Every cell in your body needs a steady supply of oxygen and nutrients in order to stay alive and work properly, including brain cells. Because oxygen and nutrients are carried in the blood stream, anything that impedes blood flow will starve those all-important brain cells. The plain truth is that a healthy heart makes for a healthy brain.
When clients ask me about optimal brain health and memory, the first thing I do is review their blood pressure and cholesterol level. I urge you to do the same: Know your numbers and if they’re elevated, take immediate measures to bring them down (eat healthy, exercise regularly, and when your doctor recommends medication — take it).
Here are some steps you can take to help optimize brain health and sharpen your memory.
- Keep blood pressure and cholesterol in check. A healthy heart makes for a healthy brain.
- Get enough sleep. Research shows that sleep deprivation can interfere with memory.
- Exercise regularly. Regular physical activity has been shown to decrease the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease by about half. Half! Aim for 30 minutes a day.
- Challenge your brain. Keep your mind active and challenged.
- Don’t smoke. Just as smoking increases risk of heart disease, it can also decrease blood flow to the brain and cause serious damage.
- Give yourself a break. Seek out ways to de-stress your life.
Any specific memory boosting foods?
Yes. Studies that focus on food and memory suggest that the more overall produce you eat, the better. One 25-year Harvard Medical School study of more than 13,000 women showed that the participants who ate relatively high amounts of vegetables over the years had less age-related decline in memory. Cruciferous vegetables and leafy green vegetables had the biggest effect on helping women retain their memory during the course of the study. In another study, the phytochemicals, anthocyanin and quercetin, actually reversed some of the age-related memory deficits in laboratory animals.
- Some of the best cruciferous vegetables: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and bok choy.
- Some of the best leafy green vegetables: spinach, collard and mustard greens, kale and Swiss chard.
- Some of the best foods for anthocyanin: Berries (all varieties), cherries, black currents, eggplant, red, black, and purple grapes, plums, rhubarb, red onion, red apples, red/purple cabbage, and red beets.
- Some of the best foods for quercetin: Onions (red, yellow, white), kale, leeks, cherry tomato, broccoli, blueberries, black currants, elderberries, apricots, apple with skin (Red Delicious), and red, purple, and black grapes.
Folic acid can also help your memory
Folic acid (also known as folate) seems to have a direct effect on memory. A study conducted at Tufts University in Boston followed about 320 men for three years. Those who had high blood levels of homocysteine showed memory decline, but if the men ate foods rich in folic acid (folic acid directly lowers homocysteine levels), their memories were protected. Also, an Australian study found that eating plenty of foods rich in folic acid was associated with faster information processing and memory recall. After just five weeks of introducing adequate folic acid into their diets, women in the study showed overall improvements in memory. Some of the best foods for folic acid include fortified whole-grain breakfast cereals, lentils, black-eyed peas, soybeans, spinach, green peas, artichokes, broccoli, wheat germ, beets and oranges.
Eating fish seems to help too!
A study conducted by researchers at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago followed more than 3,000 men and women for six years to see how diet affected memory. People who ate fish at least once a week had a 10 percent slower decline compared with those who did not eat fish, a difference that gave them the memory and thinking ability of a person three years younger.
For more information on sharpening your memory, along with meals plans, grocery lists and recipes, check out Joy’s Web site at www.joybauernutrition.com
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