DALLAS, Texas - Every day, the average person has about 70,000 thoughts! That's a lot of information for your brain to process and store. If you want your brain to function at its best, you have to make sure you're treating it right.
Mary Biber, 64 years old, has to be energetic and alert to keep up with her granddaughter, June.
"We spend a lot of time together," Biber said.
However, a few months ago she started noticing memory problems.
"I had been kind of forgetting everything," Biber explained. "I had a hard time focusing to complete tasks."
Like many women her age, she found out she was making mistakes when it came to her brain health; brain-draining mistakes like multi-tasking.
"It truly breaks down your brain at every level of organization," said Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD, Founder and Chief Director, Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas. "You can't think deep when you're doing two things at once."
Multi-tasking disrupts connections and allows for more of the stress hormone cortisol to enter the brain. Another no-no is too much technology.
"We're literally building an ADHD brain by jumping back and forth through our technology, too much shifting," Chapman explained.
A third brain-drain is not getting enough good fat. A study of elderly patients found those who took 900 milligrams of omega-3 for 24 weeks had significant memory improvements. Another brain drain: not getting between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night.
"We need to think about setting an alarm clock to go to sleep rather than to wake up," said Audette Rackley, MS, Clinical Researcher, Center for BrainHealth.
When you sleep, your brain clears out waste and helps consolidate memories. Research from Harvard shows people are 33 percent more likely to understand connections between distantly related ideas after sleeping. One last brain killer is skipping exercise!
"Exercise increases blood flow to the hippocampus, which has been associated with memory function," Rackley explained.
Research also show how addicted our brains are to technology. A recent study of 205 people showed that tweeting or checking emails on a phone were harder to resist than smoking or drinking.
Everyone has the occasional "I can't remember moment." Maybe you've forgotten where you've placed your keys, phone, or wallet. Memory lapses can occur at any age. Studies have shown that you can help prevent cognitive decline and reduce the risk of dementia with some basic good health habits for your brain. Here are a few practices you can do to keep your brain healthy and active.
- Keep learning - Challenging your brain with mental exercise is believed to activate processes that help maintain individual brain cells and stimulate communication among them
- Use all your senses - The more senses you use in learning something, the more of your brain will be involved in retaining the memory. In one study, adults were shown a series of emotionally neutral images, each presented along with a smell.
- Believe in yourself - Myths about aging can contribute to a failing memory. Middle-aged and older learners do worse on memory tasks when exposed to negative stereotypes about aging and memory, and better when the messages are positive about memory preservation into old age.
- Space it out - Repetition is most potent as a learning tool when it's properly timed. It's best not to repeat something many times in a short period, as if you were cramming for an exam. Instead, re-study the essentials after increasingly longer periods of time — once an hour, then every few hours, then every day. Spacing out periods of study is particularly valuable when you are trying to master complicated information, such as the details of a new work assignment.
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