Natural Ways to Improve Your Memory
Natural Ways to Improve Your Memory
While this can be a completely normal occurrence, having a poor memory can be frustrating.
Genetics plays a role in memory loss, especially in serious neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. However, research has shown that diet and lifestyle have a major impact on memory too.
Here are 14 evidence-based ways to improve your memory naturally.
Eating too much added sugar has been linked to many health issues and chronic diseases, including cognitive decline.
Research has shown that a sugar-laden diet can lead to poor memory and reduced brain volume, particularly in the area of the brain that stores short-term memory (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source).
For example, one study of more than 4,000 people found that those with a higher intake of sugary beverages like soda had lower total brain volumes and poorer memories on average compared to people who consumed less sugar (2Trusted Source).
Cutting back on sugar not only helps your memory but also improves your overall health.
Summary Research has shown that people who regularly
consume lots of added sugar may have poorer memories and lower brain volumes
than those who consume less sugar.
Fish oil is rich in the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
These fats are important for overall health and have been shown to lower the risk of heart disease, reduce inflammation, relieve stress and anxiety, and slow mental decline (3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source).
Many studies have shown that consuming fish and fish oil supplements may improve memory, especially in older people.
One study of 36 older adults with mild cognitive impairment found that short-term and working memory scores improved significantly after they took concentrated fish oil supplements for 12 months (5Trusted Source).
Another recent review of 28 studies showed that when adults with mild symptoms of memory loss took supplements rich in DHA and EPA, like fish oil, they experienced improved episodic memory (6Trusted Source).
Both DHA and EPA are vital to the health and functioning of the brain and also help reduce inflammation in the body, which has been linked to cognitive decline (7Trusted Source).
SummaryFish and fish oil supplements are rich in the
omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Consuming them may help improve short-term,
working and episodic memory, especially in older people.
The practise of meditation may positively affect your health in many ways.
It is relaxing and soothing and has been found to reduce stress and pain, lower blood pressure and even improve memory (8Trusted Source).
In fact, meditation has been shown to increase grey matter in the brain. Grey matter contains neuron cell bodies (9Trusted Source).
As you age, grey matter declines, which negatively impacts memory and cognition (10Trusted Source).
Meditation and relaxation techniques have been shown to improve short-term memory in people of all ages, from people in their 20s to the elderly (11Trusted Source).
For example, one study demonstrated that Taiwanese college students who engaged in meditation practices like mindfulness had significantly better spatial working memory than students who did not practice meditation (12Trusted Source).
Spatial working memory is the ability to hold and process information in your mind about the positions of objects in space.
Summary Meditation isn’t just good for your body —
it’s also good for your brain. Research suggests meditation may increase gray
matter in the brain and improve spatial working memory.
Maintaining healthy body weight is essential for well-being and is one of the best ways to keep your body and mind in top condition.
Several studies have established obesity as a risk factor for cognitive decline.
Interestingly, being obese can actually cause changes to memory-associated genes in the brain, negatively affecting memory (13Trusted Source).
Obesity can also lead to insulin resistance and inflammation, both of which can negatively impact the brain (14Trusted Source).
A study of 50 people between the ages of 18 and 35 found that a higher body mass index was associated with significantly worse performance on memory tests (15Trusted Source).
Obesity is also associated with a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive disease that destroys memory and cognitive function (16Trusted Source).
Summary Obesity is a risk factor for cognitive
decline. Maintaining a body mass index within the normal range may help you
avoid a host of issues associated with obesity, including a poorer memory.
Lack of proper sleep has been associated with a poor memory for quite some time.
Sleep plays an important role in memory consolidation, a process in which short-term memories are strengthened and transformed into long-lasting memories.
Research shows that if you are sleep deprived, you could be negatively impacting your memory.
For example, one study looked at the effects of sleep in 40 children between the ages of 10 and 14.
One group of children was trained for memory tests in the evening, then tested the following morning after a night’s sleep. The other group was trained and tested on the same day, with no sleep between training and testing.
The group that slept between training and testing performed 20% better on the memory tests (17Trusted Source).
Another study found that nurses working the night shift made more mathematical errors and that 68% of them scored lower on memory tests compared to nurses working the day shift (17Trusted Source).
Health experts recommend adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night for optimal health (18Trusted Source).
Summary Studies have consistently associated
sufficient sleep with better memory performance. Sleep helps consolidate
memories. You’re also likely to perform better on memory tests if you’re well
rested than if you’re sleep deprived.
Mindfulness is a mental state in which you focus on your present situation, maintaining awareness of your surroundings and feelings.
Mindfulness is used in meditation, but the two aren’t one and the same. Meditation is a more formal practice, whereas mindfulness is a mental habit you can use in any situation.
Studies have shown that mindfulness is effective at lowering stress and improving concentration and memory.
One study of 293 psychology students showed that those who underwent mindfulness training had improved recognition-memory performance when recalling objects compared to students who did not receive mindfulness training (19Trusted Source).
