1. Use It Or Lose It
That’s the golden rule of brainpower. The brain functions like a muscle in that the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Watching lots of unstimulating TV; having a job routine; cooking, cleaning, and shopping the same way over and over—all contribute to brainpower loss. Learning new things, varying your routines, having provocative discussions, going on adventurous vacations, and playing a musical instrument all cause your brain to make new connections and function better.
2. Feed Your Brain Whole Grain
If you’ve been following a high-protein, low-carb diet and simultaneously finding your memory going, it’s probably not a coincidence. More than any other organ, the brain relies on glucose for fuel. And glucose comes from carbs. One study of 22 older people from the University of Toronto found that those whose diets contained the greatest percentage of calories as carbohydrates performed best on memory and task tests. Make sure you’re getting your carbs from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, not ice cream, candy, and cake.
3. Skip Dessert Tonight
And tomorrow night as well. It might just help you drop a few pounds—a good thing when it comes to memory. That’s because Swedish researchers found that older women diagnosed with memory problems tended to be an average of 11-17 pounds overweight compared to women who had fewer memory lapses. Other studies find overweight women and men have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
4. Switch the Television Station to Public Broadcasting
The higher-level programming on public television will do more to engage your brain than any reality show or sitcom ever could. As we said, the more engaged your brain, the healthier your brain functions, including memory.
5. Have a Drink with Dinner
A study of 746 men and women found that those who drank one to six alcoholic beverages (beer, wine, or liquor) a week were 54 per cent less likely than abstainers to develop dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia) over six years. Stop with one, though; the same study found that 14 or more drinks weekly increased the risk of dementia by 22 per cent.
6. Be a Bookworm
Read for an hour every day. But forget Jackie Collins novels. Pick a topic about which you know very little and read five books on that topic. Then move on to the next topic. Your brain will soak up the knowledge like a parched rosebush, sending out blooms in the form of neurons that help maintain a healthy memory.
7. Listen To Music at the Gym
A study of 33 adults undergoing cardiac rehabilitation found that those who listened to music while they worked out improved their scores on a verbal fluency test—a test that measures overall brainpower.
8. Discover a New Land
Spend a day exploring in an unfamiliar town. The challenge that comes from following a map, coupled with the novelty that new sights, sounds, and smells bring, serves as a healthy wake-up call for your brain.
9. Do One Thing at a Time
If you’re trying to have a phone conversation while checking e-mail, chances are good you won’t remember a word you talked about. A growing body of research finds our increasing tendency to multitask actually harms our brains.
10. Listen Up
Pay better attention next time someone tells you his name, or when you throw your keys into the basket on the counter, or when you park your car. Often the reason we can’t remember things is that we’re on autopilot when we do them (or hear them). But if you stop for a second when someone introduces himself and repeat the name out loud, or stop when you get out of your car at the mall and look—really look—at the spot in which you’re parked, you’ll remember those things better.
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