Genetics plays a role in memory loss, especially in serious neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. However, research has shown that diet and lifestyle have a major impact on memory too.
Here are 14 evidence-based ways to improve your memory naturally.
1. Eat Less Added Sugar
Eating too much added sugar has been linked to many health issues and chronic diseases, including cognitive decline.
Research has shown that a sugar-laden diet can lead to poor memory and reduced brain volume, particularly in the area of the brain that stores short-term memory.
For example, one study of more than 4,000 people found that those with a higher intake of sugary beverages like soda had lower total brain volumes and poorer memories on average compared to people who consumed less sugar.
Cutting back on sugar not only helps your memory but also improves your overall health.
2. Try a Fish Oil Supplement
Fish oil is rich in the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
These fats are important for overall health and have been shown to lower the risk of heart disease, reduce inflammation, relieve stress and anxiety, and slow mental decline.
Many studies have shown that consuming fish and fish oil supplements may improve memory, especially in older people.
One study of 36 older adults with mild cognitive impairment found that short-term and working memory scores improved significantly after they took concentrated fish oil supplements for 12 months.
Another recent review of 28 studies showed that when adults with mild symptoms of memory loss took supplements rich in DHA and EPA, like fish oil, they experienced improved episodic memory.
Both DHA and EPA are vital to the health and functioning of the brain and also help reduce inflammation in the body, which has been linked to cognitive decline.
3. Make Time for Meditation
The practice of meditation may positively affect your health in many ways.
It is relaxing and soothing, and has been found to reduce stress and pain, lower blood pressure and even improve memory.
In fact, meditation has been shown to increase gray matter in the brain. Gray matter contains neuron cell bodies.
As you age, gray matter declines, which negatively impacts memory and cognition.
Meditation and relaxation techniques have been shown to improve short-term memory in people of all ages, from people in their 20s to the elderly.
For example, one study demonstrated that Taiwanese college students who engaged in meditation practices like mindfulness had significantly better spatial working memory than students who did not practice meditation.
Spatial working memory is the ability to hold and process information in your mind about the positions of objects in space.
4. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy body weight is essential for well-being and is one of the best ways to keep your body and mind in top condition.
Several studies have established obesity as a risk factor for cognitive decline.
Interestingly, being obese can actually cause changes to memory-associated genes in the brain, negatively affecting memory.
Obesity can also lead to insulin resistance and inflammation, both of which can negatively impact the brain.
A study of 50 people between the ages of 18 and 35 found that a higher body mass index was associated with significantly worse performance on memory tests .
Obesity is also associated with a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive disease that destroys memory and cognitive function .
5. Get Enough Sleep
Lack of proper sleep has been associated with poor memory for quite some time.
Sleep plays an important role in memory consolidation, a process in which short-term memories are strengthened and transformed into long-lasting memories.
Research shows that if you are sleep deprived, you could be negatively impacting your memory.
For example, one study looked at the effects of sleep in 40 children between the ages of 10 and 14.
One group of children was trained for memory tests in the evening, then tested the following morning after a night’s sleep. The other group was trained and tested on the same day, with no sleep between training and testing.
The group that slept between training and testing performed 20% better on the memory tests .
Another study found that nurses working the night shift made more mathematical errors and that 68% of them scored lower on memory tests compared to nurses working the day shift.
Health experts recommend adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night for optimal health.