Boost Your Memory Naturally With These Neurologist-Approved Tips
Memories are important. They teach us lessons, give us perspective, and make sense of our lives. Memories are all we have for times past, so it's natural that we want to preserve them. How can we ensure we will retain those memories and keep the ability to make more? Luckily, there are a ton of lifestyle changes we can make that will support our mental acuity. As an integrative neurologist, I recommend tackling memory loss—and memory loss prevention—from the following direction:
1. Reduce inflammation and eat more fat.
Avoid pro-inflammatory foods. Inflammation is toxic to the body and the brain. Reducing inflammation leads to less metabolic effort and more energy conserved for the health of the cells of our brains. Minimize or eliminate sugar, processed foods, and dairy. Increase consumption of foods with healthy forms of fat—important for the neurons—such as avocados, nuts, nut oils, and seeds. Include anti-inflammatory foods such as turmeric, cinnamon, and cilantro.
2. Avoid centrally acting medications.
In neurology, centrally acting medications refer to those that work on receptors of the brain. And the very common use of these medications—like sleep medications, analgesics, and antidepressants—can affect our mental clarity. Chronic use can contribute to cognitive impairment, so it's important to continuously reevaluate your medication needs with your doctor and explore natural approaches before heading to the pharmacy.
3. Sleep soundly.
Studies have shown poor sleep can contribute to cognitive difficulties, depression, lack of attention and focus, and other chronic health conditions. Getting your recommended seven to nine hours a night is an important piece in the memory puzzle.
4. Try aerobic exercise.
The brain loves its oxygen, and the only way it can get that oxygen is from the blood that supplies it. So get that blood pumping to ensure a consistent, regular, and oxygenated blood flow through the cerebral vasculature.
5. Experiment with intermittent fasting.
Avoiding food for brief periods of time allows metabolic energy to be allocated to functions of the brain, such as thinking and processing, instead of functions of the gastrointestinal tract, such as digestion and absorption. If you're interested in trying it out, it's best to talk to an integrative medicine provider for safe intermittent fasting practices.
6. Establish a meditation practice.
Research has demonstrated that regular meditation increases the volume and improves the function of our hippocampus—the region most important for memory. Never meditated before? Try taking an introductory class from an expert.
7. Have more fun.
Feeling joy, happiness, and contentment is so important for our overall brain health. So laugh, socialize, and surround yourself with people that make you feel good.
8. Talk to a doc about supplements and herbal formulations.
There are plants and vitamins that are important for neuronal function and neurotransmitter balance, even more so as we age. For example, Ginkgo biloba is an herb that has been shown to boost memory and cognitive function and may be helpful for people with Alzheimer's and Dementia. Please see an integrative neurologist or an integrative medicine provider for guidance on these, as they should be tailored to the individual.
It is never too early or too late to start caring for our brain. We can always reap some benefit. You’ll feel your brain smiling in no time!
Ilene Ruhoy, M.D., Ph.D., is a board-certified neurologist practicing integrative pediatric and adult neurology in Seattle. She is the owner and founder of the Center for Healing Neurology and is on the faculty of Seattle Children’s Hospital. Her holistic approach includes full neurological care with the addition of acupuncture, neurofeedback, and herbal and nutritional guidance. She received her M.D. from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and completed her neurology training at the University of Washington in Seattle. In addition to becoming a certified medical acupuncturist, she has also completed the Integrative Medicine Fellowship at the University of Arizona. Her Ph.D. doctoral dissertation studied the effects of environmental toxins on our nation’s water systems.