Eat Like An Elephant
Gotu kola, an herb elephants love, has been used to increase mental acuity for thousands of years. There is some research to support the use of the herb to boost memory. Buy a standardized extract and take 200 milligrams three times a day.
Catch a Whiff of Essential Oils
At a health-food store, purchase a small bottle of either rosemary or basil essential oil. Tests of brain waves show that inhaling either of these scents increases the brain’s production of beta waves, which indicate heightened awareness. All you need to do is put a trace of the oil in your hair, wrists, or clothing—anywhere you can get a whiff. Or put some of the oil in a diffuser, and let it fill the air.
Count on Coffee
If you drink caffeinated beverages, you’ll get a short-term boost in your ability to concentrate. And there may be long-term benefits as well. At the Faculty of Medicine in Libson, Portugal, researchers concluded that elderly people who drink three or four cups of coffee a day were less likely to experience memory loss than people who drank a cup a day or less.
Give It Oxygen!
Take 120 milligrams of ginkgo biloba a day. The herb appears to improve blood flow to the brain, which helps brain cells get the oxygen they need to perform at their peak. In Germany, where the government’s Commission E reports regularly on the effectiveness of herbal medicines, a standardized extract of ginkgo is frequently prescribed to prevent memory loss as well as stroke. If you’re perfectly healthy, you probably won’t see any effect from ginkgo. But if you have diminished blood flow to the brain, it may help.
Another way to increase the flow of blood to the brain is to get moving. There’s even some evidence that exercise may increase the number of nerve cells in the brain. Any type of regular exercise, but especially aerobic exercise like walking and biking, will do. Exercise also helps prevent illnesses like diabetes, stroke, and high blood pressure, all of which can contribute to memory lapses.
Keep Your Blood Sugar Steady
New research has uncovered a link between mild glucose intolerance and age-related memory loss. Food converted by the digestive system to glucose (blood sugar) is the main fuel that powers the organs, including the brain. But many people, especially those past their youth, have poor glucose tolerance, meaning they have trouble processing glucose out of the bloodstream and into cells. According to the new research, even mild, non-diabetic glucose intolerance appears to reduce short-term memory in middle age and beyond.
What to do? Eat reasonably sized meals at regular hours, emphasizing fibre-rich whole grains and vegetables over “white” carbohydrates such as white pasta, white bread, potatoes, and white rice.
Focus on good fats—those found in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, avocados, and fish. They help keep your blood sugar steady without clogging your arteries.
Lace up your walking shoes! Regular exercise is another way to prevent blood sugar problems. Buy Extra Insurance Take a multivitamin every day. Make certain it has 100 percent of the DV (daily value) of folic acid and B12, as it’s difficult to get enough of these vitamins in your diet. Even moderate shortfalls may contribute to mental decline.
Sound Out the Problem
Listen to music often, and sample various types. Researchers have found that listening to music can improve your ability to concentrate and help you remember what you’ve learned. Some types of music actually cause brain neurons to fire more quickly. The faster the beat, the more the brain responds.
Put Stress in Its Place
Find ways to reduce stress. Tense people have high levels of stress hormones in their bodies. Over time, these hormones can affect the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory. You don’t have to chant or meditate—just do something that’s simple and fun, from swinging in a hammock to finger painting with your children or grandchildren.
Consider taking Siberian ginseng, which helps protect the body from the effects of stress and is said to heighten mental alertness. Buy a liquid extract and follow the dosage directions on the label.