participants. Furthermore, other studies have found that neurofeedback training may be more effective than other cognitive training in some cases.
When it comes to sharpening your memory, commit to a healthy lifestyle. Eat a diet low in processed sugar, stay active, and try your hand at regular meditation.
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Kubala, Jillian. (2018, March 26). “14 Natural Ways to Improve Your Memory.” Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ways-to-improve-memory