Many experts believe that adopting these approaches may even help us to avoid Alzheimer’s disease. “Nearly everyone struggles with memory loss by middle age,” says geriatric psychiatrist Gary Small, director of the UCLA Memory Clinic and author of The Memory Bible. But serious memory problems are not inevitable with aging, they can be prevented.
Of course, nutrition isn’t everything. A memory-boosting lifestyle also includes getting enough sleep, learning how to relax (stress can actually inhibit memory), cultivating friends, family, and other social ties, exercising regularly, and, yes, taking up crossword puzzles and other mental challenges.
A brain-healthy diet
So how should you eat to protect your brain? It turns out a diet that’s good for your heart is good for your head, too. But heart-healthy diets can vary: The one recommended by the American Heart Association, for instance, focuses on limiting saturated fat. The heart- and brain-healthy plan suggested below by Gary Small, director of the UCLA Memory Clinic, has four key components: calorie control, antioxidants, good fats (omega-3s), and good carbs (that don‘t spike blood sugars).
Here are the healthy choices for your memory problems.
Limit calories. Excess body fat increases our risk for illnesses like diabetes and high blood pressure. These conditions can increase our risk for small strokes in the brain, which can lead to memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s.
Eat more good fats. Essential fatty acids, like the kind found in flaxseed oil, help prevent both atherosclerosis and inflammation. Nuts, avocados, expeller-pressed canola, and olive oil are also good sources. If you can’t rely on getting a sufficient supply through your diet.
Replace butter and margarine with olive oil and canola oil.
Build your diet around good carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. They increase the good form of cholesterol (HDL), curb appetite, and help us burn off fat.
Produce, especially brightly colored varieties, is also high in brain-preserving antioxidants.