7 Brain Boosters to Prevent Memory Loss
Experts share tips to help ward off age-related memory loss.
Brain Booster No. 3: Mental Workouts
To keep your brain sharp, many experts say, you need to challenge it
"It's just like it is with muscles," says Randolph Schiffer, MD, director of
the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.
There is some evidence that mental gymnastics can help preserve memory, but
some of the promises of computer games outstrip the reality of the benefits,
"Nothing has met the gold standard," explains Doraiswamy. "If they had,
they'd all be sold as prescription drugs."
Still, the games can't hurt, says Brenda Plassman, PhD, a professor in the
department of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center and the principal
investigator of the Aging, Demographics and Memory Study. Plassman says she
would simply caution older people not to spend money on something that hasn't
been proved to work to help age-related memory loss.
"I would encourage people to look at various options for free," says
Brain Booster No. 4: Sleep
Healthy sleep patterns are crucial for cognitive performance, especially
memory, the experts say. That means at least seven hours of sleep each
Sleep is essential to lower levels of stress hormones, to relax and refresh
your entire body, and to literally turn off your brain. "There are parts of
sleep where memory gets archived," says Doraiswamy.
While it may be tempting to take over-the-counter -- or even prescription --
sleeping medications, be aware that many may impair memory. Check with your
doctor about side effects of sleep medications, as well as all drugs.
Also, limit your intake of alcohol if you experience sleeping problems, as
it can disrupt sleeping patterns.
Brain Booster No. 5: Red Wine
Some studies indicate that red wine is good for the heart and thus the
brain, the experts say. Not all the reasons are understood, but many
researchers believe red wine may be good for you because it contains the
There is a possibility, however, that the benefits associated with red wine
could come from other factors, such as the social aspect of wine drinking or
income level associated with those who drink wine.
2007 study of elderly Italians showed that drinking alcohol in moderation
may slow the progression to dementia in elderly people who
already have mild mental declines. Defined in the study as less than one drink
a day, low to moderate drinking was associated with a significantly slower
progression to dementia among people with mild age-related cognitive declines,
compared with nondrinkers.
Brain Booster No. 6: No More Multitasking
One of the biggest causes of failing to remember something, explains Small,
is that "people aren't paying attention."
"As our brain ages, it's more difficult to do several things at once," says
Multitasking thus becomes an impediment to remembering names, a recipe, or
something you just read. That's because the brain first has to encode
information before it can retrieve the information as memory. Unless the brain
is paying attention and taking in the information it will later need, the brain
cannot encode the information.