Friday, December 23, 2005

Memory, memory, memory

4 Steps: Improve Your Memory in 14 Days

Is there anything more frustrating than forgetting where you put your car keys? As we age, some brain cells may deteriorate or function less efficiently, potentially affecting our speed of mental processing and ability to retrieve information rapidly--or find the car keys.

Now a new study from the University of California, Los Angeles offers a four-step plan to improve your memory with noticeable changes in just two weeks.

Follow these four steps to sharpen your memory:

1. Memory Training
Throughout the day, stimulate your brain with fun brainteasers, crossword puzzles and memory exercises that emphasize verbal skills.

2. Healthy Diet
Eat five small meals every day, including a balanced diet rich in omega-3 fats, low-glycemic index carbohydrates (that is, whole grains) and antioxidants. Eating five small meals throughout the day prevents dips in blood glucose levels and glucose is the primary energy source for the brain.

3. Physical Fitness
Take brisk walks with stretching every day to promote physical fitness, something that has been found to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's Disease.

4. Stress Reduction
Use stretching and relaxation exercises to manage stress. Stress causes the body to release cortisol, which plays an important role in memory preservation. Cortisol can impair memory and has been found to shrink the memory centers in the brain.

Led by Dr. Gary Small, the UCLA study showed that when participants did these four things daily for just two weeks, there was a noticeable memory improvement as measured with a positron emission tomography (PET) scan. Physically, those who followed this program saw a 5 percent decrease in brain metabolism in the dorsal lateral prefrontal region of the brain, which is directly linked to working memory and other cognitive functions, suggesting they were using their brain more efficiently. In addition, they all reported improved memory and demonstrated better performance on a cognitive measure controlled by this same brain region.

"We've known for years that diet and exercise can help people maintain their physical health, which is a key component of healthy aging," said Small in a statement. "But maintaining mental health is just as important. Now we have evidence which suggests that people can preserve their memory by adding memory exercises and stress reduction to this routine.

Tip: Oh, about those car keys. If you keep them in the same place all the time, you'll always know where they are.


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