Mindfulness has also been linked with a lower risk of age-related cognitive decline and an overall improvement in psychological well-being (20Trusted Source).
Incorporate mindfulness techniques into your daily routine by paying more attention to your present situation, concentrating on your breathing and gently resetting your attention when your mind wanders.
Summary Practicing mindfulness techniques has been
associated with increased memory performance. Mindfulness is also linked to
reduced age-related cognitive decline.
Can’t find your car keys? Forget your grocery list? Can’t remember the name of the personal trainer you liked at the gym? You’re not alone. Everyone forgets things occasionally. Still, memory loss is nothing to take lightly.
Consuming too many alcoholic beverages can be detrimental to your health in many ways and can negatively impact your memory.
Binge drinking is a pattern of drinking that raises your blood alcohol levels to 0.08 grams per ml or above. Studies have shown it alters the brain and results in memory deficits.
A study of 155 college freshmen found that students who consumed six or more drinks within a short period of time, either weekly or monthly, had difficulties in immediate and delayed memory-recall tests compared to students who never binge drank (21Trusted Source).
Alcohol exhibits neurotoxic effects on the brain. Repeated episodes of binge drinking can damage the hippocampus, a part of the brain that plays a vital role in memory (22Trusted Source).
While having a drink or two now and then is perfectly healthy, avoiding excessive alcohol intake is a smart way to protect your memory.
Summary Alcohol has neurotoxic effects on the brain,
including reducing memory performance. Occasional moderate drinking isn’t an
issue, but binge drinking can damage your hippocampus, a key area of your brain
associated with memory.
Exercising your cognitive skills by playing brain games is a fun and effective way to boost your memory.
Crosswords, word-recall games, Tetris and even mobile apps dedicated to memory training are excellent ways to strengthen memory.
A study that included 42 adults with mild cognitive impairment found that playing games on a brain-training app for eight hours over a four-week period improved performance in memory tests (23Trusted Source).
Another study of 4,715 people showed that when they did 15 minutes of an online brain-training program at least five days a week, their short-term memory, working memory, concentration and problem-solving improved significantly compared to a control group (24Trusted Source).
Plus, brain-training games have been shown to help reduce the risk of dementia in older adults (25Trusted Source).
Summary Games that challenge your brain may help you
strengthen your memory and may even reduce the risk of dementia.
Consuming large amounts of refined carbohydrates like cakes, cereal, cookies, white rice and white bread may be damaging to your memory.
These foods have a high glycemic index, meaning the body digests these carbohydrates quickly, leading to a spike in blood sugar levels (26Trusted Source).
Studies have shown that the Western diet, which is high in refined carbohydrates, is associated with dementia, cognitive decline and reduced cognitive function (27Trusted Source).
One study of 317 healthy children found that those who consumed more processed carbs like white rice, noodles and fast food had reduced cognitive capacity, including poorer short-term and working memory (28Trusted Source).
Another study demonstrated that adults who consumed ready-to-eat breakfast cereal daily had poorer cognitive function than those who consumed cereal less frequently (29Trusted Source).
Summary Like added sugar, refined carbohydrates lead
to a spike in blood sugar levels, which can damage your brain over time. Diets
high in refined carbs have been associated with dementia, cognitive decline and
reduced brain function.
10. Get Your Vitamin D Levels Tested
Vitamin D is an important nutrient that plays many vital roles in the body.
Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to a host of health issues, including a reduction in cognitive function.
A study that followed 318 older adults for five years found that those who had blood levels of vitamin D less than 20 nanograms per ml lost their memory and other cognitive abilities faster than those with normal vitamin D levels (30Trusted Source).
Low levels of vitamin D have also been linked to a greater risk of developing dementia (31Trusted Source).
Vitamin-D deficiency is very common, especially in colder climates and in those with darker skin. Speak with your doctor about getting a blood test to find out if you need a vitamin D supplement.
Summary Vitamin-D deficiency is very common,
especially in colder climates, and has been associated with age-related
cognitive decline and dementia. If you think you might have low levels of
vitamin D, ask your doctor for a blood test.
Exercise is important for overall physical and mental health.
Research has established that it’s beneficial for the brain and may help improve memory in people of all ages, from children to older adults.
For example, a study of 144 people aged 19 to 93 showed that a single bout of 15 minutes of moderate exercise on a stationary bike led to improved cognitive performance, including memory, across all ages (32Trusted Source).
Many studies have shown exercise may increase the secretion of neuroprotective proteins and improve the growth and development of neurons, leading to improved brain health (33Trusted Source).
Regular exercise in midlife is also associated with a decreased risk of developing dementia later in life (34Trusted Source).
Summary Exercise brings incredible benefits for your
whole body, including your brain. Even moderate exercise for short periods has
been shown to improve cognitive performance, including memory, across all age
Consuming a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods may help improve your memory.
Antioxidants help lower inflammation in the body by reducing oxidative stress caused by free radicals. You can consume antioxidants in foods like fruits, vegetables and teas.
