Maintain Your Brain Properly to Help Memory

By American Geriatrics Society (AGS), Health in Aging Foundation

Your ability to remember depends on a number of factors, the first of which is maintaining a healthy brain through adequate nourishment, exercise, and rest. To ensure that your brain works at an optimum level, follow these guidelines:

  • Eat a balanced diet. What you eat affects your brain’s chemistry. Eating the right foods gives your body the building blocks to manufacture brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters affect not only your mood and ability to think clearly but also your ability to remember.

A simple, balanced meal consists of a carbohydrate, a protein, and a fruit or vegetable. Eating a balanced meal regularly can provide you with a sound foundation for your brain and its memory. There is growing evidence that excessive carbohydrates may contribute to cognitive deficits.

  • Get regular exercise. Exercise enhances your memory because it helps your brain receive the nutrients it needs. Every time you exercise, you increase your respiratory rate, your metabolism, and your energy level. Regular walking for exercise can actually increase your memory and your brain volume over years of sticking to it!
  • Get enough sleep. You need a certain amount of sleep at night to function properly. But did you know that regular restful sleep actually improves your memory? While you sleep, your brain is busy reorganizing your memories. By going through all the stages of sleep, including REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, your brain builds relationships between your new and old memories. Studies have shown that being deprived of sleep for 24 hours decreases memory and concentration. So be sure to let your brain get the sleep it needs for proper thinking and memory building!
  • Rest well. The amount of sleep you get is only part of the equation; the quality of your rest also counts. To promote restful sleep (and avoid insomnia), cut down on sugar and caffeine intake (especially at night), avoid alcohol, maximize bright light in the daytime and minimize it in the evening (including light from electronics), and exercise three to six hours before going to bed.