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SALT LAKE CITY — We all forget things from time to time. In fact, we've probably forgotten more things than we've retained over the course of our lives. Even though that's pretty normal — after all, who even wants to remember all that high school trigonometry when you can barely keep track of where you left your keys? — it can be really frustrating and downright maddening.
But don't worry, that can be fixed. Really.
"Although aging is inevitable, losing your mental acuity is not. The brain is amazingly resilient, capable of making new connections, learning new skills and compensating for aging — a concept known as neuroplasticity," reads an article on Consumer Reports for Health.org.
Countless experts agree. "Although most people accept that some memory loss occurs with aging, it is also possible to take proactive steps to protect memory," writes Madeline Roberts Vann, MPH, in an online article for Discovery Fit & Health.
Vann and others offer their expert tips on not only protecting memory but giving it a big boost. Here are the top 5 tips:
- Go for brain food. The easiest and most natural way to boost your brain power is to feed your brain. Vann suggests that "eating foods rich in antioxidants, B vitamins or omega-3 fatty acids can help preserve brain health, memory and thinking into old age." Good-for-your-brain foods include sweet potatoes, berries, almonds and walnuts, okra, dark leafy greens, oranges, carrots, and milk.
- Take care of your cardiovascular health. "People who have heart disease also struggle with memory and cognition," Vann writes. She suggests controlling cholesterol, high blood pressure and blood sugar as well as limiting alcohol consumption and eliminating smoking. Consumer Reports also advises people to get moving. "Aerobic exercise improves circulation, which helps feed oxygen-rich blood to the brain," the article reads. "A study of nearly 300 older adults published in December 2010 reported that those who walked at least 72 blocks, roughly six miles, each week had more gray matter than those who didn't walk as much, and cut their risk of developing memory problems in half." The report recommends at least 30 minutes of brisk walking, biking or another activity that gets your heart pumping every day.
- Rest easy. Early to bed and early to rise really does make a man healthy and wise (thanks, Ben Franklin). A 2005 study by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center shows that "a good night's sleep triggers changes in the brain that help to improve memory." Aim for six to eight hours of sleep a night, Vann says, and try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule on weekends as well as weekdays to improve the quality of your sleep.
Have any memory-boosting tips of your own? Share them with us on the comment board.
If you nix sleeping in too late, you can also maximize on another brain- boosting trick: enjoy the sunlight. "Seeking out light first thing in the morning helps set the body's circadian rhythms and, apparently, improves memory," Vann writes.
- Train your brain. Your memory is indeed like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. Consumer Reports writes that a 2009 Mayo Clinic study found that "doing a computer brain-training program an hour a day, five days a week, for eight weeks was like turning the clock back 10 years and improved participants' memory and self- reported ability to perform tasks such as recalling a shopping list." With this method of memory boosting, no purchase is required. You can learn anything new, from taking up a new musical instrument to learning a foreign language, or even just memorizing poems or learning to recognize birds. The trick is to do a bit of consistent, regular study every day.
- Try some new tricks. There are entire library shelves dedicated to brain-boosting tricks, like mnemonics and visualization, or simple methods of keeping your life organized. Vann suggests "placing a calendar in a prominent location, writing down everything in a notebook that contains all your to-do's and lists and finding easy-to-see places where you always leave important items such as glasses and keys." For many more memory-boosting tricks, see the websites listed in the related links section of this article, or share your own on the comment boards.