Do These 3 Things Today To Keep Your Memory From Failing Later

Photo: Nataša Mandić

By the year 2050, the United States will have 14 million people in need of full-time care for Alzheimer’s disease, a number equal to the populations of New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago combined. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults, and issues like brain fog are finally being taken seriously. Taking care of our brain health is more urgent than ever, so we’re spending the next 10 days at mindbodygreen talking about our brains and what we can all do to protect our mental health. Follow along here at #mbgbrainhealth and on Instagram and Twitter. And be sure to sign up for our FREE brain health webinar with 11-time NYT best-selling author and pioneering functional medicine doctor Dr. Mark Hyman

Memory loss is not a normal part of aging; it does not have to be our fate (despite what you may have heard from doctors or articles). There's another way to think about brain aging. The brain responds to all the same insults as the rest of the body—stress, poor diet, toxins, lack of exercise or sleep, nutritional deficiencies, and more. We can prevent and reverse cognitive decline, at any age, when the right steps are taken.

Dementia is an issue that’s growing every day. Sadly, dementia and Alzheimer’s alone are responsible for the death of one out of every three seniors, more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. But memory loss is not just limited to seniors. Up to 5 percent of all Alzheimer’s cases are early-onset—which can happen at any age, but the general description is that it's prior to 65 years old. Just since 2000, deaths from Alzheimer’s have increased by a staggering 123 percent. Not only is this devastating for those losing their precious memories, as well as for their loved ones, but it’s also weighing on our country financially: As of last year, we spent $259 billion on treating Americans with this condition.

Naming a disease, such as Alzheimer's or dementia, is becoming increasingly useless. We have to think about individuals, not diseases. We have to look at the way the entire body is working instead of isolating one symptomatic area and treating it independently. By assessing the entire body as a whole, in addition to mental, emotional, and spiritual health, we’re able to get to the root cause of health problems and turn them around for good.

Here are my top three tips for what you can do starting today to improve your memory and nourish a healthy brain for many years to come:

1. Focus on your food.

Photo: @OksanaKiian

This seemingly simple tip has major impacts. At least 75 percent of your plate, by volume, should be filled with colorful plant foods. These colorful superfoods come loaded with brain-boosting compounds, like phytonutrients and antioxidants that can fight free radical damage. Enjoy an array of colorful options like blueberries, radishes, and tomatoes, and make sure you’re eating tons of dark leafy greens like kale, Swiss chard, spinach, and arugula. Also, eat plenty of fat. Fat makes up a huge portion of the brain—60 percent—which is why low-fat diets can cause fatigue, brain fog, mood swings, and other annoying symptoms. Focus on getting adequate healthy fats from real food sources like wild-caught fish and grass-fed meats, avocados, olive oil, coconut butter, and nuts and seeds.

It’s also important to optimize protein. We need about 30 grams of protein per meal to build muscle. When you lose muscle, you age faster and your brain takes a huge hit! Eat some protein at every meal. Avoid sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats, food additives, and preservatives, all of which poison your brain and disrupt your biochemistry. Alzheimer’s is now considered "type 3 diabetes," as we can see this type of neurodegeneration links to insulin resistance. Another key reason to eat low-glycemic whole foods.

Article continues below

2. Get moving.

This does not mean you have to go to the gym; you can do whatever you find fun, relaxing, or exciting, as long as you get your whole body moving. I love getting together with my friends to play tennis. It’s something I look forward to and make time for, since I get so much joy out of it. Movement is essential for a healthy brain; it improves blood flow and metabolism, increases insulin sensitivity, challenges our engagement, and can actually improve brain structure and function, even in the aging population. Hiking, yoga, rock climbing, swimming—whatever it is, do it regularly. Extra points for getting active with friends, since connecting with others is another powerful way to support your cognition; social isolation has been linked to an array of detrimental health effects including cognitive decline.

3. Let yourself rest.

Photo: Michela Ravasio

Stress is extremely harmful to the body in more ways than one, including its ability to hurt your brain. Stress hormones damage the hippocampus—the memory center in the brain—causing memory loss and dementia. Studies have even found that perceived stress is an independent risk factor for preclinical stages of Alzheimer’s, creating mild cognitive impairment that can continue to worsen with chronic exposure. And sleep is just as important. This is the time we allow our brains to rest and detoxify, and we know that sleep deprivation negatively affects the connectivity between neurons in the hippocampus as well.

The good news, though, is that there is much you can do to stop these impacts on the brain. Create space for downtime, reduce all the business that's become so standard day in and day out. Go for a walk outside, meditate, or drink some tea and read a good book. Practice good sleep hygiene—take an hour before bed to dim the lights and do something calming (preferably away from screens), then give yourself seven to eight hours to get some solid shut-eye. Anything that helps you rest, relax, and unwind will help your brain stay healthy for the long haul.

Memory loss is an avoidable part of aging; there are actually many simple and natural interventions you can take right now to retain a sharp mind, no matter what your age.

Ready to learn more about how brain fog and your diet are intimately connected? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Dr. Mark Hyman, where you'll learn how to banish that brain fog for good.

Mark Hyman, M.D.

Functional Medicine Doctor
Mark Hyman, MD, believes that we all deserve a life of vitality—and that we have the potential to create it for ourselves. That's why he is dedicated to tackling the root causes of chronic disease by harnessing the power of Functional Medicine to transform healthcare. He is a practicing family physician, a nine-time #1 New York Times bestselling author, and an internationally recognized leader, speaker, educator, and advocate in his field. He is the Director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine. He is also the founder and medical director of The UltraWellness Center, chairman of the board of the Institute for Functional Medicine, a medical editor of The Huffington Post, and has been a regular medical contributor on many television shows including CBS This Morning, the Today Show, CNN, The View, the Katie Couric show and The Dr. Oz Show.
View the class
Mark Hyman, M.D.

Related Posts

Sites We Love

Functional Nutrition Webinar

Learn How To Eat Right For Your Brain

Sign up for mbg's FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar hosted by Dr. Mark Hyman, 11x NY Times Bestselling Author & Director of The Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine

Get Free Access Now Loading next article...
Sign up for mbg's FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar

Your article and new folder have been saved!