Cant find your keys … again? Whether your momentary memory loss is linked to doing too many things at once or just a bad case of menopausal brain fog, you dont have to put up with it. In fact, experts say you can instantly boost your chances of remembering where you put your keysand everything else you keep forgettingif you start treating your brain right (no matter your age). Our simple lifestyle changes will help you stay sharp as the years go by.
Floss every day
What do loving licorice and hating the idea of flossing have in common? Both can contribute to plaque on your teeth, which is surprisingly bad for your brain. “The plaque between teeth can cause an immune reaction that attacks arteries, which then cant deliver vital nutrients to brain cells,” says Michael Roizen, MD, co-author of YOUThe Owners Manual: An Insiders Guide to the Body that Will Make You Healthier and Younger. Solution? Floss every day. Cant remember? Keep the floss where you store your morning makeup.
Multitask at the gym
Just as working out can keep your body in good shape as you age, stretching your brain can keep it in top form, too. And doing them together is double the fun: Do a crossword puzzle while riding a stationary bike or listen to language lessons on your iPod while running. Scientists say that working the body and mind at the same time revitalizes brain cells. Dont like multitasking? Hit the crossword right after the gym, when your brain is energized.
Look to the sea for healthy ways to feed your brain. DHA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in salmon, trout, and some fortified foods such as yogurt, is a super saver for your memory. “DHA decreases arterial inflammation and improves repair of the protective sheath around nerves,” Dr. Roizen says. “The result is less age-related memory loss, less Alzheimers disease, less depression, and a quicker mind.”
Steal your kids toys
Theres a new version of that Rubiks Cube that you loved as kid. Its the 3-D-like Rubiks 360, and its probably good for brains of any age, because it sharpens flexible problem-solving skills, says neuropsychologist Karen Spangenberg Postal, PhD, president of the Massachusetts Psychological Association. The key: As you play, youre working on your memory, strategy, and spatial skillsall required for improving brain healthat the same time. What if you always found the Cube endlessly frustrating? No worries: Any game that stretches your thinking is helpful.
Just do it
Elevating your heart rate three times a week for 20 minuteseven just by walkingbathes your brain in oxygen and helps it grow new cells. “Aerobic exercise is two to three times as effective as any known brain-training activity,” says Sam Wang, PhD, associate professor of neuroscience at Princeton University and co-author of Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life. If you have no time for the gym during the week, thats OK: Recent research shows moderate to vigorous exercise even just once a week (say, a weekend jog) makes you 30 percent more likely to maintain your cognitive function as you age.
Start a bridge club
If book clubs bore you and dinner parties leave you exhausted, then maybe a brisk game of bridge is just what the doctor ordered. The combination of strategy and memory in bridge challenges the brain to learn new information and exercises cells so they dont die, Dr. Postal says. Plus, socializing while playing cards adds a level of unpredictability that gives your brain a chargesomething solo games dont offer. Bridge is definitely on the comeback, so you can learn to play through a community college or continuing education program, or hire a private instructor for lessons.
The 50s Plus
“Studies show that engaging the concentrated areas of nerve cells in your fingertips directly stimulates your brain,” says Maoshing Ni, PhD, author of Second Spring: Dr. Maos Hundreds of Natural Secrets for Women to Revitalize and Regenerate at Any Age. Truth is, any fingertip activityusing chopsticks, knitting, or even rolling a pen or pencil between your fingersalso helps your brain by boosting your circulation. And good circulation helps eliminate waste products that can prevent nutrients from reaching your brain.
Play electronic games
No, youre not too old for a Wii or one of the new handheld brain-exercise games. And it may even be good for you, since simply trying something new gets your brain juiced, says neuropsychologist Reon Baird, PhD, of the Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. “When that something new is a video game, youll stimulate different parts of the brain that you dont normally use on a day-to-day basis,” she says. Try Brain Challenge for the Wii or Brain Age for the Nintendo DS. If thats too techy for you, play along with Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy! on TV, Dr. Baird says. Challenge your know-it-all spouse to make it more fun.
Be careful with meds
If you ache every time you work out and never sleep well due to night sweats, theres a pill for that. But be careful: Research in Clinical Interventions in Aging reveals that nonprescription sleep aids may cause some “cognitive impairment”like confusion in older adults. How much is unknown, but youre probably familiar with the next-day grogginess. And the medicine known as diphenhydramine (found in many allergy medications and nighttime pain pills) has an “anticholinergic” effect; it blocks communication between nerve cells. Talk with your doctor about other remedies like relaxation or cognitive therapy for sleep problems.
Best brain foods for everyone!
Studies suggest that natural chemicals in these foods, spices, and drinks combat cognitive decline.
- Egg yolks
- Indian curry
- Red wine
- Tomato sauce