The Aging Brain: Natural Ways To Boost Your Memory
As far as we know, aging is inevitable. And during this process, our memory can start to fail. Luckily, there are natural ways to prevent this from happening too soon.
What causes aging?
Aging is a natural process that results from the accumulation of molecular and cellular damage over time. Our physical and mental capacity gradually declines, and we become more susceptible to diseases and death(1,2).
How does aging affect the brain?
Getting older causes changes all over the body, including the brain. For example(3):
- Brain shrinking, especially in areas that control learning and other complex mental activities.
- Ineffective communication between nerve cells.
- Decreased blood flow.
These changes can impact the individual´s mental function, impairing learning and memory. Because of that, older adults may be slower to find words and recall names and have some issues with concentration and multitasking(3,4).
Age-related memory loss
As we discussed, forgetfulness is a normal part of aging. Some people may take longer to learn new things or find it harder to remember information than when they were younger(4).
Certain age-related medical conditions can also cause memory loss, such as(4):
- Blood clots
- Vitamin deficiency
- Sleep problems
Usually, this symptom goes away once the person gets treatment. In some cases, memory loss is a side effect of the medication(4).
Emotional problems such as stress, anxiety, and depression, which are very common in older people, can also cause memory problems(4).
Tips to naturally improve your memory
So far, we haven't figured out how to stop aging. However, we can avoid or postpone many of its negative effects on our brains(4).
Studies show that the brain can adapt as people age to manage new tasks and challenges(4).
Get better sleep
Memory consolidation takes place during sleep. Moreover, sleeping less than needed can significantly affect memory and cognitive processes(5). In general, healthy adults should have 7-8 hours of good quality sleep per night(6).
On top of that, sleep quality deteriorates as we get older, causing memory disruption(5). Implementing good sleep practices is an excellent way to keep this from happening(7). Follow these steps(8):
- Practice regular physical activity
- Avoid long naps during the day
- Make sure the sleep environment is cozy
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine near bedtime
- Have regular sleeping and waking times
- Avoid exposure to artificial light at night
- Only go to sleep when you´re sleepy
- Avoid too much stress before going to bed
- Expose yourself to the natural light during the day
Living a healthy life is crucial for a healthy brain. This includes(9):
- Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat proteins. Avoid too much sugar and fatty food.
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption and tobacco smoking.
- Manage chronic conditions such as depression, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes.
- Practice regular physical activity. This increases the blood flow to the brain, keeping the memory sharp.
- Avoid too much stress. If possible, meditate or practice other relaxing activities.
Stretch your memory muscles
Just as physical activity tones the body, the brain also needs exercise to stay in shape. For example(9):
- Crossword puzzles
- Play bridge
- Take alternate routes when walking or driving
- Learn a new skill like playing a musical instrument, drawing, or dancing
Humans are social by nature, and isolation can cause stress, depression, and anxiety. As we have already seen, emotional problems can lead to memory loss(9).
So whenever you can, be with your friends and family and look for opportunities to meet new people(9).
Aging causes profound changes in our bodies and mind. It can get harder to learn new things or remember where you left your keys.
This is perfectly normal, but healthier lifestyle habits can help your brain age better.
- MSD Manuals. Overview of Aging. https://www.msdmanuals.com/home/older-people%E2%80%99s-health-issues/the-aging-body/overview-of-aging#:~:text=Aging%20is%20a%20gradual%2C%20continuous,the%20beginning%20of%20old%20age. 2020.
- WHO. Ageing and health. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/ageing-and-health. 2021.
- NIH. How the Aging Brain Affects Thinking. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/how-aging-brain-affects-thinking. 2020.
- NIH. Do Memory Problems Always Mean Alzheimer’s Disease? https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/do-memory-problems-always-mean-alzheimers-disease#:~:text=Forgetfulness%20can%20be%20a%20normal,lose%20things%20like%20their%20glasses. 2018.
- NIH. Sleep and Memory in the Aging Brain. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/sleep-memory-aging-brain. 2013.
- Sleep Foundations. Memory and Sleep. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/memory-and-sleep. 2020.
- Almondes KM de, Leonardo MEM, Moreira AMS. Effects of a cognitive training program and sleep hygiene for executive functions and sleep quality in healthy elderly. Dementia & Neuropsychologia. 2017;11:69–78.
- CDC. Tips for Better Sleep. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/sleep_hygiene.html#:~:text=Tips%20for%20Better%20Sleep&text=Be%20consistent.,smart%20phones%2C%20from%20the%20bedroom. 2016.
- Mayo Clinic. Memory loss: 7 tips to improve your memory. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/healthy-aging/in-depth/memory-loss/art-20046518. 2021.