Do you ever forget the name of a song or your favorite restaurant? Have you ever been driving down the street and momentarily forgot where you were going?
We all forget things and, in most cases, for very innocent reasons. We are multi-tasking, distracted, or having a stressful day. While all of these are “normal” reasons for difficulty in managing information, people get concerned given all of the talk today about brain health and dementia.
Our Amazing Brains
According to Scientific American (Feb, 2008), we use virtually every part of the brain, and most of the brain is active almost all of the time. In fact, the brain represents three percent of the body’s weight and uses 20% of the body’s energy.
The average human brain weighs about three pounds and performs all higher cognitive functions, such as the coordination of movement and balance; involuntary functions like breathing and heart rate; and conscious ones, such as driving a car. Our brains are pretty reliable in terms of managing information in a very efficient way.
When We Forget
When we forget, it is likely because we have created a weak link in the chain of memory processing. These breaks happen for several reasons, including:
- Influence of alcohol or nicotine
- Vision or hearing loss
- Fatigue or stress
- Depression or anxiety
Keeping or restoring brain health in the later years often requires more effort and determination than when people are younger.
Maintaining Brain Health
Research has shown that a combination of physical activity, nutritional guidance, cognitive training, social activities, and management of heart health risk factors can slow cognitive decline.
Embracing healthy lifestyle habits will improve overall health. These habits include:
- Exercising regularly
- Managing caloric intake
- Not smoking
- Staying involved socially
- Being financially stable
- Maintaining a sense of purpose.
Eating For a Health Brain
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, vitamins and minerals in plant foods provide protective antioxidants, but fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains contain many other types of compounds that contribute significantly to overall dietary intake. They suggest the following foods to encourage and maintain brain health:
- Blueberries – they help protect the brain from oxidative stress
- Nuts and seeds – higher levels of vitamin E can slow cognitive decline
- Whole grains (oatmeal, breads, brown rice) – increase blood flow
- Wild salmon – rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids
- Avocados – a monounsaturated fat, which contributes to healthy blood flow
- Beans (lentils and black beans) – stabilize glucose (blood sugar) levels
- Freshly brewed tea – a modest amount of caffeine can boost brain power
- Dark chocolate – antioxidant properties that stimulate production of endorphins which improve mood
Meditation and the Brain
According the National Institutes of Health, some research suggests that meditation may physically change the brain and body and could potentially help to improve brain function. In a 2012 study, researchers compared brain images from 50 adult meditators and 50 adult non-meditators. Results suggested that people who practiced meditation for many years have more folds in the outer layer of the brain. This process (called gyrification) may increase the brain’s ability to process information.