A recent review of nine studies with more than 31,000 people found that those who ate more fruits and vegetables had lower risks of cognitive decline and dementia compared to those who consumed less of these nutritious foods (35Trusted Source).
Berries are particularly high in antioxidants like flavonoids and anthocyanins. Eating them may be an excellent way to prevent memory loss.
One study of more than 16,000 women demonstrated that those who consumed the most blueberries and strawberries had slower rates of cognitive decline and memory loss than women who ate fewer berries (36Trusted Source).
Summary Anti-inflammatory foods are great for your
brain, especially berries and other foods that are high in antioxidants. To
incorporate more anti-inflammatory foods into your diet, you can’t go wrong by
consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Curcumin is a compound found in high concentrations in turmeric root. It’s one of a category of compounds called polyphenols.
It is a potent antioxidant and exerts powerful anti-inflammatory effects in the body.
Multiple animal studies have found that curcumin reduces oxidative damage and inflammation in the brain and also lowers the quantity of amyloid plaques. These accumulate on neurons and cause cell and tissue death, leading to memory loss (37Trusted Source).
In fact, amyloid plaque buildup may play a role in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease (38Trusted Source).
Though more human studies are needed on the effects of curcumin on memory, animal studies suggest it may be effective at boosting memory and preventing cognitive decline (39Trusted Source, 40Trusted Source).
Summary Curcumin is a potent antioxidant. Animal
studies have shown it reduces inflammation and amyloid plaques in the brain.
However, more research in humans is needed.
Cocoa is not only delicious but also nutritious, providing a powerful dose of antioxidants called flavonoids. Research suggests flavonoids are particularly beneficial to the brain.
They may help stimulate the growth of blood vessels and neurons and increase blood flow in parts of the brain involved with memory.
A study of 30 healthy people found that those who consumed dark chocolate containing 720 mg of cocoa flavonoids demonstrated better memory compared to those who consumed white chocolate without cocoa flavonoids (41Trusted Source).
To get the most benefit out of chocolate, choose dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70% cacao or higher. That will help ensure it contains larger amounts of antioxidants like flavonoids.
Summary Cocoa is high in antioxidants that may help
improve memory performance. Make sure to choose dark chocolate with 70% cacao
or higher so you get a concentrated dose of antioxidants.
The Bottom Line
There are many fun, simple and even great ways to improve your memory.
Exercising your mind and body, enjoying a quality piece of chocolate and reducing the amount of added sugar in your diet are all excellent techniques.
Author – Jillian Kubala, MS, RD
Although there are no guarantees when it comes to preventing memory loss or dementia, certain activities might help. Consider seven simple ways to sharpen your memory — and know when to seek help for memory loss.
1. Include physical activity in your daily routine
Physical activity increases blood flow to your whole body, including your brain. This might help keep your memory sharp.
For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity, such as jogging — preferably spread throughout the week. If you don’t have time for a full workout, squeeze in a few 10-minute walks throughout the day.
2. Stay mentally active
Just as physical activity helps keep your body in shape, mentally stimulating activities help keep your brain in shape — and might keep memory loss at bay. Do crossword puzzles. Play bridge. Take alternate routes when driving. Learn to play a musical instrument. Volunteer at a local school or community organization.
3. Socialize regularly
Social interaction helps ward off depression and stress, both of which can contribute to memory loss. Look for opportunities to get together with loved ones, friends and others — especially if you live alone.
4. Get organized
You’re more likely to forget things if your home is cluttered and your notes are in disarray. Jot down tasks, appointments and other events in a special notebook, calendar or electronic planner.
You might even repeat each entry out loud as you jot it down to help cement it in your memory. Keep to-do lists current and check off items you’ve completed. Set aside a place for your wallet, keys, glasses and other essentials.
Limit distractions and don’t do too many things at once. If you focus on the information that you’re trying to retain, you’re more likely to recall it later. It might also help to connect what you’re trying to retain to a favourite song or another familiar concept.
5. Sleep well
Sleep plays an important role in helping you consolidate your memories, so you can recall them down the road. Make getting enough sleep a priority. Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep a day.
6. Eat a healthy diet
A healthy diet might be as good for your brain as it is for your heart. Eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Choose low-fat protein sources, such as fish, beans and skinless poultry. What you drink counts, too. Too much alcohol can lead to confusion and memory loss. So can drug use.
7. Manage chronic conditions
Follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations for medical conditions, such as depression, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and hearing loss. The better you take care of yourself, the better your memory is likely to be. In addition, review your medications with your doctor regularly. Various medications can affect memory.
When to seek help for memory loss
If you’re worried about memory loss — especially if memory loss affects your ability to complete your usual daily activities or if you notice your memory getting worse — talk to your doctor. He or she will likely do a physical exam, as well as check your memory and problem-solving skills.
Sometimes other tests are needed as well. Treatment will depend on what’s contributing to your memory loss.