This section of my website used to be dedicated to triathlon training, personal race results and certification reviews, like Turbo Kick. I am expanding it to include more generic health & fitness topics. Also, I talk a lot about "D" -- he's my husband (Dave Liu)!

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Memory Aerobics

I'm a great believer in overall, wholistic health and fitness, so I think mental well-being is as important as physical health. Imagine my surprise and delight to find a WSJ article that discusses memory training. "Prevention is better than cure" goes the old adage, and current research suggests that people's minds don't necessarily have to decline as they get older. Engaging in a combination of certain activites can "...prevent, or at least stave off, age-related memory erosion". In fact,

Scientists have already found that getting enough sleep, exercising regularly and reducing stress can all help to improve memory. What you eat, too, can make a big difference. Several clinical studies have demonstrated that a diet rich in antioxidants such as berries, or vitamins A and E, can stave off memory decline.

In addition, active memory training, a.ka. "mental-aerobics" (e.g., playing bridge, doing crossword puzzles, or learning a foreign language) can "exercise" your brain and "tone" it even late in life.

In case you require a subscription for access to the full text of the article (it's a great read), I'm including their chart which shows descriptions of various memory-boosting techniques and what the research says about them:

Beating Brain Drain
What to Do Research Comment
Eat Berries A Tufts University study showed that aging rats fed blueberries behaved more like young rats. Blueberries, followed by cranberries and strawberries, had the strongest impact.
Eat foods rich in Vitamin E Vitamin E, found in olive oil, spinach and whole grains, can reduce age-related inflammation of the brain. Drugs like Motrin have the same impact, but may have other side effects.
De-stress Cortisol, a hormone released during stress, can damage the hippocampus, the brain's memory center. The worst thing you can do for your memory is worry about losing it.
Exercise Heart hazards, like high cholesterol, may interfere with memory by restricting blood flow. Endorphins released during exercise can also fend off depression, a major factor in memory loss.
Get Enough Sleep Studies of college students show that lack of sleep impacts short-term memory. Sleep-deprived students scored 30% lower, on average, on recall tests.
Ditch your calculator Engaging the mind -- by doing math in your head, for example -- can fend off memory decline. Another trick: Try guessing what your grocery bill will come to before you get to the register.
Take on random mental puzzles Mice in cages packed with stimulating toys demonstrated better memories than those in barren cages. When the microwave clock shows the wrong time, try to reset it yourself.
Use your opposite hand Writing, eating or using a computer mouse with the opposite hand engages both lobes of the brain. This can also stimulate hand-brain coordination.

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