Boosting your mental power
Chantelle Drobot, ND
Forgotten someone's name right after she introduced herself? Luckily research indicates you can easily improve and maintain a sharp memory with a healthy lifestyle.
Have you ever forgotten someone’s name right after she introduced herself to you? It’s frustrating and embarrassing, but minor memory loss happens to many people over the age of 40. Luckily, research indicates you can easily improve your memory.
It shouldn’t come as a shock that a healthy lifestyle is imperative to maintaining a sharp memory.
A 2008 study defined a healthy lifestyle as a BMI under 22; a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole foods, and low in fats; daily physical exercise; a history of never smoking; and alcohol consumption of no more than four to 10 drinks per week.
Researchers found that individuals who maintained a healthy lifestyle had significantly better memory performance than those who did not. Studies have also confirmed that omega-3 fats, specifically EPA and DHA which can be found in a healthy diet, can significantly improve cognitive function in older individuals with minor cognitive impairment.
TIP: Omega-3 fats are found in fatty fish such as salmon, herring, and sardines.
How many times have we heard about the benefits of exercise? Well now we have one more reason to remember to exercise. Studies indicate that moderate physical activity can improve learning and memory and may be able to delay or prevent the loss of cognitive function that is associated with the aging process.
Don’t like the gym? No problem, a recent study showed that a simple 12-week home program which included story retelling, memory-enhancing games, and aerobic exercise resulted in cognitive benefits for those enrolled in the research project.
TIP: Health Canada recommends 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise every day to reap the benefits of physical activity. However, if you can’t fit in that much time, some is always better than none.
Some experts recommend drinking eight glasses of water a day to maintain our weight and energy levels, but water is also important for healthy memory maintenance. Although examining the effects of hydration on cognitive function is a relatively new area of research, studies have suggested that even minor dehydration may affect memory and cognition, not only in adults but also in children.
TIP: What counts as water? Beverages such as juice, milk, and herbal teas are mainly made up of water, but water should be your main beverage. Food provides about 20 percent of our water intake, so be sure to always eat as many juicy fruits and vegetables as you can.
An increasingly large number of adults are having trouble maintaining a normal sleep pattern. Research confirms that sleep is one of the most influential factors in maintaining healthy cognitive function.
Studies repeatedly show that sleep deprivation negatively affects mood, attention, working memory, and cognitive performance.
A consistent lack of sleep adversely affects endocrine function and metabolic and inflammatory responses, suggesting that sleep deprivation may be unhealthy from a physiological standpoint.
TIP: For a good night’s sleep, get to bed before 11 pm, eat a small healthy snack before bed, sleep in a dark room, and don’t look at the clock should you wake during the night.
Finally, there is herbal help that has been proven to aid memory maintenance. Ginkgo biloba is a herb that acts as an antioxidant and increases circulation to the small blood vessels in the brain by decreasing blood viscosity (thinning the blood).
Research has provided reliable evidence that consistent use of ginkgo may improve cognitive functions such as selective attention, executive processes, and long-term memory for verbal and nonverbal material.
Studies have also indicated that ginkgo is safe to use and causes few side effects; however, because of its blood-thinning effects, those people on pharmaceutical blood thinners or those scheduled for surgery should consult their natural health practitioner before taking ginkgo.
TIP: Ginkgo is available in several forms: capsules, tablets, liquid extracts, and dried leaf for teas. Your natural health retailer can help you choose the form that’s right for you.
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