5 Ways to Boost Brain Power and Memory
Many years ago, scientists determined that our brains lose agility, memory, and function when we age. For decades, this theory was taught as fact and accepted as normal for older adults. There was no effort to boost brainpower. This decline in cognitive abilities was simply allowed to progress without intervention.
More recent studies have demonstrated that the aging brain can continue to enjoy active and effective function. Certain factors like nutrition, exercise, memory exercises, and cognitive activity can actually boost brain power, combat memory loss, and improve cognitive abilities in elderly people.
Research Shows Boosting Cognitive Abilities Through Activity
In a 2018 research study at the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas, researchers assigned 57 adults between the ages of 56 and 71 to three groups: a cognitive training group, a physical exercise control group, and a wait-listed control group.
After 12 weeks of cognitive training, researchers found that participants’ brains were more energy-efficient, meaning their brains did not have to work as hard to perform a task. Cognitive training strategies included how to focus on the most relevant information and filter out the less relevant; ways to continually synthesize information encountered in daily life to encourage deeper thinking; and how to inspire innovative thinking through generating diverse interpretations, solutions, and perspectives.
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers examined all three groups at the beginning, middle, and end of the study while participants performed computer-based speed tasks in the scanner. The results provided evidence that cognitive training improved speed-related neural activity. “Finding a non-pharmacological intervention that can help the aging brain to perform like a younger brain is a welcome finding that potentially advances understanding of ways to enhance brain health and longevity,” said Dr. Michael Motes, senior research scientist at the Center for BrainHealth and one of the lead authors of the study.
As we age, our cognitive skills often diminish some. But research suggests there are steps you can take to boost brain power and keep your memory strong.
Let’s examine five brain boosters anyone can enjoy, based on the above medical advice.
5 Ways to Boost Brain Power and Memory
Memory exercises for elderly loved ones don’t have to be boring! Introduce games and memory exercises that call for evaluating and involve challenge.
Games can be an important form of cognitive training for seniors. Card games such as canasta or bridge or board games like chess offer brain boosting power by stimulating higher functions in areas of the brain.
Playing games with others provides valuable social interaction which also stimulating memory and brain function. Here are some great games for seniors to enjoy while boosting their cognitive abilities.
Crosswords are fantastic brain games because they are essentially a memory problem requiring the individual to use their recall function to find the correct words. They also help a senior’s association capabilities, since they’ll need to match the clues with the word that fits the box.
In addition to improving your concentration power, Sudoku puzzles can help to improve your memory, since you’ll have to remember the locations of other numbers. There is also the much-needed sense of achievement once a puzzle has been completed.
Research suggests that playing Scrabble lowers blood pressure, improves memory functions, and fosters an overall sense of happiness. Also, the inevitable laughter from silly words and interaction releases endorphins, making participants happier and improving their well-being.
A vast amount of research proves the beneficial nature of this popular strategy game. Studies suggest that anyone over the age of 75 who plays chess is far less likely to contract mental conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s since this is a brain-stimulating activity.
Research has shown that finding and connecting two correct puzzle pieces releases dopamine, which is associated with happiness and an overall improved sense of well-being. This neurotransmitter can help to improve levels of concentration. Puzzles also help improve short-term memory.
Social interaction is a great way to boost brain power and use your memory.
Relating stories and learning from others causes us to remember and ask questions. These constant memory exercises stimulate brain functions.
Interaction with younger people is always a stimulating exercise. Involving grandchildren in regular social interaction with grandparents is a great way to pass on the wisdom of an older generation.
Kids can work puzzles or play games on a regular schedule and have fun while helping boost brain power in their family member.
Social interaction outside the home is also recommended. That’s one great part of the Senior LIFE Health and Wellness Center, too—members have an opportunity to interact with other seniors and make friends.
Encourage seniors to start a diary or journal in which they write daily. Journals are great memory exercises that stimulate thinking, improve your memory, and boost cognitive function.
Many seniors have a wealth of history and experiences to share that can be recorded from their memory. Those with trouble writing can speak and record their journal entries.
The diary or journal should also record daily interactions and plans for the future. Not only does this improve your memory, but it stretches forward thinking and planning skills. Both are necessary factors to boost brain power and combat memory loss in elderly people.
Proper nutrition is important, particularly a diet strong in antioxidants. Fresh fruits and vegetables help provide what other parts of the body or system may now be denying to the brain.
A study sponsored by the Food and Drug Administration found that eating leafy green vegetables slows down the rate of cognitive decline in those 65 and older. Clearly, getting plenty of the right foods can boost brain power and keep cognitive functions at a higher level.
One study from the Population Health Research Institute at McMaster University in Ontario and the HRB Clinical Research Facility Galway at the National University of Ireland in Galway, suggests these foods for improved brain function.
- Salmon – Studies show that substituting salmon for meat a couple times per week can slow mental degeneration. Salmon, and other fatty fish, contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood have been linked to smaller brain volume and lower mental function.
- Walnuts – Walnuts are full of vitamin E. A study by Rush University Medical Center found that people who eat foods with high levels of vitamin-E reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
- Green Tea – Green tea contains enzymes, amino acids, and vitamins that can help alleviate mental fatigue and boost brain function.
- Eggs – Egg yolks are rich in choline, a nutrient vital to maintaining memory and communication among brain cells.
- Blueberries – A study by Tufts University and the USDA found that blueberries improve short term memory loss and reversed some loss of balance and coordination.
- Spinach – Spinach is an excellent source of folic acid, and studies show that eating spinach helps prevent dementia, especially in women. Spinach, broccoli, cabbage, and dark, leafy greens can help improve memory.
“This is a very large scale study that demonstrates that a healthy lifestyle impacts not just physical well-being and longevity, but also cognitive well-being,” said James Becker a professor of psychiatry, neurology and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. “If you’re eating well, odds are your brain is less stressed,” he said. “And as a consequence, your brain is happier.”
Physical exercise and movement are vital to the functioning of the older adult brain. Even daily walking is very beneficial, as well as providing other obvious health benefits, like lowering blood pressure.
For those who have challenges with walking, stationary exercises can provide the needed workout to boost brain power and memory. Senior LIFE centers provide some options for members to get the exercise they need, and home care team members can help with stationary exercises.
Some sort of regular exercise produces aerobic health benefits to the brain as well as the lungs, heart, blood pressure, and general physical condition.
A study conducted by the University of South Carolina found that a physically exercised brain showed increases of mitochondrial development, meaning brain cells become revitalized. This translates to sharpened thinking and reduced mental fatigue.
Senior adults can engage in these and other pursuits to boost brain power and memory. Doing so maintains a higher quality of life and independence, as well as builds confidence and self-esteem.
Senior LIFE provides a variety of services and programs designed to boost memory and brain health and provide social interaction. These can be enjoyed at any of 12 local Senior LIFE Centers. Contact your nearest Senior LIFE Health and Wellness Center to find out about the services they can provide for your elderly loved one.
Categories: Wellness Matters