Forgetting where you put your keys
Did you remember to turn the bathroom light off before leaving the house today? And, darn, where did you leave your keys, again?
Does this happen to you often? Are you just being forgetful and unfocused or are these perhaps signs of mild memory loss?
Forgetfulness is sporadic and most often occurs when you have other things on your mind, are stressed or tired, and simply not paying attention to what you are doing. On the other hand, signs it may be memory loss are that these instances are frequent and worsening.
Over the years, studies, including one at Harvard Health and one at the Mayo Clinic, have proven that there are certain steps we can take to help slow down our cognitive decline, reducing the risk of memory loss, Dementia and Alzheimers.
To preserve your mental faculties you might want to incorporate the following in your lifestyle:
● Mild, daily exercise to increase blood flow to the brain
● Implementing good sleep habits and completing your full circadian rhythm
● Having strong social connections with family and friends, as well as frequent get-togethers
● Limiting Alcohol consumption
● No smoking
● Managing chronic conditions and reducing inflammation
Nutrition and Diet: Foods to avoid
Another important factor is your nutrition. Eating a balanced diet with proper nutrients can significantly nourish your brain to help it function properly, and sometimes even improve it. Foods to avoid according to healthline.com:
Candies, sweets, sodas & juices are filled with harmful sugars causing negative effects on your waistline as well as your brain’s function. High intakes of sugar, especially high-fructose corn syrup, can lead to diabetes and heart disease, as well as inflammation which can cause memory loss, and an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimers.
● Refined Carbohydrates
These are highly processed grains, like white flour, that contain a “high glycemic load” which causes “spikes in your blood sugar and insulin levels” as well as brain function impairment. With this in mind, minimize your intake of white bread, white rice, and anything made with white flour and dough like pasta, pastries, and many breakfast cereals.
● Artificial Trans Fats
Found in foods like margarine, shortening, frostings, and pre-packaged snack foods, studies have concluded that consuming them in high amounts leads to memory and cognitive decline.
● Processed Foods
These foods are oftentimes high in salts, sugars, and fats. Think of processed foods as most snacks, and foods that don’t come directly from the earth. Processed foods like chips, sweets, microwave popcorn and microwave meals, cereals, cheese, lunch meats etc. tend to increase fat storage which causes brain tissue damage. Studies show those consuming high amounts of processed foods have brain inflammation and impaired memory and learning.
This is the artificial sweetener used in sugar free products like diet sodas, sugar-free snacks and gum, reduced calorie ice-creams and yogurts, and most items claiming less sugar. These chemicals that make up aspartame have been linked to cognitive and behavioral issues, in addition to higher risks for stroke and dementia, irritability and depression.
When consumed in excess, alcohol of any kind can damage the brain (short and long term) by reducing brain volume, disrupting neurotransmitters and causing a vitamin B1 deficiency which can lead to brain disorders, memory loss, behavioral changes, sleep disruption and dependency. Moderate red wine consumption though has some positive effects in regards to heart health and reduction in the risk for diabetes.
Foods to add to your Diet to Improve Brain Health
There’s no foolproof way to prevent mental decline, however, there are certain Harvard Health proven foods, (along with proper exercise, lifestyle, and sleep) that can boost your brain’s health. Nutritionists and scientists alike tend to agree that key components to a healthy brain include lowering inflammation and increasing the intake of antioxidants, B vitamins, and omega3 fatty acids. The following suggestions fall within these categories:
● Green, leafy vegetables
Kale, spinach and broccoli are great examples of vegetables that are high in vitamins such as lutein, folate, beta carotene and vitamin K to support and enhance your brain’s health.
● Fatty fish
Wild fish like salmon, cod and tuna are high in omega3 fatty acids known to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects on the body and brain. These promote the development of healthier brain cells.
Harvard research has shown that berries improve memory. Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, gojis and more delay memory decline and their antioxidant properties protect the brain from free radical damage.
● Tea and Coffee
You most likely know that caffeine boosts short-term energy and concentration. It’s a stimulant that enhances brain function. Green tea is also especially beneficial as it has powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties in addition to amino acids like L-theanine which together improve the working memory and reduce anxiety and stress.
● Nuts & Seeds
An excellent source of protein and healthy fats, nuts and seeds possibly improve memory, especially walnuts since they are most high in omega3 fatty acids called alpha-linolenic known to lower blood pressure and protect arteries which are both good for the heart and brain. Other great sources are flaxseed and avocados.
There is so much to learn about the human brain and how it functions, however, with more research underway and already reliable, conclusive data, although we may not yet be able to fully prevent memory loss, we can surely preserve and perhaps even improve our brain function through proper diet with key superfoods, moderate activity levels, and meaningful social involvement.