Forgetfulness: How to Train Your Brain to Improve

If you know the exasperation of walking into a room only to forget the reason for being there, you’ve probably also wondered if your memory is going. In a sense, it is—studies show memory peaks in our mid-20s, then gradually declines. So some memory loss is a normal part of aging (discounting, of course, the more severe signs of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia). The good news is that there are things you can do to enhance your brain’s defenses. Here are five of the most effective.

1. Eat Foods That Are Help Gray Matter

Become a fan of nature’s superfoods. Everyone knows about the benefits of blueberries and broccoli, but some others may surprise you. For example, eggs are high in choline, a B12 family member (which helps make DNA, and supports nerve cell and red blood cell health). Meanwhile, oily fish (like salmon) are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which help fight memory loss as we age.

When it comes to herbs, just a sniff of pungent rosemary can evoke powerful reactions within the brain, and its oil also has healthy effects on the bloodstream. Eat plenty of beets, too, as their natural nitrates improve focus and concentration. You should also feel free to load your plate with vegetables more generally, as they are known to delay the slowing of brain processes.

2. Mindfulness

There’s a new kid on the block, and he’s creating quite a buzz in the health and wellness neighborhood. His name: Mindfulness. Simply put, being mindful means living in the moment, not stressing about tomorrow’s performance review or the spat you had at breakfast with your teenager. Between the demands of families, jobs, and the constant noise of everyday life, the brain’s circuits can easily get crossed.

Detangle the mess with a few minutes of silence. Sit in a quiet area, close your eyes, and think of nothing but your breath for five minutes a day (gradually working up to 15). The proven benefits of mindfulness and meditation include better focus, enhanced memory, improved learning and lower stress levels.

3. Exercise

The importance of exercise can’t be overstated. Its list of health benefits are too long to list here (and you probably know most of them already), but when it comes to a healthy brain it’s important to note that exercise is one of the main controllable factors that maintains memory and cognitive functioning.

Exercise clears out the gunk that builds up in the channels of your brain, much like it helps keep your blood vessels clear (which in turn send nutrients to the brain). Don’t already have an exercise regimen? Talk to your doctor and make a plan today. It doesn’t have to leave you drenched in sweat—start with 30 minutes of walking every day, then ramp up your game with occasional higher intensity workouts. Your body and your brain will thank you.

4. Don’t Blame Your Parents

Contrary to popular belief, your genes aren’t entirely to blame for declining memory. While there are studies that suggest a link between Alzheimer’s disease and family history, you have the ability to give those genes a boost by cultivating the fittest brain you can.

According to Drs. Mehmet Oz and Michael Roizen (in their book “You Staying Young”), at least two studies confirm that half of your memory is tied to genetics, and you can change the way those genetics reveal themselves by making lifestyle choices that up the odds in your brain’s favor.

5. Engage Your Brain

Do something new. Learn to knit, play chess, or take a class in underwater basket weaving. Take a class and challenge your mind to try new things. If you’re already an expert in something, then share what you know by becoming a teacher or a mentor. Anything that takes the mind in a different direction (or keeps it active) has a positive impact on the brain’s function. Learning is to the brain what exercise is to the body.

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