September of every year is World Alzheimer’s Month, a campaign to increase people’s awareness of the disease and erase the stigma associated with it. In the US, 10% of seniors who have reached the age of 65 are suffering from Alzheimer’s, with the percentage increasing to 32% for the 82-year old and above population.
A Stanford study has shown that adults today can expect to live longer than their forefathers, regardless of their socioeconomic conditions. While this is welcome news, it’s logical to assume that the number of cases of Alzheimer’s disease will also rise.
Research about the disease continues but at present, there is still no known cure for it. Although medications are available to slow down the progress of its symptoms, they cannot reverse the gradual degeneration of the brain tissues that eventually leads to death.
Memory loss is a primary symptom of Alzheimer’s. It comes gradually and worsens over time until it is totally lost. But you can be proactive and practice healthy activities that will reduce the rate of cognitive decline and improve your memory. Follow them regularly and enhance the quality of your life going into old age.
10 Natural Ways to Improve Memory
1. Follow the MIND diet.
Certain foods have been found to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and improve brain health, both factors for preserving memory. Scientists at Rush University Medical Center developed the MIND diet, a hybrid of the more popular Mediterranean and Dash diets. Here are the foods to eat that the MIND diet recommends:
- Green leafy vegetables
- Other vegetables
- Wholegrains – ex., wheat, oats, brown rice, quinoa, barley
- Fish, preferably oily fish because they are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, tuna, mackerel, trout, sardines, etc.)
- Olive oil for cooking and dressings
- Nuts, 30-g serving 5 times a week
- Red wine, one glass per day
2. Avoid these five types of food
Also from the MIND diet, these foods should be avoided or, if eaten, only very occasionally. They are high in saturated fats and sugar, raising your risk for cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. These chronic lifestyle diseases contribute to the development of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
- Butter or margarine
- Red meat
- Fried food
- Sweets and pastries
3. Engage in regular physical exercise.
Regular aerobic exercise improves memory by benefiting the brain’s hippocampus, prefrontal, and medial temporal cortices, studies at the University of British Columbia have found. These are the parts responsible for memory, thinking and learning. Exercise that gets your heart pumping and your sweat glands working overtime induce the growth of new blood vessels and brain cells.
Remember, resistance training and weightlifting do not give the same benefits.
4. Play puzzle games.
As a pastime, solve crossword and sudoku puzzles instead of being on social media all the time. Puzzle games stimulate the mind to think and playing them have been found to improve memory and slow down cognitive decline, as findings of a research at the University of Exeter and King’s College London reveals. So, don’t just read your newspaper. Take out your pencil and play the games as well.
Playing scrabble and doing jigsaw puzzles work, too.
5. Take vitamins and minerals.
In several studies, certain vitamins and minerals have been found to improve memory. Vitamin B-12 combined with Omega-3 fatty acids help delay memory loss in people with Vit. B-12 deficiency. These are usually vegetarians and older adults. Other vitamins and supplements that you can take to improve memory are the B complex vitamins, Vitamin E, Ginkgo Biloba, Coenzyme Q10 and fish oils.
6. Play video games.
Video games aren’t exclusive to kids and young people. Adults of any age find them entertaining and mentally stimulating as well. At the University of Montreal, a study found that seniors who play video games five times a week for six months had improved memory, reduced cognitive impairment and increased gray matter in the brain. If you have stopped, begin again and brush up on your gaming skills.
7. Quit smoking.
There are no ifs and buts about this. Just quit. Smoking damages the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus and thalamus of the brain. These are vital for memory retention and thinking. In natural aging, the cortex becomes thin, but smoking hastens the thinning process, and memory loss comes prematurely.
Quitting smoking can partially restore the cortex thickness for every year without smoking. That should be encouraging news for smokers to stop.
8. Get together with other people regularly.
Interact with people socially. They can be your coworkers or friends you’ve maintained outside of work. Bond and unwind over drinks or coffee, or simply hang out at someone’s place. There’s nothing like fun and laughter and letting your hair down to de-stress. Happy people maintain memory function better.
9. Read books.
Reading takes you to another world and stimulates your mind. It stirs the imagination and gives you experiences you can’t go through in real life. Using your mind to conjure up thoughts on the stories you read wards off brain degeneration and improves memory retention, according to professors at the Northcentral University in San Diego, California.
10. Manage stress.
You can’t completely get rid of stressors, but you can manage your stress. Stress triggers the release of the hormone cortisol. But its overproduction can interfere with the ability of the brain to retain and recall memories. Develop mindfulness through meditation or yoga to relieve stress and improve memory.