How to … sharpen your memory at any age

Many people fear losing their memory as they grow older. While genetics do play a large role in this, your habits, diet and lifestyle also have a tremendous impact on your cognitive health and sharpness.

Incorporating these small changes into your lifestyle have been shown to improve memory at any age.

Shown to improve your sleep, mood and memory, meditation is accessible and easy to incorporate into your daily routine, even if you’re pressed for time. One study found that just four days of mindful meditation improved brain function, visuospatial processing and working memory.

Eat omega-3 fatty acids
If you haven’t noticed yet, YourLifeChoices loves to talk about omega-3 fatty acids and the best ways to eat them. My personal favourite – for both health and flavour – is the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to reduce risk of eye disease, lower women’s risk of stroke, help treat depression and add years to your life. Fish has been identified as the most important element of this diet, largely because it contains so many omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to boost energy and slow cognitive decline. Mackerel, salmon, cod liver oil, herring, oysters, sardines, anchovies and caviar are all great sources. If you don’t enjoy fish, omega-3 can also be found in hemp seeds, chia seeds and flax seeds.

Keep busy
People with fuller days exercise their minds and challenge their memory more often. One study of 300 subjects aged between 50 and 89 found that those who reported having busier lifestyles performed better in cognitive function tests.

Research conducted by the University of British Columbia found that walking briskly for one hour just twice a week can increase the size of your hippocampus – the part of your brain that helps with learning and memory. The same is true for other forms of aerobic exercise such as swimming, cycling and rowing.

Monitor your blood pressure
According to MoneyTalksNews, high blood pressure is associated with a high risk of cognitive decline later in life. It can also reduce blood flow to your brain, impairing your memory and cognitive function. Moderately high blood pressure has been linked to dementia.

Work out your brain
The expression ‘use it or lose it’ is just as true for your brain as the rest of your body. In order to keep your mind sharp, you need to regularly exercise and challenge it. Learning a language, picking up an instrument or practising new skills will help to keep your mind and memory sharp.

Eat berries
Flavonoid-rich berries such as blueberries and strawberries have been shown to improve memory. A 2012 study conducted by Harvard researchers found that they are especially effective at preventing declining memory in women. The Global Council on Brain Health also highly recommends that people aged 50 and over incorporate berries into their diet.

Sit in the sun
A 2015 study found that older people with healthy memories or only mild cognitive decline had higher levels of vitamin D than those with dementia. You can absorb vitamin D by spending time in the sun or by eating eggs and oily fish.

Quit smoking
A 2011 study found that on everyday memory tests non-smokers consistently outperformed smokers. If you want to sharpen your mind, it may be time to quit smoking. The study also found that people who gave up smoking performed nearly as well as those who never smoked, showing that significant improvements are possible.

Are you concerned about age-related cognitive decline? What do you do to improve and preserve your own memory?

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Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Liv Gardiner
Liv Gardiner
Writer and editor with interests in travel, lifestyle, health, wellbeing, astrology and the enivornment.
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