Most of us, as we get a little older, start to wish that our memory would serve us better. We notice that we cannot recall a person’s name or remember what we went into the next room to do. While stress and overwhelm create a fast-paced life which predisposes us to memory lapses, there are real things we can do that will make a positive difference in our memory every day. This month, the physicians of Bambú Clinic discuss memory lapses and improvement.
How Could I Forget?
All too often, a patient tells us they are concerned about their memory. It may be a parent who forgot to pick up a child from school, someone who forgot to turn off the stove after heating soup, or even one of our physicians here at Bambú Clinic who (gasp!) forgot to check their phone messages. Any of this sound familiar? With our busy lives, we all too often overload our days (and our minds) with “to-do” items.
If you are continually forgetting important things during your day, be honest with yourself about how much you are expecting of your mind. Our brains are not designed to cook, email, and talk on the phone all at once! Simplify your expectations, do one thing at a time, and watch your memory improve.
In addition to banning multi-tasking, these three simple tips can have a profound effect on your memory and brain function.
- Sleep: get a full night’s rest
- Drink water: stay hydrated
- Chew your food
Sleep aids in learning in two distinct ways. First, adequate sleep improves focus, concentration and efficiency of creating a new memory. But, memory requires three separate brain functions—acquisition of new knowledge, consolidation and recall. While acquisition and recall occur only when you are awake, studies have shown that the second way sleep and memory are connected is in the consolidation step. When a memory consolidates, it becomes a “stable” neural network, this activity takes place while you sleep. This part of the process may be more crucial to the accuracy and reliability of memory retention than wakeful focus and attention. As this seems to be true for both factual and procedural learning, this information may help to explain why infants and children require more sleep than adults.
Just like inadequate sleep, even mild dehydration can impair your focus and concentration. Our bodies are at least 60% water, making it the best liquid to hydrate ourselves. Water is also a primary donor of oxygen to our systems. More oxygen in the body means more oxygen to the brain, boosting our mental clarity, alertness and attention. Water also provides an excellent conductor for electrical impulses including transmission of nervous signals.
It may seem strange, but emerging evidence suggests that chewing your food properly significantly improves your memory. Scientists in the UK discovered that subjects performed better on tests of both short and long-term memory if they chewed gum during the trial. A March 2000 Japanese study showed increased activity of the hippocampus, a crucial brain structure involved in memory, while people chew. To be clear, the gum is not necessary, just the chewing. Crunchy foods may stimulate the hippocampus more substantially than softer foods.
Super Foods to boost Memory
Our newsletter would not be complete without a discussion of the role diet can play in boosting memory. These super foods can help your brain to function at its best. Try to incorporate them into your diet as often as possible.
Fatty fish, including wild salmon, sardines, and anchovies have omega-3 fatty acids that are healthy for your brain (and your heart!)
Blueberries have been shown in numerous studies to do wonderful things for memory and the brain in general. Blueberries contain anthocyanin, a known memory-boosting phytochemical. They also contain many other phytochemicals that may contribute to healthy brain function.
Rosemary contains carnosic acid, which is neuroprotective and may play a role in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative brain disorders. One study even found that just the scent of rosemary improved the memories of office workers.
Spinach has been shown to prevent and even reverse memory loss in rats. This may be due in part to its high folic acid content, a nutrient that is believed to be protective against Alzheimer’s disease and age-related memory loss. Just a half-cup of cooked spinach provides two-thirds your daily requirement of folic acid.
We hope you found this information helpful. We strive to help our patients find a healthy way in the world. If you have topics you’d like us to address in future issues, please let us know. We are always available for questions and comments.
The Physicians of Bambú Clinic