You’ve probably seen the ads — little pictures on the Internet or in the back pages of magazines promising to “boost” your memory or help you remember things long forgotten. Perhaps you’ve been feeling like you’re having a hard time recalling specific facts, faces or people’s names. This could be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease, and if you’re experiencing these symptoms, you should talk to a doctor right away.
What you shouldn’t do is believe in any of the claims of companies or health gurus trying to sell you a product that will miraculously restore or enhance your memory; there is no such product, ingredient or magic formula that will do so. The fact is that our brains are like a 3-ring notebook; there’s only so much information that will fit inside, and your mind is constantly prioritizing one memory over another. As our brains age, we naturally begin to lose some of our memories, usually beginning with the oldest ones.
Using the 3-ring notebook analogy, imagine that every year, another few pages are lost from the notebook. There’s no way to add new pages or to put the pages that were lost back. However, there are some basic steps you can take to make sure you lose as few pages as possible as you grow older.
There are two ways to do this, and if you take advantage of both of them, you’ll find yourself way ahead of your peers in terms of memory.
The first way should be common sense — it’s to stay as healthy as possible by eating properly, exercising moderately and taking generally good care of your health. Certain foods help keep the brain operating optimally well into people’s old ages. Some of these foods are items high in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish and fish oils. These aren’t just good for the brain; they’re excellent for your heart too.
Not just any fish will do; some are better than others. The best fish to eat for Omega-3s are fatty, salty ones that are part of the “SMASH” acronym — salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring. Other fish and fish products such as trout and caviar are good for the brain, but contain less concentrated Omega-3s than the “SMASH” fish. Tuna should only be consumed in moderate amounts (no more than one tuna steak or meal of tuna sushi per week) unless it’s canned light tuna — not the albacore or yellowfin varieties.
Try to avoid shrimp, as these are particularly adulterated with heavy metals and other filthy pollutants these days (many shrimp are stored in unsanitary and hazardous conditions and can be labeled as domestic when in fact they come from Asia).
Other foods that are high in Omega-3s are chia seeds, walnuts, soybeans, tomatoes and spinach. These can be ingredients in salads, vegetable juices and energy bars. Additional foods that can help with brain functioning include avocados, beets, broccoli, blueberries, bone broth, celery, uncooked olive oil and dark chocolate. Try to get these items in as fresh and unprocessed a form as possible. In general, protein-rich foods will give your brain the nourishment it needs to function (likewise, denying your body necessary protein will eventually take a toll on your brain).
There are also categories of so-called “smart foods” and “smart drinks” that will cause your brain to be more alert (caffeine will do this), but this is different from repairing or augmenting memory. There’s nothing wrong with being a little more alert, but be wary of consuming too many of these items too often.
The second way to keep your memory sharp is to avoid products and actions which are known to impair mental functioning. These include consuming drugs, alcohol, certain medications (consult your doctor if you’re unsure which ones), tobacco products and foods containing trans-fats (try to avoid anything with the word “hydrogenated” in it). Even short-term use of some of these can result in brain dysfunction and memory loss.
Avoid foods that are filled with chemicals, additives and artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame (also known as Nutrasweet), saccharine or stevia. You’ve probably heard the advice that any food labeled “diet” is likely not a sound choice. Try to stay away from highly processed foods that come from big multinational brands. A good guideline to follow when in the supermarket is: if it comes in a bag, a box or a can, it’s probably at least somewhat bad for you.
Whenever possible, take care of your body — don’t spend too much time in extreme temperatures; always stay hydrated, and don’t indulge in extreme diets or fasting without consulting your doctor. If you’re overweight, this condition can affect your brain functioning negatively as well as your body. Basic food components like fat and carbohydrates are essential for your body to function, but if eaten exclusively or in excess, they can harm long-term brain operation.
Studies show that engaging in game-playing, problem- and/or puzzle-solving keeps the brain active and sharp; even something as simple as a daily match of rummy, bridge or poker will help preserve cognition.
One last factor that many people overlook is plenty of good, sound sleep that will allow the brain to maintain and restore itself. This is incredibly valuable because our bodies are programmed to spend one-third of our lives sleeping. A continuous lack of sleep taxes the brain and the body and deteriorates both over time.
Your brain is perhaps your body’s most vital organ; there’s basically no way to repair it once it’s been damaged, so take care of your brain by following the steps above. There may be no such thing as a memory aid, but there are sure-fire ways to keep your mind in shape that are easy to accomplish if you give them a little effort!
~ Health Scams Exposed