Have You Seen My Keys? Improve Your Brain Health & Memory

By on May 21, 2013

The brain is an extraordinary and complex machine that is capable of storing volumes of information, memories and instructions like a massive library. But sometimes, it seems like our brain malfunctions or falls asleep just when we need it the most. When the walls in your home, your refrigerator, car dashboard, office desk and computer monitor become one large sticky note, it may be time to invest some time in restoring brain health.

One of the worst threats to brain health and function is chronic stress. When the body is pushed into “high stress” mode by fear or anxiety, it produces a load of cortisol. This stress hormone damages the brain’s memory center. Unfortunately, in our all too hurried culture, many people live with dangerously high levels of cortisol which not only cause problems with the brain but also with other major organs such as the heart and digestive tract.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, improving cognitive function is as easy as making some lifestyle changes such as adopting a healthy diet, exercising routinely, reducing stress and doing some memory boosting activities.

Boosting Brain Performance

Everyone knows that diet and exercise improve physical and emotional well-being. A UCLA study reports that making adjustments to diet and exercise along with the adoption of stress reduction techniques and memory exercises boosts brain and cognitive function substantially in as little as two weeks. This is good news for those of us who routinely forget our children’s names or where we have placed our keys.


Avoiding sugar spikes is imperative to brain health. Although the brain needs glucose to function, it likes a steady constant supply not the quick spikes that are brought on by a diet loaded with sugar and processed foods.  If you consume a whole food diet loaded with antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables along with healthy fats such as olive and coconut oil, the brain performs better.

Consuming enough omega-3 fatty acids is also essential to brain health. Recent research indicates that a lack of omega-3’s may explain cognitive decline in older adults. Great sources of omega-3 include fresh caught fish, raw nuts and flaxseed.


What’s good for the heart is also good for the brain. The Canadian Cardiovascular Congress demonstrated that in four short months of regular physical activity brainpower can be improved. Overweight study participants who exercised moderately-vigorously for 150 minutes each week not only reduced their risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, but also demonstrated improved cognitive function.

A recent study in the journal of Neurology shows that physical exercise beats mental exercise in slowing brain shrinkage, which is linked to memory problems and Alzheimer’s disease.

Stress Reduction

Following a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise goes a long ways towards combatting stress. However, for some people, this is still not enough to reduce cortisol levels to within a healthy range. If you live your life always on the go, take very little time to relax and feel constantly stressed; it is likely that your brain is stressed, as well. Practical ways to reduce stress include meditation, yoga and deep breathing exercises, laughter, music therapy or guided visualization. Adopt a healthy and positive outlook on life and keep connected with friends and family. Research shows that people who have strong relationships with others experience less stress than those who call themselves loners.

Brain Training

Exercising the brain is not a difficult task and can be done in as little as a few minutes each day. While there are some very good online programs for improving cognitive function such as Luminosity, there are also a number of other ways to put your brain to work.  To improve memory power, learn the lyrics to a song or the words in a poem. To boost attention, combine activities like jogging and doing a math problem in your head or listening to an audio book while you get ready for work. Reading improves all aspects of brain function but be sure to read some in-depth, provoking pieces from time to time as opposed to all fluff. Puzzles and games such as solitaire, concentration, crosswords, word searches and Sudoku all lead to higher brain function.

Like everything else in the body, if you stop using it you loose it. Remember to remember your brain and to keep using and challenging it on a daily basis.  Don’t let apathy become your enemy!


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