I read an article in one of our national newspapers the other day about how to boost and protect your memory and improve mental performance.

We currently live in an era of information overload especially with technology at our fingertips 24/7 so I think this is nice little reminder of how to keep our brains working to our best advantage.

None of the advice here is difficult to adopt so take a little time out, get your brains in gear and read on!

Walk for 30 minutes daily

The brain uses more than 1/5 of the body’s energy production and research has shown that regular exercise feeds the body with oxygen and nutrients.  A recent study found that fit 50 year olds had greater brain volume later in life in two areas of the brain associated with memory.  They also had greater volume of white matter, a loss of which can be early symptoms of Alzheimer’s.  The Alzheimer’s Society says that you do not have to do strenuous exercise – brisk walking for 30 minutes a day, 3 times a week is sufficient.

Eat your greens and nuts

The Mind diet developed by nutritionists at Rush University in Chicago recommend a diet based on whole grains, green leafy vegetables and other veg, and snack on nuts and include beans, poultry, berries and fish in the diet.  You may also eat limited amounts of butter, cheese and red meats.  Olive oil is recommended for cooking and drizzling on foods. A daily glass of red wine is also allowed.  They also recommend avoiding sweets, pastries, and fried or fast foods (see below).

Cut out all trans fats

Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated trans fats are found in many refined and processed foods such as burgers, cakes, pastries, biscuits, baked goods, dressings, margarines…..the list goes on!  Beatrice Golomb led a study which showed that trans fats worsened the short term memory of men aged about 45.  She was quoted as saying “trans fats increase the shelf life of foods but reduces the shelf life of people”!  Trans fats have also been implicated in conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancers, inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, eczema and asthma.  Take a look at my blogs to read more about these fats: http://www.lucksyardclinic.com/new-advice-fats-sugars/

Reduce how much sugar you eat

Again, I have written lots of blogs on the dangers of excess sugar in the diet and how to reduce it.  A study has shown that people with high glucose levels – especially those who are pre-diabetic – show a reduced ability to remember events in their lives when compared to people with normal blood sugar.  It appears that high blood glucose damages brain function by hindering memory and the ability to learn.

Keep a healthy weight

A study of 6,400 people with an average age of 50 found that those who were overweight had memory test scores decline 22.5% faster than those with normal weight.  A previous study looking at both gray matter and white matter of the brain, found that the people defined as obese had lost brain tissue in the frontal and temporal lobes, areas of the brain critical for planning and memory.

The damage caused by drinking and smoking

Both drinking and smoking has been shown to speed up memory decline by up to 6 years for middle aged men who drink the equivalent of 2 and a half pints daily.  Drinking is considered even more harmful to teenagers than adults because their brains are still developing throughout adolescence and well into young adulthood. Drinking during this critical growth period can lead to lifelong damage in brain function, particularly as it relates to memory, motor skills and coordination.

Scientists in Edinburgh and Montreal recently found that smokers have a thinner cortex than non-smoker.  The cortex is the outer layer of the brain responsible for memory, language and perception.

Drink coffee (depending on your age)

Middle aged people were shown to perform better at short term memory tests after drinking a strong coffee.  The same effect was not recorded with younger people.  It appears that caffeine is able to boost electrical activity between neutrons in the part of the brain responsible for short-term memory.

A team of scientists at Johns Hopkins, and his team of scientists also found that caffeine has a positive effect on our long-term memory. Their research published by the Journal Nature Neuroscience, showed that caffeine enhances certain memories at least up to 24 hours after it is consumed.  This was achieved with one to two coffees daily.