Brain and memory health matter… for both daily functionality as well as long-term quality of life. And the great news is that there are some easy things you can do to boost your brain health both in the short- and long-term!
The following strategies can help you better manage your memory, whether your goal is to never forget why you walked into a room or to reduce the likelihood of developing brain diseases later in life, such as Alzheimer’s.
Before we get going, we should mention that there is so much great information about eating right for your brain health! Check out our Easy Brain Breakfasts for Busy People post here.)
As for improving your memory and brain health in ways outside of diet? Let’s take a look at three easy (and maybe surprising) ways to improve your memory…
#1 Sleep to Improve Memory
Have you seen the rom-com, 50 First Dates? If not, here’s the basic premise. Drew Barrymore’s character has a brain injury that causes her short-term memory to be erased every night. Each morning she wakes thinking it is the day of the injury. She is unable to convert short-term memories into long-term memories, thus she cannot learn new things, including the man now pursuing her affection.
While the movie may seem far-fetched, science does support that much of the brain’s learning and memory storage occurs while sleeping. Converting moments into memories is a process that happens during sleep. And while power naps can help, the deeper REM sleep you get, the better your mental performance. Studies show mental performance increased by 33% to 73% through deep sleep!
As for those power naps? A Harvard study showed that short naps (six to 45 minutes) helped college students improve scores in cognitive tests, including memorizing pairs of unrelated words, memorizing a maze, and recalling a complex form. All participants in the study were tested. Half the study group was allowed a nap after the initial testing. All participants were retested. Those who napped saw an improvement in their scores.
So yes, sleep matters. Deep sleep improves cognitive and memory formation the best, but even short bursts of sleep improve creativity, decision making, and other brain functions.
#2 Aerobic Exercise for a Brain Boost
Ah, cardio! Touted as the end-all, be-all cure for so many of the things that ail you. And, no, it may not fix everything. But in this case, it kind of does have an almost mythical level of impact on the brain. Aerobic exercise is as close to a “magic pill” as you’ll get.
Exercising and elevating your heart rate creates a positive physiological change in the brain. It increases the size of the hippocampus, improves memory, and creates new brain cells and connections. That’s pretty remarkable, if you ask me! Exercise definitely has immediate, short-term benefits. But what about long-term perks?
Exercise can have a positive long-term benefit on the brain as well. And the best news is that it’s never too late to start! Worried that you’ve been too busy (or lazy) to exercise for the past couple of decades, and now find yourself thinking, “What’s the point?”
Reversing cognitive damage is the point! Yep, you can actually reverse one to two years’ worth of cognitive decline, as well as prevent the hippocampus from further decreasing in size.
A study at the University of Dublin tested adults age 60 and older. Some participants engaged in “active walking” for four months while others only engaged in stretching for the same time frame. Those who did more aerobic exercise improved their memory and attention substantially over the stretching group.
As for what kind of exercise, the answer is pretty straightforward: the kind you’ll do. If you like to walk, walk! If you like to use equipment, such as an elliptical or a rowing machine, perfect. Love to bike? Do it! Any form of cardio is beneficial to brain and memory health. The key is to continue to challenge yourself. As you get stronger, faster, and improve distance, set new goals.
#3 Maintain Your Social Network
Being social is another incredibly important key to maintaining long-term brain and memory health. And, no, social media is not enough. Maintaining a healthy social life is paramount to fighting off brain disease. Being social creates a healthy brain in several ways:
- Lowers stress
- Boosts learning and brain usage
- Reduces isolation and loneliness
- Lowers cortisol, blood pressure and boosts immunity due to relaxation
Who knew getting together with a friend for a chat, a walk, outing, or meal could do so much for your brain?
Non-Food Memory Boosters
These are just a few of the ways you can improve memory and boost brain power without altering diet. If you’re looking for another way to maximize brain and memory health, support your mind with Brain & Memory Fuel, a specially formulated nootropic featuring carefully selected and balanced memory-enhancing ingredients, such as acetyl-l-carnitine, bacopa, Sharp-PS and Huperzine A. Explore the research behind these ingredients.