The first things to consider when it comes to memory are your stress levels and whether you are getting adequate, restful sleep and regular exercise. These are the most common causes of memory problems. Chronic stress, especially, can do a serious number on your memory.
Then look at your diet. Nutrients can help reduce blood levels of cortisol, a major stress hormone. The lower the cortisol level, the less reactive you are to life's stresses. Getting enough magnesium, vitamin C, B vitamins, and omega-3s is crucial for keeping this hormone in check. In addition to a daily multivitamin, take up to 3,000 mg of fish oil and 100-300 mg of magnesium.
Are you eating enough chocolate? No joke. Research has shown that flavonol compounds in dark chocolate improve blood flow to the brain for two to three hours. Consume 1 ounce or 1 teaspoon dark cocoa every day for constant improvement. I eat a small amount of dark chocolate when I need to perk up. But don't eat it late at night because chocolate contains a stimulant compound called theobromine, which can keep you awake.
-Gale Maleskey, RD, MS, author,
The Hormone Connection (Rodale, 2001),
Bridgewater, New Jersey
We know from animal studies that physical exercise is really important for improving memory. The brain is the body's largest user of oxygen, so anything that improves the vascular system has a direct effect on the brain. In terms of human health, we're not talking about running a marathon or anything really complicated. Even a brisk 20-minute walk around the block can make a difference.
There is also a lot of evidence that foods containing antioxidants, in particular spinach and berries, such as blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries, help protect cells in the brain against naturally occurring wear and tear. The polyunsaturated omega-3 essential fatty acids in fatty fishes such as tuna, salmon, and mackerel may also protect the brain by nourishing cells.
I would advise that people eat dark greens and fruit every day, and there are plenty of studies that link eating fish once or twice a week with better cognitive health. You can get antioxidants and fatty oils from supplements, but the best thing that you can do is to improve your diet and exercise regimen, which will make you healthier overall.
-Catherine E. Myers, PhD, codirector,
Rutgers University Memory Disorders Project,
Newark, New Jersey
Metabolic and heavy-metal wastes accumulate and create plaque buildups in the brain. This induces an inflammatory response, and the neurons can stop functioning properly or even die, resulting in potential memory loss. By massaging the bones at the back of the head, craniosacral therapy (CST) improves the flow of blood and cerebrospinal fluid, which helps flush out toxins and revive memory.
The older you are, the greater the chance you have accumulated metabolic waste in your brain tissue, and you will probably need more CST sessions. But you can also do it yourself with a Still Point Inducer (a rubber pillow that has two large camel-like humps, about $22). Or make your own by placing two tennis balls so that they're touching in a sock. Lie on your back and carefully position the device so that the balls press on the back of your skull. Practice daily, for about 10 to 20 minutes while resting. It will take a while before you can restore all the fluid motion needed to flush out the brain tissues.
-Isabelle Dalton, LMP, PhD,
Rainier Natural Health Clinic,