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Healthy Habits to Improve Memory

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 31 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Intelligence Memory Brain Improve Memory

We all know that your brain is like a muscle – the more you use it, the better condition it remains in and the more powerful it becomes. And this is especially true of memory – the mental ability to retrieve information that you have learnt or experienced. But is it possible to improve your memory? Sure! By practising certain ‘healthy habits’ on a regular basis, you can boost your intelligence as well as improve your memory. Here’s how:

Healthy Habit #1 – Good Sleep

Sleep is really important for memory consolidation and therefore memory improvement. It is also vital for maintaining normal functioning of the brain. So make sure that you get enough sleep and that you sleep at the right times – boring as it may sound, early to bed, early to rise is the best policy. Sleeping in to compensate for a late night does not allow your body to be in the correct resting state during its critical window for recovery and repair and will simply leave you feeling more drained, lethargic and unable to concentrate the next day.

Healthy Habit #2 – Regular Exercise

We all know exercise is the key to better physical health – well, it is the key to better mental health too! Regular exercise increases oxygen to your brain and enhances brain chemicals which boost intelligence and mental abilities. It also reduces the risk of disorders such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes which could actually lead to memory loss! So if you want to improve your memory, get your running shoes on, join a gym, take up dancing, go swimming – anything that gets your heart rate pumping!

Healthy Habit #3 – Brainy Nutrition

You are what you eat and the correct diet plays an important role in memory improvement. Research shows that certain nutrients can stimulate and nurture brain function. These include:
  • B vitamins – such as B6, B12 and folic acid, which are found in broccoli, strawberries, spinach and other dark leafy greens, asparagus, melons, citrus fruits, soybeans, black beans and other legumes.
  • Antioxidants (eg. vitamins C and E, and beta carotene) – these are founding a variety of fresh foods but are especially concentrated in berries, such as blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, broccoli, sweet potatoes, nuts & seeds, red tomatoes, spinach, citrus fruits, liver and green tea.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – these are the famous ‘fish oils’, found in cold-water fish such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, herring and halibut, as well as walnuts, flaxseed and their pressed oils.

While these nutrients can all be taken as supplements, they work best and are in their most biologically active and available form when they are eaten in their natural state as part of a fresh and varied diet.

Healthy Habit #4 – Stress Control

Stress isn’t just bad for your health – it’s bad for your brain too. The main stress hormone, cortisol, can actually damage a part of the brain called the hippocampus if it remains at consistently high levels, as when stress if unrelieved. Stress also makes it generally difficult to concentrate which does nothing to help memory improvement. So take some time to find ways to manage your stress levels – different things work for different people but common ways to deal with stress include talking things over with friends and family, spending time with pets, having a regular enjoyable hobby, doing a physical activity, treating yourself to spa treatments, listening to music and learning meditation techniques.

Healthy Habit #5 – Ban the Cigarettes!

Yes, aside from all the other damage that smoking does to your body, it also affects your brain because it constricts the arteries that deliver oxygen to the brain. Studies by researchers at the Universities of Aberdeen and Edinburgh show that those who smoked performed significantly worse in IQ tests and that smoking seriously stunted your intellectual development. So not only is smoking a ‘dumb habit’ but it could literally make you dumber as well!

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