As you age, the size of your brain shrinks causing changes to the mind and body. One of the most important regions of the brain that is prone to shrinkage is the hippocampus. This is the region of the brain that stores memories and spatial reasoning. When the hippocampus area shrinks, you can suffer from loss of memory, impaired concentration and lack of focus. The good news is that there are some simple lifestyle changes that can actually grow your brain and improve memory.
DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, is an omega-3 fatty acid. If you enjoy eating seafood, this omega-3 fatty acid can be found in cold-water seafood. A supplement can also be taken to increase your level of DHA. To boost brain function, it is recommended that you take 600 mg daily. High levels of DHA increase blood flow to the brain, and reduce inflammation. DHA also combats plaque build-up associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Stimulate Your Brain
Use it or lose it. The more you use your brain, the stronger it becomes. Memory or concentration games and puzzles help to keep the brain active. A trick to remembering is to use association and visualization. By picturing the image in your mind, you are more likely to remember it. Another great trick to stimulate the brain is to use your less dominant hand when brushing your teeth or hair. This confuses your brain, and makes it work harder to keep up.
Aerobic exercise can improve brain function by increasing blood flow to the brain. You need to do enough aerobic exercise to get your heart rate up. Consistency is key. Find an exercise routine that you can enjoy and can continue to do long-term. Walking is a great exercise because it is easy to do and can be done almost anywhere.
In 2011, the University of Pittsburgh conducted a study of the effects of aerobic exercise on the hippocampus region of the brain. The study was performed on 120 older adults who were experiencing a slight reduction in the size of their hippocampus region. For one year, a portion of the participants were asked to walk three days per week for 40 minutes each day, while the remaining participants were asked to do a stretching routine during that time. The study showed that, on average, the participants who walked increased the size of their hippocampus by 2%, and also performed better on memory tests. Those participants who only performed the stretching routine, actually lost 1.4% of the size of their hippocampus.
Minimize Stress Levels
Your brain is affected by stress, especially the hippocampus region. Stress raises your level of cortisol. High levels of cortisol can reduce the excitability of some neurons and prevent growth of new ones. Basically, cortisol can kill brain cells and lead to atrophy of the brain.
Stress is inevitable, but techniques exist to better cope with daily stress. As you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, stop and focus on your breathing. Even if you only have 20 seconds, pause and focus on your breathing to calm your body. Meditation is an excellent way to calm the mind and body. As you relax through meditation, brain function increases as your cortisol level decreases. Stress can also be relieved by taking a walk in the park or enjoying a nice long bubble bath. Just by doing something you enjoy, you can reduce your stress and improve your brain.
It is never too late to improve your brain function. Making a few easy lifestyle changes now can improve your memory, focus and concentration. You can also lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Just by adding omega-3 fatty acids to your diet, reducing your stress and exercising, you can grow your hippocampus and strengthen your mind.