Cognitive improvement aimed at boosting memory, sharpening mental focus, and enhancing natural learning abilities is a commonly desired goal for both younger and older individuals. Hard-working executives are looking to maximize brain performance for career purposes, students are looking to improve memory for studying, while retirees are wishing to avoid age-related cognitive decline or neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s. It’s a scientific fact that both groups can achieve their goals through the same techniques and practices.
How can solutions for such different groups be so similar? Let’s take a brief look at cognition and the broad challenges we all face when it comes to memory function, followed by a more in-depth examination of achievable solutions to support memory improvement.
Memory Function Challenges
Younger people concerned with their memory typically are grappling with reversible causes of memory loss, which may include:
- Poor nutrition: Poor dietary habits and certain lifestyle diets can limit access to crucial nutrients and compounds, such as Vitamin B12, that support optimal cognitive performance.
- Emotional disorders: Severe stress and anxiety can impair the brain’s ability to concentrate, disrupting daily activities.
- Drugs/Alcohol: Use of illicit substances and alcohol can cause long-term damage to the brain, impacting cognitive function.
- Medications: Certain medications, taken alone or in combination, can cause forgetfulness, confusion and brain fog.
They may also be dealing with more significant medical challenges that directly impact memory performance, including alcoholism, hypothyroidism, or a brain tumour, but these are instances that require more substantial intervention to see relief from symptoms.
Older individuals most often report memory challenges related to ageing or, more significantly, dementia. Memory loss due to ageing is widely accepted as the norm, but it’s not something that needs to be surrendered to and can, at worse, be slowed or even reversed. Cognitive impairment due to dementia or Alzheimer’s is more severe and often more debilitating, but, again, some interventions can lessen their impact.
5 Easy to Achieve Memory Support Solutions
Now to the important bit: whether young or old, making the most of your abilities or staving off age-related cognitive decline, what can you do to support ideal cognition and memory performance? Here are five recommended solutions:
1. Exercise Your Body, Boost Your Mind
Exercise is not only crucial to maintaining physical strength, but also integral to supporting optimal thinking and memory performance. According to research from the Harvard Medical School, exercise releases compounds that directly stimulate the growth of new blood vessels in the brain and support the health of brain cells.
Additional studies reveal that people who exercise regularly have greater tissue volume in the areas of the brain linked to cognition and memory, compared to individuals who don’t exercise. One study noted that “engaging in a program of regular exercise of moderate intensity over six months or a year is associated with an increase in the volume of selected brain regions.”
Exercise also is linked to improved mood, balanced emotions, and well-maintained sleeping patterns, all of which contribute to optimal cognition. Reduced levels of stress is another benefit of exercise that impacts brain health: high levels of stress and anxiety are contributing factors to chronic cognitive impairment.
2. Eat Well and Eat Smart
Nutrition plays a critical role in supporting memory performance and cognition. Diets high in sugar have been linked to reduced brain volume and cognitive decline. Abundant dietary omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in fish oil, may improve memory, especially in older individuals. Healthy body weight from a proper diet correlates to a reduced risk of cognitive decline at all ages.
Obesity, poor nutrition, and lack of dietary diversity are all linked to cognitive decline. Eating smart is one of the keys to staying smart.
3. Memory Enhancement with a Nootropic Supplement
Nootropics are a category of health supplements that help increase cognitive performance and support brain health. Some nootropic substances have been clinically shown to improve memory retention and improve memory recall.
Today there are more than 80 different substances classified as nootropics, including specific naturally occurring vitamins, organic herbs, and compounds like phospholipids, choline sources, and amino acids.
Research points to a variety of ways that nootropics support optimal brain function, including:
- Brain regeneration: Nootropics can help promote neurogenesis, the process in which new neurons are created, by helping boost neurotrophic factors such as BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor), supporting neuronal and synapse health and improving brain plasticity, which impacts learning ability.
- Brain blood supply: Nootropics can help increase blood flow to and throughout the brain and improve circulation of oxygen, glucose, and other vital neuro-nutrients.
- Brain energy: Nootropics can support cellular energy production by improving mitochondrial efficiency.
- Neurochemical modulation: Nootropics are known to modulate neurotransmitter levels in the brain, such as serotonin and acetylcholine, which play a vital role in sleep, mood, motivation, memory, learning, and focus.
- Brain protection: Nootropics can help reduce brain inflammation and oxidative stress by increasing antioxidant activity and eliminating neurotoxins. Some nootropics have even been shown to help fight the formation of irregular protein clusters called amyloids, associated with degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
- Brain waves: Certain nootropics can modulate brain wave patterns to achieve specific states of mind to better suit a given task.
A range of powerful nootropic substances such as Bacopa monnieri, Ashwagandha, Tyrosine, and Phosphatidylserine are known to support brain wellbeing in a number of ways. These ingredients demonstrate efficacy in enhancing cognitive and memory outcomes, which include: improved short term memory, boosted processing speed and creativity, protection from toxins and accelerated ageing, increased mental alertness and stamina, and healthy mood balance.
4. Get All the Sleep You Need
This might be the easiest suggestion for supporting memory improvement, or it might be the most difficult. Most people don’t get enough sleep for avoidable reasons, like sitting in bed scrolling through social media, or staying up too late watching television. Others are challenged because of strenuous work or school schedules, young families, or because of certain medical issues.
Anything you can do to support getting a good night’s sleep (and a nap during the day, if necessary) will help boost your memory by facilitating better consolidation of memories, reducing fatigue, and alleviating stress. Seven to nine hours a night is recommended to enjoy optimal brain health.
5. Train Your Brain to Remember More
Keeping your brain active with games, activities, and puzzles that challenge and exercise cognitive skills is another way to boost your memory. Activities such as crosswords, sudoku, and word-recall games have been proven in several studies to support improved performance in memory tests, including short-term memory, working memory, concentration, and problem-solving.
In older adults, brain-activity games have demonstrated an ability to help reduce the risk of age-related cognitive decline as well as more serious neurodegenerative disorders such as dementia. As little as 15 minutes a day for five days a week has been shown to make a difference.
The Bottom Line
There are many practical ways available to help improve your memory and support optimal cognitive function. Whether you’re young or old, take the time and make the changes needed to boost your brain health – it’s easier than you think!